Rethinking Compensatory Education: Historical Perspectives on Race, Class, Culture, Language, and the Discourse of the “Disadvantaged Child”

by Barbara Beatty - 2012

Introduction to the Special Issue

Compensatory education has been tried and apparently it has failed,” psychometrician Arthur Jensen asserted in the first sentence of his controversial 1969 Harvard Educational Review article.1 Jensen went on to propose racial differences in IQ as a cause. Not surprisingly, the next issue was filled with angry responses. In a “Letter from the South,” William F. Brazziel from the Norfolk Division of Virginia State College cited data showing that compensatory education, special programs designed to compensate for supposed educational disadvantages caused by poverty, was successful. Brazziel described an intervention program he had conducted for African American sharecroppers and their children that had worked well at an elementary school in Tennessee. Compensatory education, Brazziel said, had not been fully implemented. “School people are just now learning how to run compensatory programs. . . . Or really try to.” 2

Brazziel faulted Jensen for not taking into account “deprivation axioms” when comparing black–white IQ scores.3 At the same time, Brazziel was on record criticizing the use of such labels as “culturally deprived” and “culturally disadvantaged,” and praising “healthy resentment” of terminology that stereotyped black “children, their parents, and their homes and communities” as deficient.4

Brazziel’s plea for using deprivation variables and his simultaneous rejection of cultural stereotypes reflect tensions that permeated the compensatory education movement and the discourse of compensatory education in the 1960s. Viewed as a solution to educational and social inequality, compensatory education was initially accepted and promoted by many white, black, and Mexican American researchers and activists. Compensatory education terminology such as “cultural deprivation” was also initially accepted in the mainstream, black, and Mexican American press, as Sylvia Martinez and John Rury document. By the end of the 1960s, however, as Brazziel’s criticism of cultural labels indicates, compensatory education was under fire for its negative portrayals of the “culture of poverty,” especially in African American culture.

In addition to critiquing Jensen’s lack of understanding of the contextualized nature of African Americans’ IQ test scores, Brazziel condemned Jensen for relying on inaccurate data on “black inferiority” from James Coleman et al.’s 1966 Equality of Educational Opportunity Survey, known as the Coleman Report. Widely perceived as proof of the inefficacy of compensatory education, only a year after Title I had begun, the Coleman Report, mandated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, came to stand for the notion that schools could not make a “difference” in increasing achievement and advancing social equality through education.5 On rereading the report, however, Coleman and his coauthors offered some hope—hope that was largely lost in the polarized debate over compensatory education that ensued.

Looked at today, Coleman’s findings were not uniformly bleak. In particular, Coleman discussed four areas in which he found some positive results that would be familiar to current researchers (see the notes for examples of modern studies). First, some schools were more effective than others at educating students from “disadvantaged” backgrounds. Although Coleman concluded that for “most minority groups, and most particularly the Negro, schools provide no opportunity at all for them to overcome” declining test scores between first and twelfth grades, there were exceptions.6 Some schools, Coleman said, “do differ, however, in the degree of impact they have on the various racial and ethnic groups.” Those schools, such as the Dunbar Elementary School in Philadelphia that John Spencer describes and the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School where Kerry MacNeil teaches, could be especially important for children of color.7

Second, teacher quality mattered. “The quality of teachers,” Coleman wrote, which he stated was most strongly related to a teacher’s score on a “verbal skills test,” shows “a stronger relationship to pupil achievement” than school facilities and curricula, a relationship that was “cumulative” because it became progressively stronger in higher grades.8

Third, students’ personal aspirations mattered. Coleman noted the importance of “pupil attitude factor” and the “extent to which an individual feels that he has some control over his own destiny.” This sense of motivation, Coleman argued, had “a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the ‘school factors’ together.”9

Fourth, Coleman found that peer influence mattered. If “a minority pupil from a home without much educational strength is put with schoolmates with strong educational backgrounds, his achievement is likely to rise,” Coleman stated.10 This finding, and others, made Coleman recommend school desegregation, the main focus of the data he collected from the more than 4,000 schools he surveyed. Some subsequent studies, some by researchers who worked on the Coleman Report, corroborated the positive effect on black students of being educated with white students, an argument that became increasingly controversial.11 Despite these potentially hopeful findings, some of which were later critiqued, the misleading takeaway from the Coleman Report at the time was that schools failed to reduce educational inequality.12

Like Coleman, compensatory education researchers studied racial differences in academic achievement. But as Wayne Urban argues, unlike Coleman, most compensatory education programs did not directly address between-school racial desegregation.13 Nor, as Carlos Kevin Blanton notes in his article, did they address segregation based on language differences.14 In fact, Title I and Head Start may have inadvertently exacerbated effects of segregation by race, language, and social class, a point that a few critics of compensatory education raised early on. The general lack of attention paid by primarily Anglo white researchers to school desegregation, accompanied by their focus on race and poverty, is one of the ironies in the history of compensatory education.

