The Futures of School Reform

The Futures of School Reform

Edited by Jal Mehta, Robert B. Schwartz, and Frederick M. Hess
Pub. Date: September 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-473-5
paper, 280 Pages
Pub. Date: September 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-471-1
Price: $32.00

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The Futures of School Reform represents the culminating work of a three-year discussion among national education leaders convened by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Our country is faced with an absolutely frightening crisis and challenge: we must radically improve our education system or our children will simply be unable to compete in the global economy. The diverse voices in this book demonstrate that there is no single solution, but the writers are united in their urgency. This eye-opening book should be required reading for educators and policy makers across America. — Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone

Essays in this volume do more than add another layer to the contemporary school reform debate. The book’s unique contribution is the mixture of alternatives that it offers for the future of American school reform. — Pasi Sahlberg, director general of CIMO in Finland, and author of Finnish Lessons

American education is at a crossroads. In The Futures of School Reform, Mehta, Schwartz, and Hess present six essays on education reform strategies that will spark a provocative discussion on how to transform our education system. — Jeb Bush, governor of Florida from 1999–2007, and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education

Most literature on education reform is like a lighthouse, shining a beacon from a distant, perhaps unreachable place. This book offers readers a compass to point the way forward. It sets the true north for improvement in this most important American institution. — John Deasy, superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District

The Futures of School Reform will be an interesting addition to any library devoted to the topic of systemic change. Its primary appeal lies in the way it brings together an array of ideologically diverse perspectives regarding what needs to be done in order to transform American K-12 schooling from its current dysfunctional state to a system that is truly responsive to 21st-century learning needs. This book can also serve as a useful resource for students in a graduate course on systemic change. — Deepak Prem Subramony, Educational Technology

The discussion delivers a commendable performance of raising awareness and presenting specific considerations in the undertaking of public school reform. — G. Moreno, CHOICE

A mine of information and a must read for educators and the public alike. — Claude Ury, City Book Review

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About the Editors

Jal Mehta is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His primary research interests are in understanding the relationship between knowledge and action; substantively, he is most interested in the policy and politics of creating high-quality schooling at scale. Mehta received his PhD in sociology and social policy from Harvard University. His dissertation, The Transformation of American Educational Policy, 1980–2001, recently received the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the AERA politics’ section. Mehta is coauthor of Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings (Basic Books, 2004), which was a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Allure of Order: The Troubled Quest to Rationalize a Century of American Schooling (Oxford University Press), which charts the growing “rationalization” of American schooling, asking what this shift means for the educational field, for the teaching profession, and for social justice. He is also working on a project, The Chastened Dream, about the limits and possibilities of using social science as a means of achieving social progress.

Robert B. Schwartz is the Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He held a wide variety of leadership positions in education and government before joining the HGSE faculty in 1996. He holds an MA from Brandeis University. From 1997 to 2002, Schwartz served as president of Achieve, Inc., an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit organization created by governors and corporate leaders to help states improve their schools. From 1990 to 1996, Schwartz directed the education grantmaking program of the Pew Charitable Trusts. In addition to his work at HGSE, Achieve, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, Schwartz has been a high school English teacher and principal, an education advisor to the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts, an assistant director of the National Institute of Education, a special assistant to the president of the University of Massachusetts, and executive director of the Boston Compact, a public-private partnership designed to improve access to higher education and employment for urban high school graduates.

Frederick M. Hess is an educator, political scientist, and author. He serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, on the review board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education, and on the boards of directors for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 SCHOOLS, and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. He holds a PhD in government from Harvard University. A former high school social studies teacher, Hess has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University. His recent books include Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit (Harvard Education Press, 2012), The Same Thing Over and Over (Harvard University Press, 2010), Education Unbound (ASCD, 2010), The Future of Educational Entrepreneurship (Harvard Education Press, 2008), Common Sense School Reform (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Revolution at the Margins (Brookings Institution Press, 2002), and Spinning Wheels (Brookings Institution Press, 1998). He also pens the Education Week blog “Rick Hess Straight Up” (