Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Scot Danforth

Second Advisor

Dr. Penny Bryan

Third Advisor

Dr. Peter McLaren


These essays represent my attempt to grapple with fundamental questions about what I see as the upside-down nature of educational reforms in American society. Why is there a never-ending crisis in America’s public schools? What does it mean when the educational specter from different periods of history is discredited and yet the specter keeps being recycled decade after decade? For example, elites propagated crisis narratives to galvanize support for the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation at the turn of the century. Countless researchers then documented the adverse impacts of NCLB on America’s schools and yet that literature never led to an acknowledgment from elite reformers about the crises generated by top-down solutions to the specter of crisis. I argue that the American public is still under the spell cast by the most successful iteration of that specter, which is the publication of the landmark federal report, A Nation at Risk (ANAR), in 1983. ANAR convinced the public that ‘bad schools’ were posing an existential threat to our nation’s economic well-being. ANAR provided no explanation of what actually caused the worst economic recessions at the time (1980-82) since the Great Depression, but it channeled an inchoate anxiety in the population towards scapegoating schools. ANAR also failed to inform the public about research on the connections between socioeconomic disadvantages (SEDs) and student achievement on standardized tests.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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