Does mayoral control of Chicago Public Schools result in lagging academic achievement outcomes for African American high school students?

The 1990s saw the emergence of a “new style” of mayor interested in taking a strong leadership style in their city’s school system. Two mayors, Chicago’s Richard M. Daley and Boston’s Thomas Menino, were at the forefront of this radical movement. On October 25th, 1996, Mayor Daley visited Boston and made a joint appearance with Menino. Both mayors made it clear where they stood on the mayor’s role in public education. “As president of the US Conference of Mayors, I believe that education is the greatest challenge facing our cities today,” in which Menino agreed (Brown, 1996).

The last 20 years have seen dramatic shifts in education policy, including changes in governance and increasing federal mandates on states to hold schools accountable for their performance. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), passed in 2002, required that states test students annually and that mandated districts and schools should publicly report the scores. There is now more publicly available information than ever concerning the performance of local public schools. Where citizens used to be able to rely only on reputation and social demographics to assess the quality of local schools, they now have “hard” data.

In the over twenty years since both mayors made these proclamations, nearly a dozen US mayors have followed suit by stepping up their role in public education. Some cities, such as New York and Cleveland, have adopted the Chicago-Boston model and have approved the mayor the power to appoint a majority of the city’s school board members.

The spread of mayoral control raises new questions of about the institutional structures and consequences of governance for our nation’s city schools. This research seeks to answer this question drawn from the existing body of knowledge on mayoral impact on city school academic success: *This will flow better once you address above normative questions

Does mayoral control of Chicago Public Schools result in lagging academic achievement outcomes for African American high school students?

The hypothesis that I will test are as follows:

1. Mayoral control and the model of integrated governance to which it has given rise to centralized power does not improve student performance and achievement, decreases and deplete fiscal discipline, demote the importance of political economy in urban areas, and lowers the positive profile in our nation’s cities.

Utilizing both large-scale, quantitative and qualitative case studies, I will aim to describe how mayoral control is currently organized in the largest urban cities in this country, specifically Chicago, how it operates within schools and classrooms, and its short- and long-term consequences for optimal student achievement. I will examine how Chicago’s neoliberal politics and growth machines has enabled local-state practices of public educational exclusion and incorporation that play a key role in managing reforms. This analysis seeks to contribute to broader conceptions of contemporary urban governance by showing how a distinctive set of local institutions may underpin the flexible regulation of political challenges—an ongoing project that lies at the heart of neoliberal urban power.

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