Second International Handbook of Educational Change

Volume 23 of the series Springer International Handbooks of Education pp 153-168


Social Movement Organizing and Equity-Focused Educational Change: Shifting the Zone of Mediation

  • Michelle RenéeAffiliated withAnnenberg Institute for School Reform Brown University
  • , Kevin WelnerAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado
  • , Jeannie OakesAffiliated withUCLAEducational Opportunity and Scholarship, The Ford Foundation Email author 

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In the first edition of this handbook, we recommended significant shifts in the way education change is understood and pursued. Specifically, we argued that reforms seeking to disrupt historic connections among race, social class, educational opportunities, and schooling outcomes are likely distorted or abandoned altogether during the implementation process. To succeed, such “equity-focused” change must move beyond conventional change to address a series of unique political and normative challenges (Oakes, Welner, Yonezawa, & Allen, 1998). A related recommendation from that earlier chapter was that the processes of formulating, adopting, and implementing include the active participation of members of less powerful communities as well as the professionals and elites who typically lead reforms. Finally, we joined many others in recommending that education leaders be held accountable for providing all students with a high-quality education and, in particular, for ensuring that the least well-off students are provided with the learning resources they need. Here too, however, we argued that the form of accountability most likely to support the implementation of equity-focused change is the accountability of policy makers and school officials to the public and, most notably, to members of marginalized groups whose educational chances depend on such reforms.