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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 11, no. 51 (December 29, 2003).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c December 29, 2003
Educational policy reform and its impact on equity work in Ontario : global challenges and local possibilities / Goli M. Rezai-Rashti.
x Research
v Periodicals.
2 710
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
1 773
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
4 856


1 of 17 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publication to the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Volume 11 Number 51December 29, 2003ISSN 1068-2341Educational Policy Reform and its Impact on Equity Work in Ontario: Global Challenges and Local Possibilities Goli M. Rezai-Rashti University of Western OntarioCitation: Rezai-Rashti, G. M. (2003, December 29). Educational policy reform and its impact on equity work in Ontario: Global challenges and local possibilities, Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11 (51). Retrieved [Date] from a/v11n51/.AbstractIn this article I discuss the effects of global pol icy discourses on the educational restructuring of the work of equity workers in Ontario, Canada. Research in two school boards with those directly involved in equity work revealed that the restructuring process had uneven and unexpected effects on the ac tivities of equity workers. Using the critical policy analysis framework, the analysis moves into a discussion of the complexitie s of policy studies. I argue that the policies introduced at th e government level are implemented and practiced on the basis of the historical specificities found at each local site. (Note 1) Influenced by global policy discourses on education the Conservative government (1996-2003) introduced major changes in the structure of the education system in Ontario. These changes created a major shift in all aspects of education, such as standardization of curriculum reduction and


2 of 17 amalgamation of school boards, funding and staffing formulas, and more specifically the centralization of power and contro l in the Ministry of Education. The objective of this article is to discuss the eff ects that the restructuring process has had on the work of equity workers in tw o school boards in Ontario. It aims at finding out the extent to which the rest ructuring of education has changed the everyday activities of those who are di rectly responsible for equity work in these school boards. Using the framework de veloped by Ball (1991, 1994); Dehli (1996); Gilborn (1994); Taylor & Henry ( 2000), this analysis does not negate some of the negative effects of the rest ructuring processes in education. Rather, it discusses how policy implemen tation at local sites is a more complex and uneven issue which requires furthe r investigation at the level of individual institutions to determine its various interpretations and possibilities. Unlike more deterministic views of the relationship between government policies and their impact on individuals and groups in vario us educational settings, there are good reasons to believe that possibilities for intervention by those for whom these policies were expected to have a detrimental effect are greater than anticipated.Context of changeEducation systems in many advanced industrial natio ns have been experiencing significant changes. Reforms in management, governa nce, assessment procedures and standardization; cuts to education b udget; privatization, and more control over curriculum design and content are common elements of these changes. The hegemonic discourses and perspectives around these reforms are justified by the process of globalization, whic h claims to require restructuring of education system in order to make the nation-sta te more competitive in the face of the changes in the world capitalist order. Globalization is thus used as a legitimizing discourse that makes the policy change s in education self-evident, necessary, and leaves current education systems wit h no other alternatives (Bourdieu, 1998). Educational globalization, then, is an attempt to create global policies around education that makes the movement o f labor around the globe easier. Educational globalization, however, does no t always lead to policy uniformity and homogeneity: Educational globalization does not imply policy hom ogenization, but rather that there are tensions within globalization processes that serve both to concentrate and differentiate the pol icy agenda. Nor is it argued that globalization implies the surrenderi ng of national sovereignty. However, the increasing polycentric na ture of governance and hence of policymaking is recognized (Taylor and Henry, 2000, p. 488). Thus, it is important to discuss globalization not in a deterministic way in which there is no space for resistance, contestation and differences. On the contrary, there is a need to look at globalization both as an impetus for homogeneity and at the same time a stimulus for the production of d ifferences. This conceptualization of globalization is significant i n that it allows the local to resist, alter and reinterpret global policies based on the histories of local condition. It is true that the reform package that is introduced in many advanced capitalist


