Journal für International und Interkulturell Vergleichende Erziehungswissenschaft


20. Volume, 1/2014

Comprehensive and sustainable? U.S. education reform from a neo-institutional perspective

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Thomas Prescher Sebastian Werle


This article evaluates the major U.S. education reform initiatives of President Obama (‘Race to the Top’; RTTT) and former President Bush (‘No Child Left Behind’; NCLB). By drawing on the theory of neo-institutionalism, we develop a matrix to evaluate these two education reform initiatives as well as the resistance they faced on the local and state level. By categorizing RTTT and NCLB, we argue that both reform initiatives are based in large part on economical thinking leaving behind disadvantaged students and schools, and, are implemented in a strict top-down manner, excluding local level actors (e.g. teachers’ unions) from reform implementation processes. Thus, RTTT and NCLB are neglecting local norms and interests that are necessary for building a legitimate and sustainable foundation for education reform.

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