Coleman’s conclusions about the inefficacy of compensatory education helped spur a chain of empirical research on school effectiveness, or lack thereof, that continues to this day. In a 2011 article based on a reanalysis of Coleman’s data using multilevel modeling techniques, Spyros Konstantopoulos and Geoffrey Borman report that schools do “play meaningful roles in distributing equality or inequality of educational outcomes to females, minorities, and the disadvantaged.” Nearly “one half of the between-school variance in the minority-White achievement gap and a little over 40% of the between-school variance in the SES effect” was attributable to school characteristics. Thus, schools “do, in fact, make a difference in student achievement,” Konstantopoulos and Borman concluded.15 In their article in this issue, Christopher Span and Ishwanzya D. Rivers also document from a historical, intergenerational perspective how African American students have narrowed achievement gaps and suggest that compensatory education may have been a factor.16

Although usually discussed and dealt with separately, as preschool researchers and advocates Edward Zigler and Ruby Takanishi know, perceptions of Head Start, compensatory education for young children, suffered a fate similar to those of Title I. Based on research that many considered flawed, the authors of a federally commissioned 1969 evaluation conducted by the Westinghouse Learning Corporation and Ohio State University concluded that “Head Start as it is presently constituted has not provided widespread cognitive and affective gains.”17 As I show, Arthur Jensen used Head Start data from the Westinghouse study, as it was called, to buttress his argument about the failure of compensatory education generally.18 Despite criticisms of Head Start’s efficacy, Head Start, like Title I, continued, as did doubts about its effectiveness. Later studies showed many gains, especially on such variables as children’s health, confidence, motivation, and attitudes toward school, and evidence of positive impacts on families. Concerns kept surfacing, however, as more evaluations showed fadeouts, especially if children attended ineffective K–12 schools with low-quality teachers, the kinds of urban schools that Jean Anyon so powerfully describes.19

Reaction to compensatory education was not uniform, however, nor was the focus of compensatory education programs. Most of the discourse of compensatory education concentrated on black children, although funding was intended to reach all children in poverty. In fact, as authors in this volume describe, “cultural deprivation,” one of the main theoretical underpinnings of compensatory education, was often automatically seen as a reference to African American culture.20 Mexican Americans, as Carlos Kevin Blanton, and Sylvia Martinez and John Rury argue, were frequently left out of the discourse, which was generally framed as a black-white binary. When they were discussed, Mexican Americans, as Richard Valencia documents, also suffered from the stereotyping and low expectations of what he has termed “deficit thinking” that affected all children of color.21 Although poor children in Appalachia were an initial focus of compensatory education, researchers and educators increasingly shifted attention to urban black children, overlooking white children living in rural poverty, a problem in current education policy and funding.22

As historians, we think that providing fresh perspectives on how the discourse of the “disadvantaged child” was constructed, evolved, and perceived in the past may provide fresh insights for the future. Framed by the civil rights movement, the “rediscovery” of and “war” on poverty, the Vietnam War, and epochal changes in federal education policy, our articles raise questions about common themes. We examine studies of genetic, environmental, and cultural determinants of school achievement; psychological, sociological, and education research on poverty, race, child rearing, language acquisition, nonstandard English, and bilingual education; exemplary compensatory education programs; sources of resistance to compensatory education; and media coverage and terminology about “cultural deprivation,” “educational disadvantage,” children “at risk,” and “social” and “cultural capital.”

