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Education Policy. GV280 Week 24 12 March 2012. 1988-2001: Education reform in the UK and the US. UK: Education Reform Act 1988 US: No Child Left Behind 2001 How did these measures pass?

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education policy

Education Policy


Week 24

12 March 2012

1988 2001 education reform in the uk and the us
1988-2001: Education reform in the UK and the US

UK: Education Reform Act 1988

US: No Child Left Behind 2001

  • How did these measures pass?
  • What were the constraints on education reform in each country?
education issues
Education issues
  • What is it for?
  • Who should provide it?
  • Who should control it?
  • What limits should be placed on it?
  • Should different types of people receive different types of education?
why educate i training for the workforce
Why educate?(I) Training for the workforce
  • No moral imperative for providing education ...
  • ... but a compelling economic case for doing so
  • Implies education to differing levels
  • State’s role in education less important ...
  • ... so private education has a clear role to play
why educate ii delivery of a basic human right
Why educate?(II) Delivery of a basic human right
  • Concept of natural rights
  • If education is a natural right, everyone is entitled to receive it
  • Implies that everyone should be educated to the same level
    • Equality of opportunity
  • State must provide education
  • Private education an anomaly
how much education
How much education?
  • Training vs natural right:
    • Too much education?
  • How much is enough?
    • Primary?
    • Secondary?
    • Tertiary?
      • Tuition fees – ‘education is a right, not a privilege’
different types of education
Different types of education?
  • Technical vs academic
    • Technical colleges vs secondary modern (and grammar schools)
  • Vocational qualifications
    • Popular in times of economic downturn
    • Types:
      • Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) (1980s)
      • General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ) (1990s)
      • Diplomas (2000s)
local vs national responsibility i
Local vs national responsibility (I)


  • ‘A national system, locally administered’
  • 1944 Education Act – main role in provision of education devolved to local authorities
  • In practice, schools mainly autonomous
  • Thatcher government takes control in 1980s
local vs national responsibility ii
Local vs national responsibility (II)


  • Very limited role for federal government until 1950s
  • Department of Education not established until 1979
  • Gradual expansion of federal influence over subsequent years
the uk milestones in education since the war
The UK: milestones in educationsince the war
  • 1944 Education Act
    • Creates new primary/secondary structure
    • Local authorities made responsible for education
    • Tripartite education system
      • Grammar
      • Technical
      • Secondary modern
  • 1960s: Transition to comprehensive education
  • 1988 Education Reform Act
education reform act 1988
Education Reform Act 1988
  • Introduction of market principles to education
  • Parental choice
  • Local authorities marginalized
  • ‘Opt-out’ (grant maintained) schools & City Technology Colleges [later superseded by Labour’s Academies]
  • Local Management of Schools (LMS)
    • Per capita distribution of funds
    • Step on the road to privatization
  • National curriculum
    • Centralized control; Secretary of State’s augmented power
    • But not wanted by original drafters of the Act
the us milestones in education since the war
The US: milestones in educationsince the war
  • 1954: Brown vs Board of Education
    • Introduces the concept of civil rights to schools!
    • More broadly encourages concept of education as a general right
  • 1965: Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
    • Establishes framework for US education
    • Promotes equality of educational provision
    • Prohibits centralization of curriculum ...
    • ... and role of federal government still highly circumscribed
  • 1994: Clinton’s ‘Goals 2000’
    • Establishes a set of objectives to be achieved by year 2000, e.g. 90 per cent high school completion rate
  • 2001: No Child Left Behind
no child left behind act 2001
No Child Left Behind Act, 2001
  • George W. Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism’
    • Distancing Bush from congressional Republicans’ ‘small state’ principles
    • Competing with Democrats for moral high ground
  • Represents frustration at the pace of reform under ‘Goals 2000’
  • Bi-partisan bill
    • Compromise with Democrats on key points
nclb the trade offs
NCLB: the trade-offs
  • Voucher scheme
    • In schools that failed to make adequate progress, parents could take the funds allocated to a student and use them to gain entry to a public or private school
    • A holy grail for the Republican right
    • Achievable, given Republican control of Congress and the presidency?
    • Nevertheless, voucher element in NCLB was voted down in Congress – with 68 House Republicans voting against it
  • Greater federal influence over education moderated by additional autonomy for states
    • Central demands balanced by greater freedom in the use of federal funds
nclb provisions
NCLB provisions
  • Imposed testing system based on new academic standards criteria
    • Annual testing for grades 3-8
    • English proficiency tests for non-native English speakers
  • ‘Highly qualified teacher’ for core subjects
  • Accountability and support system for schools that fail
    • Addresses the shortcomings of Goals 2000
  • Extended support for charter schools
charter schools
Charter schools
  • Originated in Minnesota, 1992
  • Free from local authority control
  • Often operate in poorer communities
  • Open to private funding
  • Use innovative teaching and learning methods to drive up standards ...
  • ... but subject to a number of criticisms:
    • Frequently raise standards by excluding underperforming students
    • Permit profit-seeking investors to enter education market
    • Reject special needs/non-native English speaking students
    • Ignore unions/teachers’ employment rights
michael gove s free schools
Michael Gove’s free schools
  • Extends existing ‘academy’ status set up by Labour
  • Enables parents, businesses and charities to establish schools outside control of local authorities
  • Funded directly by central government
  • Academy status now available to every secondary school
education as a political issue how do you achieve reform
Education as a political issue:how do you achieve reform?
  • Questions over quality & standards
  • ‘Reasonableness’ of proposals
    • But ... Keith Joseph & voucher scheme
  • Interests vs politicians
  • Public opinion & the climb up the agenda
Most important problem – educationProportion describing education as the most important problem facing the US, 1970-2001Source: Gallup
Most important issue – educationProportion describing education as the most important issue facing the UK, 1974-2011Source: Ipsos-Mori
why radical education policies were possible in the us nclb
Why radical education policies were possible in the US - NCLB
  • Greater saliency of issue
  • Cross-party congressional agreement
    • Significant compromises
  • Incremental expansion of federal role
  • Presidential mandate
  • Republican president could go further than Democrat president?
    • Vic Klatt: ‘The only way that a bill like NCLB could have passed was if a Republican president supported it.’
  • Interest groups emasculated (politicians more interested in listening to voters than to interest groups)
    • Series of attempted reforms failed until issue saliency rose
why radical education policies were possible in the uk 1988 act
Why radical education policies were possible in the UK – 1988 Act
  • Elective dictatorship
    • No need for consensus building
    • Government can ride roughshod over unions/interest groups
    • Issue saliency apparently irrelevant
us vs uk
US vs UK
  • US – change incremental, moderate, requires consensus
  • UK – change simply requires the government’s will to implement it
education policy success or failure
Education policy – success or failure?
  • Some success in US in attaining NCLB targets
  • Charter schools – some better, some worse than normal public schools
  • Academies & free schools – overall improvement in standards
    • But emphasis on vocational qualifications may account for much of improvement
      • Selection element
    • Plus may impact on other local schools
    • And most schools are more concerned about financial benefits than academic ones

accountability and marketization the downside
Accountability and marketization – the downside
  • ‘Unfunded mandates’
    • Not enough central funds to allow schools in poorer areas to meet requirements
  • ‘Failing’ status tends to lead to downward spiral
    • Hard to recruit good teachers to a failing school
  • ‘Teaching to the test’
  • Moving the goalposts
    • Lack of national control (in the US) leave states free to manipulate testing criteria
  • Success – or else!
    • Evidence of increasing numbers of expulsions accompanying improved test results