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Poking Around: Outsiders View Chicago School Reform


by Michael B. Katz, Michelle Fine & Elaine Simon ó 1997

This article reports on five years of intermittent observations of Chicago school reform by a team consisting of a social historian, social psychologist, and urban anthropologist. It chronicles a method for tracking the implications of school reform over time. The authors started with the goal of reporting on Chicago to an audience outside the city: to their surprise, they discovered an audience inside the city eager to hear their observations. They focused on both the system-wide, structural view of reform and the ground-level view from the schools and local community. Their method consisted of identifying a network of informants inside the city, attending meetings and public events, and visiting schools, and they followed three schools closely for more than two years. When they realized that the phases of their own learning process had matched the phases in the history of Chicago school reformís first five years, they decided to structure their observations as a narrative exploring reform through their developing and changing understanding. Among the themes they discuss are the unique character of the reform; the role of reformís public/private civil society; the many stories of reformís origins; the multiple layers of reform; and the problem of evaluation.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 99 Number 1, 1997, p. 117-157
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10252, Date Accessed: 12/18/2017 5:27:13 PM

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About the Author
  • Michael Katz
    University of Pennsylvania
    Michael Katz is Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of the tenth anniversary edition of In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America (Basic Books, 1996).
  • Michelle Fine
    City University of New York
    Michelle Fine is professor of psychology, Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the co-author, with Lani Guinier and Jane Baline, of Becoming Gentlemen (1997).
  • Elaine Simon
    University of Pennsylvania
    Elaine Simon is co-director of Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and a research associate at Research for Action. She is the co-author of "Reforming alone: Barriers to organizational learning in urban school initiatives" (Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 1997).
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