We ask from what earlier discourses did definitions of the disadvantaged child arise? What roles did psychology, race, class, and language play in the construction of the discourse of the disadvantaged child and compensatory education? How did different groups and historical actors react to this discourse? How did reactions to the discourse of the disadvantaged child and compensatory education change? What implications may there be in this history for education reform today?23

We also speculate about the effects of the optimism that initially accompanied compensatory education. The belief that schools can “cure” poverty is an ancient tenet in the ideology of equal opportunity that underpins democracy in America, a belief that goes back to Horace Mann and the common school movement of the early nineteenth century. The “educationalization” of poverty, as David F. Labaree and others emphasize, so apparent in compensatory education, has led generations of educators, psychologists, social scientists, policymakers, politicians, and other Americans to look to schools to do things that schools do poorly or cannot do, leading to inevitable cycles of hope and disillusionment.24 Demands for “silver bullets” to acquire and justify funding for research and new programs also contributed to cycles of overinflated expectations and despair, as psychologists Eleanor E. Maccoby and Miriam Zellner described in their 1970 analysis of compensatory education.25 Many compensatory educators looked to out-of-school factors, not just schools, as causes of educational problems. But to look to these outside factors without addressing the larger structural sources of poverty set the stage for the disparagement and disillusionment that accompanied compensatory education, disillusionment common in American education reform generally. 26

Some of the criticism of compensatory education was due to the discourse of compensatory education, the language of compensatory education, as much as or more so than its practice. Much compensatory education “talk” was stereotyping and sounded condescending and demeaning despite compensatory educators’ apparently well-meaning efforts. Roundly criticized by the end of the 1960s, talk of “cultural deficits” and “deprivation” soon seemed dated. Many compensatory education researchers were caught in this linguistic turn. While the discourse of compensatory education rose and fell, as articles in this special issue document, such compensatory education programs as Head Start and Title I continued. This disconnection between discourse and practice is striking.27 In fact, many researchers who criticized the “deficit” discourse of compensatory education argued for more federal funding for what were essentially compensatory education programs.

Discourse similar to that of compensatory education in the 1960s has returned. Talk about disparities in “cultural capital” sounds quite similar to the notion of cultural deprivation, for instance. As historians, we are curious about conditions that may have led to this rebirth of compensatory education discourse. We probe the relationship between discourse and practice, a perennial question in American education reform.

We are asking big questions; compensatory education was a big enterprise. We have thus necessarily been selective. We are grateful for the wisdom of our commentators, who point to gaps in our research, contradictions, and other concerns. With rapid changes in policies toward “failing” schools and “failing” teachers, and No Child Left Behind up for reauthorization, now would seem an opportune moment to rethink the legacy of compensatory education. We hope that reconsideration of the period of intense education reform in the 1960s may help us think about the period of intense education reform under way today.

 Our topic is timely in many ways. The title of a 2010 New York Times article proclaims, “‘Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback.” “For more than 40 years,” Patricia Cohen writes, “social scientists investigating the causes of poverty have tended to treat cultural explanations like Lord Voldemort: That Which Must Not Be Named.” Now, Cohen says, citing pioneering work by sociologist William Julius Wilson, some researchers are openly discussing the impact of culture on inequality.28

In education, some discussions of achievement gaps, ongoing for a few years before No Child Left Behind, include mention of cultural variables. Chapters in Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips’s 1998 anthology The Black-White Test Score Gap deal with family background and parenting practices. In his 2007 book Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap, Ronald Ferguson discusses the roles of parenting and youth culture. In developmental psychology, long a scientific base for compensatory preschool education, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn et al. include maternal characteristics in their 2003 article on “The Black-White Test Score Gap in Young Children.” Other developmental psychologists write about promoting effective parenting practices and preventing school behavior problems in urban black children.29

 Although widespread reluctance to discuss cultural differences that may contribute to academic achievement may be diminishing, it is still difficult to talk about specific ways that culture and poverty may affect some children’s progress in school. It should be difficult. Stereotyping is an ever-present danger. Poor people and people of color have always been blamed for structural problems that affect them that they did not create.30

Unintended consequences are also a commonplace in social policy. Most of the researchers and educators we discuss stressed the importance of high expectations for disadvantaged children’s achievement. Research on disadvantaged children, however, sometimes may have had the opposite effect. Martin Deutsch, Marcus Foster, George I. Sanchez, and other educators and psychologists we discuss emphasized all children’s ability to learn. But as research on educationally disadvantaged children became widely disseminated, it created the impression that supposed deficits were more powerful than the compensatory education programs designed to counter deficits.

