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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 21 October 2021

A “Semiprofession” in an Era of Accountability

A “Semiprofession” in an Era of Accountability

(p.118) 6 A “Semiprofession” in an Era of Accountability
The Allure of Order

Jal Mehta

Oxford University Press

While changes in the way that education was defined were key to subsequent policy debate, the movement toward educator accountability also drew its impetus from a broader movement toward the rationalization and lay control of professionals that has affected medicine, law, higher education, and many other fields. Viewing educational politics through this broader lens of the sociology of the professions explains why similar movements toward accountability arose simultaneously across fields, as well as why the teaching profession was particularly vulnerable to these external demands. Previous scholarship on the educational accountability movement has largely ignored the perspective offered by the sociology of the professions on the dynamics of reform. Political scientists who seek to explain the movement toward educational standards and accountability have focused on state and particularly federal legislative history, seeking to understand the key decisions that have propelled education reform. They have paid little attention to similar movements toward accountability in other fields or to how the “semi-professional” status of education may have affected the dynamics of reform. Sociologists who study schooling have noted what they perceive as a trend towards the deprofessionalization of teaching, but their interest is less in the causes of deprofessionalization and more in its consequences for teachers’ work. They also have shown little concern with the question of how professionalization affects the politics of reform or, more sociologically, of what explains the success or failure of teachers’ attempts to increase the professionalization of their practice. This chapter seeks to fill this void and address a series of questions about the movement toward educational accountability from the perspective of the sociology of the professions. This perspective brings several key questions to the fore: Why has there been an increasing demand for accountability across the professions? How does the low status of K–12 education in comparison with other professions affect the demands made by external reformers? How have teachers sought to increase their professional status and power in light of these external demands? And finally, how successful have teachers been in their efforts to professionalize their practice, and what explains their success or lack thereof?

Keywords:   Coalition of Essential Schools, Designs for Change (DFC), Fordham Foundation, New Democrats, alternative certification, bottom-up reform, capital control, career ladder plans, consumer logic, deregulation, external accountability, human capital, neoliberalism, peer review, progressive education

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