Learning Citizenship? How State Education Reforms Affect Parents’ Political Attitudes and Behavior

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Abstract

Over the past three decades, the states have adopted a suite of reforms to their education systems in an effort to improve school performance. While scholars have speculated about the political consequences of these policies, to date there has been no empirical research investigating how these reforms affect the practice of American democracy. Combining data from an original survey of public school parents with information on state education standards, testing, and accountability policies, I examine how design features of these policies influence parents’ attitudes about government, participation in politics, and involvement in their children’s education. My research shows that parents residing in states with more developed assessment systems express more negative attitudes about government and education, and are less likely to become engaged in some forms of involvement in their children’s education, than are parents who live in states with less developed assessment systems.