Responses to the discourse of the “disadvantaged child” mattered, but so did the content. With many parents eager for more information about how to raise their children’s expectations and achievement, information matters. Teachers also seek practical advice about how to be effective with children from low-income families, as the proliferation of books on multicultural and urban education attests. Here, too, information matters. There is much thoughtful research on practices that promote social justice through teaching. The sales of Ruby Payne’s deeply troubling professional development products, however, which include statements about biological components of educational disadvantage, show that simplistic, arguably racist stereotypes about deficits and urban students have reappeared, a matter of much concern as the discourse of compensatory education resurfaces.31

In the 2010 book The Hidden History of Head Start, former Head Start director Edward Zigler writes about the difficulty the national Head Start planning committee had in finding a “middle ground between the negative deficit model and the optimistic, romantic view that poor people were so strong that they didn’t need any help.”32 We hope that this special issue of Teachers College Record will spark new discussion about how to help children living in poverty succeed in school. Brazziel was correct. Compensatory education never got to “scale.” We do not know what would have happened if it had. To think carefully about how to proceed, we need to understand some of the long-standing divides over the causes and constitution of effective schools and school achievement, many stemming from discourse that originated in the 1960s. We need to find middle ground where we can get beyond competing discourses and pool our rapidly dwindling resources to do what we can do to prevent children in the twenty-first century from failing in school.


1. Arthur R. Jensen, “How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?” Harvard Educational Review 39 (1969): 1, 2–123. I am grateful for the comments of John Spencer, John Rury, Carlos Kevin Blanton, Sylvia Martinez, Elizabeth Rose, and Ruby Takanishi, which greatly strengthened drafts of my introduction.

2. William F. Brazziel, “Letter from the South,” Harvard Educational Review 39 (1969): 348–56.

3. Ibid., 352.

4. William F. Brazziel, “Two Years of Head Start,” Phi Delta Kappan 48 (1967): 348.

5. James Samuel Coleman et al., “Summary Report,” Equality of Educational Opportunity (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education, GPO, 1966). For examples of some of the extensive criticism of the Coleman Report, see Frederick Mosteller and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, eds., On Equality of Educational Opportunity (New York: Random House, 1972). For one of the most influential post-Coleman statements on the inability of schools to ameliorate social inequality, see Christopher Jencks, Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America (New York: Basic Books, 1972), which also became very controversial.

6. Coleman et al., “Summary Report,” 20.

7. Coleman et al., “Summary Report.” For modern analyses of factors that make schools successful with low-income children, see, among many others, Anthony S. Bryk et al., Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago press, 2009). For analyses of some of the problems and challenges of urban schools, see, among many others, Jean Anyon, Ghetto Schooling: A Political Economy of Urban Educational Reform (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997); Radical Possibilities: Public Policy, Urban Education, and a New Social Movement (New York: Routledge, 2005); Soo Hong, A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2011); Frederick Hess, Spinning Wheels: The Politics of Urban School Reform (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1999); Dennis Shirley, Community Organizing for Urban School Reform (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997); Richard Altenbaugh, Caring for Kids: A Critical Study of Urban School Leavers (Washington, DC: Falmer Press, 1995); Lois Weiner, Preparing Teachers for Urban Schools: Lessons from Thirty Years of School Reform (New York: Teachers College Press, 1993); Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (New York: Harper Perennial, 1992); William J. Reese, Power and the Promise of School Reform (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986); and David B. Tyack, The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974).

8. Coleman et al., 22. For early research on teacher quality factors that corroborated Coleman’s findings, see Richard J. Murnane, The Impact of School Resources on Inner City Children (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1975). See also Richard Rothstein’s Economic Policy Institute issue brief, “How to Fix Our Schools,” October 14, 2010. For modern research, which shows factors other than verbal test scores that make some teachers successful, see, among many others, Linda Darling-Hammond, Joan Baratz-Snowden, and National Academy of Education Committee on Teacher Education, eds., A Good Teacher in Every Classroom: Preparing the Highly Qualified Teachers Our Children Deserve (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005).

9. Coleman et al., “Summary Report,” 22. On the high aspirations of African Americans and African American teachers, see, among others, James Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988) and Vanessa Siddle Walker, Their Highest Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996). On motivation and achievement, among a huge body of literature, see especially the research of Claude Steele on “stereotype threat” and his recent work, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010).

