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From Community Control to School Choice: Two Decades of School Reform in New York City

Annie Langan, Malaya Jules, Claire Holleman Hilary Moss Department of History and Black Studies Amherst College 220 South Pleasant Street Amherst, MA 01002

In the 1970s, New York City’s Community School District 4 developed a new vision for how public school systems could succeed in America. The transformation of the lowest achieving district to the 16th of the 32 in New York City made East Harlem’s comprehensive choice program a nationally recognized model for underperforming schools. Two decades prior, East Harlem had also received national recognition for its attempts to gain community control of its schools, which would give parents power over hiring choices and curriculum changes. This project examines the transition from the community control movement in East Harlem to the development of alternative schools and school choice in the district. How did community activists, whose stories are often left out of this school choice narrative, shift from embracing community control to embracing school choice as a mechanism of achieving much needed educational reform? Who were the winners and losers of the movements? To answer these questions, we utilized oral histories with important local actors, and contemporary newspaper articles, as well as archival documents from the Reagan administration. We also looked closely at the unlikely coalition forming between the predominantly minority district and the Reagan administration, and their mutually beneficial relationship. We found that both movements relied on the expansion of teacher autonomy and the breakdown of educational bureaucracy. This story will add to the literature of New York City school reform by bringing a new perspective to the connection between two of the most important educational movements in the city’s history, and more importantly, by giving voice to the community activists that made it happen




Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Claire Holleman, Malaya Jules, Annie Langan

Institution: Amherst College

Type: Poster

Subject: History

Status: Approved


Time and Location

Session: Poster 7
Date/Time: Tue 3:30pm-4:30pm
Session Number: 5161