Book Review

Strategies for School Equity: Creating Productive Schools in a Just Society

Reviewed by William G. Keane
Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Oakland University,
Rochester, Mich.


Alexis de Tocqueville predicted in the early 19th century that America would struggle with the conflict between its values of liberty and equality. In 1961 John Gardner's book Excellence was still querying whether American society can be "equal and excellent too."

The question is perhaps even more alive in the late 1990s as society has moved from a concern for helping the disadvantaged in the 1960s (Title I, Head Start, etc.) to the current educational focus on high standards and international comparisons of test scores.

Marilyn Gittell, professor of political science at the Graduate School of the City University of New York, has edited a book that analyzes some of the major political and policy issues of our time.

Fifteen authors who have been personally involved in court challenges to school funding formulas, state policy debates about school district reorganization, and/or organizing efforts to assure community involvement in and ownership of local schools, offer factual analyses of the issues and occasional portraits of players who have shaped the current state of public education. They deal with school reorganization efforts in New York City in the 1960s, Chicago's decentralization in the 1980s and ‘90s, the political processes and legal arguments that resulted in the Kentucky Education Reform Act and the inability of Texas and New Jersey to achieve politically acceptable finance reform exclusively through legal processes.

The final chapter, written by Gittell, is a trenchant summary of the political and policy contradictions we increasingly accept as we move into the new century.

(Strategies for School Equity: Creating Productive Schools in a Just Society, edited by Marilyn J. Gittell, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn, 1998, 224 pp. with index, $30)