10. Coleman et al., 22.

11. See, for instance, Robert L. Crain, “School Integration and the Academic Achievement of Negroes,” Sociology of Education 44 (1971): 1–26; Jomills Henry Braddock II, “The Perpetuation of Segregation Across Levels of Education: A Behavioral Assessment of the Contact-Hypothesis,” Sociology of Education 53 (1980): 178–86; Jomills Henry Braddock II and James M. McPartland, “Assessing School Desegregation Effects: New Directions in Research,” in Research in Sociology of Education and Socialization, vol. 3, ed. Ronald Corwin (Greenwich, CT: JAI, 1982): 259–82; and Jomills Henry Braddock II, Robert L. Crain, and James M. McPartland, “A Long-Term View of School Desegregation: Some Recent Studies of Graduates as Adults,” Phi Delta Kappan 66 (1984): 259–64. For more evidence of the potentially positive impact of integration on school achievement, see the Gautreaux Project, in which the effects of housing vouchers on minority families in Chicago were studied experimentally, and a recent study by James E. Rosenbaum and Stefanie DeLuca, “Does Changing Neighborhoods Change Lives? The Chicago Gautreaux Housing Program and Recent Mobility Programs,” working paper series, Institute for Policy Studies, Northeastern University, Evanston, Illinois.

12. On interpretations of the Coleman Report, see, among many others, Mosteller and Moynihan, On Equality of Educational Opportunity (New York: Random House, 1972). In her 1972 review of Mosteller and Moynihan, Diane Ravitch presciently noted that the Coleman Report had a narrowing effect by diminishing the “importance of school qualities that do not directly contribute to raised achievement scores,” such as how public schools promote “vocational, physical, and intellectual stimulation,” and that by not maintaining a view of education “as a multipurpose endeavor, the Coleman Report might have a destructive impact.” Diane Ravitch, review of On Equality of Educational Opportunity, Change 4 (1972): 62, 64.

13. Wayne Urban, “What’s in a Name: Education and the Disadvantaged American (1962),” Paedagogica Historica 45 (2009): 251–64.

14. For modern research on civil rights, segregation, and school achievement of Mexican American children, see, among others, Richard R. Valencia, ed., Chicano School Success: Past, Present, and Future, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2011) and Dismantling Contemporary Deficit Thinking: Educational Thought and Practice (New York: Routledge, 2010); Guadalupe San Miguel, Contested Policy: The Rise and Fall of Federal Bilingual Education in the United States, 1960–2001 (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2004); Brown, not White: School Integration and the Chicano Movement in Houston (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2001) and “Let all of them take heed”: Mexican Americans and the Campaign for Educational Equality in Texas, 1910–1981 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987); Ruben Donato, The Other Struggle for Equal Schools: Mexican Americans during the Civil Rights Era (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997) and Mexicans and Hispanos in Colorado Schools and Communities, 1920-1960 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007); Angela Valenzuela, Leaving Children Behind: Why Texas-Style Accountability Fails Latino Youth (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004) and Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999); and Carlos Kevin Blanton, The Strange Career of Bilingual Education in Texas, 1836-1981 (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2004).


15. Spyros Konstantopoulos and Geoffrey D. Borman, “Family Background and School Effects on Student Achievement: A Multilevel Analysis of the Coleman Data,” Teachers College Record 113 (2011): 98, 125, 123. See also Pat Rubio Goldsmith, “Coleman Revisited: School Segregation, Peers, and Frog Ponds,” American Educational Research Journal 48 (2011): 508–33. For a comprehensive overview of phases of school effectiveness research following the Coleman Report, see Charles Teddlie and David Reynolds, eds., International Handbook of School Effectiveness Research (London: Routledge, 1999).

16. Christopher M. Span and Ishwanzya D. Rivers, “Reassessing the Achievement Gap: An Intergenerational Comparison of African American Student Achievement Before and After Compensatory Education and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),” in “Rethinking Compensatory Education,” ed. Barbara Beatty, special issue, Teachers College Record 114, no. 6.

17. V. G. Cicirelli, The Impact of Head Start: An Evaluation of on Children’s Cognitive and Affective Development (Washington, DC: Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information, 1969), quoted in Edward Zigler and Jeanette Valentine, eds., Project Head Start: A Legacy of the War on Poverty (New York: Free Press, 1979), 68.

