Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jon. D. Shefner

Committee Members

Sherry Cable, Paul K. Gellert, Judson C. Laughter


This dissertation describes a period rapid reform in a local school district, the emergence of an oppositional grassroots political coalition, and the community school model as an alternative reform trajectory. To give children the skills they need to compete in a high stakes economy, the district placed its faith in the power of performance metrics and the private sector to improve public schools. Metrics showed improvement. But rising scores belied a system in crisis. A business approach to teaching and learning proved deeply unpopular. A grassroots coalition emerged, challenged authority, and advanced a more democratic vision of education. The community school is an alternative reform trajectory rooted in democratic, social, and cooperative values. The model introduces contradictions within the system to create new contested spaces. This case suggests that education reforms promoting fixation on performance metrics and privatization are both dominant and pernicious, but also the current order is neither hegemonic nor inevitable.

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