Promise Neighborhood implementation in the context of school choice: Tensions and contradictions
Luter, David Gavin
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At least two approaches to addressing the needs of underperforming central city schools have emerged as paradigms shaping the nature of reform efforts: (1) building-based approaches such as comprehensive school reform, and (2) place-based approaches that include interventions at the community and neighborhood-level. The federal government has supported both approaches, both separately (e.g. building-based approaches funded through No Child Left Behind and place-based approaches by Full Service Community Schools) and jointly (e.g. Promise and Choice Neighborhoods). Inherent tensions exist between these competing paradigms, tensions that are complicated by the political and competitive environment surrounding school reform. Yet these tensions have largely been ignored by contemporary school reform and educational leadership literature. To better understand how local, yet federally funded, place-based reforms can exist in the same space as local school choice and federal standards and accountability policies, a more comprehensive framework is necessary. Such a framework (or frameworks) would offer a more complete picture of how these efforts have been launched, how they exist on a daily basis, and how “on the ground” tensions emanate from them, thus moving the field closer to a clearer understanding of what kind of school reform approaches work for turning around low-performing schools with an appreciation of the local neighborhood context. The researcher proposes a single-case holistic case study of a Promise Neighborhood effort in the Northeast to explore implementation challenges and tensions caused by school choice. The findings suggest how participants in a Promise Neighborhood define the conceptual and theoretical dimensions of place-based school reform, challenges resulting from implementation of place-based school reform, and how school choice complicates and/or complements place-based school reform.