18. Jensen, “How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?” 2, 3.

19. Jean Anyon, Ghetto Schooling: A Political Economy of Urban Education Reform (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997). On Head Start and Head Start evaluation, see, among others, Edward Zigler and Susan Muenchow, Head Start: The Inside Story of America’s Most Successful Educational Experiment (New York: Basic Books, 1992); Maris Vinovskis, The Birth of Head Start: Preschool Policies in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations (Chicago: University of Chicago press, 2005); David L. Kirp, The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Elizabeth Rose, The Promise of Preschool: From Head Start to Universal Pre-Kindergarten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); and Edward Zigler and Sally J. Styfco, The Hidden History of Head Start (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). For a recent study of Head Start effects that links fadeout to program quality and poor K–12 schools, see U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Michael Puma et al., Head Start Impact Study: Final Report, Washington, DC, January 2010.

20. For an overview of “cultural deprivation” ideology about African Americans and Latinos/Latinas in the 1960s, see Arthur Pearl, “Cultural and Accumulated Environmental Deficit Models” in The Evolution of Deficit Thinking: Educational Thought and Practice, ed. Richard R. Valencia (London: Falmer Press, 1997), 132–59. For discussion of deficit thinking and anti–deficit thinking strategies, see Valencia, The Evolution of Deficit Thinking and Dismantling Contemporary Deficit Thinking.


21. Valencia, The Evolution of Deficit Thinking.

22. On lack of attention to rural education, see, among others, Nancy Jennings, Steve Swidler, and Christopher Koliba, “Place-Based Education in the Standards-Based Reform Era—Conflict or Complement?” American Journal of Education 112 (2005): 44–65 and Education Week’s Rural Education blog.

23. For examples of studies of the history of education that include discussions of compensatory education, see, among others, Diane Ravitch, The Troubled Crusade: American Education 1945–1980 (New York: Basic Books, 1983); Ellen Lagemann, An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); David Tyack and Larry Cuban, Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995); Michael Katz, ed., The “Underclass” Debate (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); and publications by Edward Zigler and Maris Vinovskis.

24. David F. Labaree, Someone Has to Fail: The Zero Sum Game of Public Schooling (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010). Labaree credits Paul Smeyers and Marc Depaepe, eds., Educational Research: The Educationalization of Social Problems (New York: Springer, 2009), for the notion of the educationalization of poverty. See also Harold Silver and Pamela Silver, An Educational War on Poverty (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

25. Eleanor E. Maccoby and Miriam Zellner, Experiments in Primary Education: Aspects of Project Follow Through (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970).

26. On poverty and the elusiveness of urban school reform, see, among others, Silver and Silver, An Educational War on Poverty; Adam R. Nelson, The Elusive Ideal: Equal Educational Opportunity and the Federal Role in Boston’s Public Schools, 1950–1985 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); Tyack and Cuban, Tinkering Toward Utopia; and Michael B. Katz, Class, Bureaucracy, and Schools: The Illusion of Educational Change in America (New York: Praeger, 1975). John Spencer helped me word these ideas.

27. For an example, among others, of a striking disconnect between discourse and practice, between policy “talk” and programmatic change, see David B. Tyack, Learning Together: A History of Coeducation in American Schools (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990).

28. Patricia Cohen, “‘Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback,” New York Times, October 17, 2010.

29. Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips, eds., The Black-White Test Score Gap (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1998); Ronald F. Ferguson, Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Jeanne Brooks-Gunn et al., “The Black-White Test Score Gap in Young Children: Contributions of Test and Family Characteristics,” Applied Developmental Science 7, no. 4 (2003): 239–52; Laurie Miller Brotman et al., “Promoting Effective Parenting Practices and Preventing Child Behavior Problems in School Among Ethnically Diverse Families From Underserved, Urban Communities,” Child Development 82 (2011): 258–76.

30. On “blaming the victim,” see, among many others, William R. Ryan, Blaming the Victim (New York: Pantheon, 1971), and Valencia, The Evolution of Deficit Thinking and Dismantling Contemporary Deficit Thinking.

31. Ruby K. Payne, A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Highlands, TX: aha! Process, 1996). For critiques of Payne, see Jennifer Ng and John L. Rury, “A Critical Analysis of the Ruby Payne Phenomenon,” Teachers College Record, July 18, 2006, ID Number 12596; and Richard R. Valencia, “Ruby Payne’s Mindsets of Poverty, Middle Class, and Wealth: A Resurrection of the Culture of Poverty Concept” in Valencia, Dismantling Contemporary Deficit Thinking, 68–100.

32. Zigler and Styfco, The Hidden History of Head Start, 36.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 6, 2012, p. 1-11 ID Number: 16688, Date Accessed: 1/18/2022 6:17:08 PM

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