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The Expanding Role of the Courts in Educational Policy: The Preschool Remedy and an Adequate Education

by Benjamin Michael Superfine & Roger D. Goddard - 2009

Background/Context: Over the past half-century, the courts have played an increasingly important role in educational governance and decision-making. However, since the courts began to take such an active role in education, the efficacy and effectiveness of judicial intervention in education remain uncertain. Largely in response to problems that they have persistently faced in education litigation in the past, courts ruling in several recent school finance reform cases have begun to experiment with new types of remedial orders requiring the implementation of particular educational programs or systems of governance. Free preschool for students constitutes the most common of these educational programs recently ordered by courts.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study examines and analyzes the trend of courts to experiment with new remedial orders requiring the implementation of particular educational programs or systems of governance by analyzing the judicial consideration of preschool programs in two major school finance cases in New Jersey and North Carolina.

Research Design: This study frames its analysis in the legal literature examining the courts’ role in educational policy, the particular legal and historical contexts of school finance reform litigation, and the educational research evaluating the effectiveness of preschool. Using historical case study analysis and methods more traditionally associated with legal analysis, this study analyzes the opportunities and pitfalls of the preschool remedy and the implications for the imposition of other like remedies.

Conclusions: This study concludes that, although the preschool remedy is well designed to respond to some major problems that courts have persistently faced in school finance reform litigation, courts have considered the preschool remedy inconsistently and in an oversimplified fashion that does not reflect nuances in the underlying research on preschool. Moving forward, courts need to find a middle route that allows them to respond to problems they have faced in the past while treating scientific research in a more nuanced fashion.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 7, 2009, p. 1796-1833
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15302, Date Accessed: 4/10/2021 2:50:20 PM

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About the Author
  • Benjamin Superfine
    University of Illinois at Chicago
    E-mail Author
    BENJAMIN MICHAEL SUPERFINE is an assistant professor in the Policy Studies Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on standards-based reform and accountability policies, school finance reform litigation, and the intersection between educational law and policy and social science. Recent publications include “Deciding Who Decides at the Intersection of School Finance Reform Litigation and Standards-Based Accountability Policies” in Educational Policy (in press), and “Using the Courts to Influence the Implementation of No Child Left Behind” in Cardozo Law Review (2006).
  • Roger Goddard
    University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
    E-mail Author
    ROGER D. GODDARD is an associate professor of educational administration and policy at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. His research interests include the social psychology of school organization, education policy, and school leadership. His most recent research, published in Educational and Psychological Measurement with Laura LoGerfo, provides guidance to researchers regarding the measurement of emergent organizational properties. In 2007, with Yvonne L. Goddard and Megan Tschannen-Moran, he also published research on the connection between teachers’ collaboration for school improvement and student achievement in Teachers College Record.
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