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The Allure of OrderHigh Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling$
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Jal Mehta

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199942060

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199942060.001.0001

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The Forgotten Standards Movement: The Coleman Report, the Defense Department, and a Nascent Push for Educational Accountability

The Forgotten Standards Movement: The Coleman Report, the Defense Department, and a Nascent Push for Educational Accountability

Chapter:
4 The Forgotten Standards Movement: The Coleman Report, the Defense Department, and a Nascent Push for Educational Accountability
Source:
The Allure of Order
Author(s):

Jal Mehta

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199942060.003.0006

The late 1960s and early 1970s are remembered for many things, but educational accountability is not foremost among them. A time when the nation was ripped asunder by fights over Vietnam, when women burned bras, and when African Americans took to the streets seemed hardly a propitious moment for an educational movement emphasizing technocratic rationality to come to the forefront. Yet although overshadowed in the educational arena by conflicts over desegregation, community control, free schools, and open classrooms, a relatively quiet movement led primarily by state bureaucrats did in fact initiate the beginnings of an educational accountability movement. Between 1963 and 1974, no fewer than 73 laws were passed seeking to create standards or utilize a variety of scientific management techniques to improve schooling. These efforts at rationalization in some ways followed the same trajectory as the efficiency reforms five decades earlier and the standards movement to follow two decades later. First came the invocation of a crisis, this time born of rising demands for greater equity and increasing dissatisfaction with the quality of the schools. Second, into this void stepped the new logic of rationalizing reform, this time drawn from a set of techniques pioneered by the Rand Corporation and popularized by the Department of Defense, which promised a new approach to defining objectives, measuring goals, and aligning available resources. And third, humanists and educators were once again the primary opponents of the reform, objecting to the quantification of schooling and the limited view of educational improvement that underlay the rationalizing reform. In all of these respects, the now almost forgotten accountability efforts of the 1960s and 1970s resembled the other two accountability movements of the 20th century. However, the other two movements mobilized a broad range of elites behind their reforms, whereas in this case real political support remained thin. The narrow base of support kept the programs from spreading or being implemented more widely; this effort never gained the kind of power or traction that the earlier and later ones did.

Keywords:   Cooperative Accountability Project, Vietnam War, community control, counterculture, democracy, norm-referenced tests, operations analysis, quantitative analysis, scientific management, zero-based budgeting

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