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Opportunities Lost: Local Translations of Advocacy Policy Conversations

by Nancy Ares & Edward Buendía - 2007


Policy documents such as Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB] (2001) direct schools and school systems to funnel resources to students based on their socioeconomic and linguistic status, as well as according to performance on standardized measures of achievement. Such conversations in the US about serving “at risk” students are powerful influences in schools’ efforts to advocate for the academic and social success of their increasingly diverse student populations. In this sense, advocacy involves organizing curricula, programs, and resources to support the learning and development of students whose academic performance is perceived as threatened.

Focus of Study:

An important question that must be addressed is, “To what degree are school reform initiatives able to articulate a vision of advocacy without lapsing into historical narratives of racial division and individualism, the results of which are continued differential achievement and unequal treatment of students based on socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic markers?” It is equally important to understand how advocacy policies are translated at the school level. The advocacy policy of the reform we examine serves as an example of a vision grounded in an individually focused, colorblind policy, and the translation process as an example of how colorblindness precludes true reform focused on equity. Thus, this work adds to literature in both educational policy and in implementation of reform.

Research Design:

Analyses of policy and enactment of policy in a whole-district school reform effort examined educators’ translation of national and local policy discourses. We pinpoint why the crafting and translation of advocacy policy came out the way it did, and how it could have been different. We connect policy and practice by identifying points of translation where true reform focused on equity might have been undertaken.


District staff, principals, and teachers first translated the district office’s advocacy policy by hybridizing institutional, historical discourses of the individual with discourses of racial difference, and then these same teachers and principals translated their interpretation at the level of their own school setting by hybridizing race-based advocacy with assimilationist ideologies of the purpose of school. We argue for expansion of such individually focused notions of advocacy to capture the fact that students experience schooling differentially based on their membership in social class, ethnic/racial, cultural, and/or linguistic groups. Implications of individually focused, colorblind advocacy policies for the success of this reform in particular and school reform in general are explored.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 109 Number 3, 2007, p. 561-589
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12793, Date Accessed: 7/14/2020 6:28:07 PM

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About the Author
  • Nancy Ares
    University of Rochester
    E-mail Author
    NANCY ARES is an assistant professor in Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester’s Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Her research draws on sociocultural, situated social practice, and critical theories to examine classroom and school processes and practices. Recent publications include “A dialectic analysis of generativity: Issues of network supported design in mathematics and science,” in Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 7(3).
  • Edward Buendía
    University of Utah
    E-mail Author
    EDWARD BUENDIA is an associate professor in the Department of Education, Culture and Society at the University of Utah. His research interests are the production of school knowledge and practice and curriculum studies. He has recently completed a book co-authored with Nancy Ares entitled The geographies of difference: The production of the West Side, East Side and Central City School (Peter Lang).
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