When School Policies Backfire

When School Policies Backfire How Well-Intended Measures Can Harm Our Most Vulnerable Students

Edited by Michael A. Gottfried and Gilberto Q. Conchas
paper, 232 Pages
Pub. Date: April 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-907-5
Price: $33.00

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Like medical practitioners, educators share the moral obligation to “first, do no harm.” But as this provocative volume shows, education policies do not always live up to this ideal, especially policies intended to help our most vulnerable students. When School Policies Backfire draws our attention to education policies designed to help disadvantaged students that instead had the perverse effect of harming them by exacerbating the very problems they were intended to solve.


When School Policies Backfire provides readers with powerful examples that illustrate how well-intentioned policies often ‘backfire’ and produce unintended consequences that undermine the intent of the policy. Readers will be reminded that if we really seek to improve public education, good intentions are just not good enough. — Pedro A. Noguera, distinguished professor of education, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Highly readable, and rich with diverse examples, this terrific volume fills a gap in the literature on policy implementation in education. Gottfried and Conchas have assembled a fascinating set of thought-provoking case studies, and succeed in teasing out some important lessons. — Dominic Brewer, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University

With the signing of ESSA, this book provides an important and timely discussion on some things to avoid in the rush to get it right—namely, policies that may backfire. When School Policies Backfire shows how efforts to rescue kids often ended up doing the opposite. School leaders can learn much from this important and groundbreaking work. — Carl A. Cohn, executive director, California Collaborative for Educational Excellence

When School Policies Backfire is a sobering reminder of the responsibility that policy makers and researchers bear for the well-being of our most vulnerable students. — James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

When School Policies Backfire provides, in a readable context, the need to analyze past policies and practices to understand that the best ideas do not always succeed nor do they help whom they are intended to help. The message of the book is simple and yet is so very important. — Rosalind Raby, Teachers College Record

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About the Editors

Michael A. Gottfried is an associate professor in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research examines educational policy and the economics of education. His projects, ranging from early education to high school course taking, have been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the University of California, as well as several private foundations. He is coeditor of Inequality, Power, and School Success (Routledge, 2015). Gottfried is currently on the editorial board of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

Gilberto Q. Conchas is a professor of educational policy and social context at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of The Color of Success (Teachers College Press, 2006), coauthor of Small Schools and Urban Youth (Corwin, 2008), coauthor of Streetsmart Schoolsmart (Teachers College Press, 2012), coeditor of Inequality, Power, and School Success (Routledge, 2015), and editor of Cracks in the Schoolyard (Teachers College Press, 2015). Conchas is currently interim chair of the Department of Chican@ Studies, acting associate dean of social sciences, and visiting professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has also been a visiting professor at the University of Southern California, San Francisco State University, the University of Washington, the University of Barcelona, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Table of Contents


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