Pushing Parents Away: The Role of District Bureaucracy in an Urban School

  • Erin McNamara HorvatEmail author
Part of the Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research book series (CHIR, volume 5)


While the impact of school bureaucracy has been recognized over time as critical to understanding how schools work and assessing the capacity of public schools to educate the populace (Bidwell 2001; Payne 2008; Rogers 2009; Rogers and Chung 1983), how bureaucratic structures impact on students and parents has not been well articulated. As Honig (2009, p. 418) pointed out, much of this work does not go beyond broad-brush portraits of district bureaucracy. More research is needed that goes beyond the “impersonal reference to ‘districts’ as actors and toward uncovering the human dimensions” of the bureaucracy. In particular, the literature on economic integration has not examined the institutional factors that facilitate or suppress middle-class participation in mixed-income schools. Using ethnographic data collected from the Darcy school (a pseudonym), I provide a detailed account of the way district policies pushed middle-class parents away from an urban public school.


Catchment Area Class Size Private School Charter School Spelling Test 
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The author gratefully acknowledges the Spencer Foundation and Temple University for their financial support. The author would like to thank the parents, teachers, and administrators from the Darcy school community for their generous participation in this study as well as colleagues who reviewed previous drafts of this chapter: Maia Cucchiara, Annette Lareau, Demie Kurz, Joshua Klugman, Kim Goyette, Douglas Downey, and Yasko Kanno.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Urban EducationTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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