3 of 17 societies shares similarities which could be connec ted to global and market mechanisms. Still, there are differences in the imp lementation of such policies at the local levels that cannot be ignored and whic h must be examined carefully. The macro level analysis of educational restructuri ng and reform (Apple, 1993, 2000; Burbules & Torres, 2000; Torres, 2002), altho ugh politically significant, does not provide much analysis of their impact at t he level of practice. As Stephen Ball argued, “Any decent theory of educatio n policy must attend to the workings of the state. But any decent theory of edu cation policy must not be limited to the state control perspective.” He argue d that policies are shaped at the local level of practice: Policy is both text and action, words and deeds, it is what is enacted as well as what is intended. Policies are always in complete as far as they relate to map on the “wild confusion” of local practice. Policies are crude and simple. Practice is sophisticated, co ntingent, complex and unstable. Policy as practice is “created” in a trialectic of dominance, resistance, and chaos/freedom. Thus poli cy is not simple asymmetry of power. Control [or dominance] c an never be totally secured, in part because of agency. It will be open to erosion and undercutting by action, embodied agency of thos e people who are its object. (Ball, 1994, pp. 10-11) Education policy at the provincial level in Ontario under the Conservative government should be seen within such complex under standing of the state policy formation. The reform package that was intro duced has been practiced in complex, unexpected, and unstable ways in the two l ocal settings. This research reveals that the implementation of governm ent policies have not been practiced homogeneously in various local settings. The implementations, interpretations, and the practices at the local lev el were dependent on the complex histories, cultures and agencies of individ uals present in each specific local setting. As Kari Dehli argues, “current trans formations in late capitalism have wide-reaching effects in every part of the glo be, but these effects are uneven and mediated locally in unpredictable ways”. (Dehli, 1996:85) In recent years, the impact of educational restruct uring and the resulting inequities for poor and minority students have been well analyzed and documented by educational scholars and researchers (Apple, 1993; Ball, 1993 ; Dei, 2001; Dehli, 1996 ; McNeil, 2000; Rizvi & Ling ard, 2000; Taylor, Rizvi, Lingard & Henry, 1997; Whitty, Power& Halpin, 1998; Whitty, 2001). The debate over school choice and marketization of education h as been useful in understanding the dynamics of neo-liberal reform in education. In Ontario, the education system has been going through some simila r policy reforms as other advanced capitalist societies such as US and Englan d. The task ahead is to find out how these reforms are practiced at the local le vel and their implications for students, teachers, administrators, and for those w ho are actively seeking for an education system based on principles of equity and social justice. As Levin argued: The task of the analyst, then, is to consider the w ays in which policies are driven by a particular logic or ideolo gy, but also the ways


4 of 17 in which they are shaped by other factors-historica l, cultural, institutional, and politicalthat they are less pr edictable. At the macro level, long-term changes in societies and the role of the state are important. At the micro level, chance, in the f orm of individual personalities or unexpected events, is also an impo rtant consideration in understanding reform. Neither the importance of means-ends rationality nor the underlying contingen cy of life can be ignored-both must be accommodated in an adequate th eoretical account. (Levin, 2001) Today, the general view in Ontario is that the curr ent policies of educational restructuring have significantly reduced equity act ivities and the institutional mechanisms to adequately address equity issues. Thi s is mainly attributed to the policies introduced by the Progressive Conserva tive government that took power in 1995 (Dehli, 1998; Dei 2001;Griffith, 2001 ; Goldstein, 1998; Majhanovich, 2002; Smith, 1998).There is little doubt that changes to the education system along with the massive cuts in education budget have had serious c onsequences for all aspects of education. The new policies over governa nce, funding formula, curriculum and assessment procedures are all facets of the Ontario government’s education policy. These policies are a dopted and initiated at the government level and they all have a short-time tim etable for implementation. These policies are significantly changing the natur e of teaching and learning in Ontario.Educational policy reform in Ontario is predominant ly influenced by economic theory with its discourse of market mechanism, effi ciency and productivity. The longterm impact of these reforms is not known. On tario is still at the early stages of such policy reforms and perhaps it is too early to fully comprehend the social impact of such policies.I do not challenge the view that these changes have had drastic implications for Ontario education. Rather, it is intended to show t hat policies adopted at the government level are subject to local interpretatio ns and implementation, and may not necessarily achieve its intended objectives in practice. This research shows that despite the draconian measures introduce d by the government, there still are spaces for oppositional work at the level of individual institutions.MethodsResearch for this work was conducted during 2001-20 02 and used qualitative methods of inquiry (Note 2) in order to explore the impact of policy reforms on equity education from the experience of those activ ely involved in equity work at local sites. In this case, it explores the institut ional changes from the perspective of equity workers’ (Note 3) experience of their routine jobs. Six educators from two different school boards (3 from each board) and one from the Ministry of Education and Training who have bee n actively involved in equity work were interviewed. The school boards were selec ted based on their activities around equity education. One school boar d had a long history of equity work and the other one had no history of systematic and on-going equity work.


5 of 17 There were also two focus group interviews (two peo ple in each group and one in each board). The equity workers were not the obj ects of the research. They were informants rather than subjects. The intention was to draw on their knowledge and experience of their everyday work sit uation, of their relationship with others (such as administrators, teachers, and parents, trustees) and what the current changes in education in Ontario have me ant for them. Interviews were one to two hours in length and semi-structured They were tape-recorded and then transcribed.An Historical Overview of Equity Education in Ontar ioUntil the late 1980s, little systematic attention w as directed to issues of equity and social justice in Ontario education. Some schoo l boards, though, developed policies related to race relations and multicultura lism. In 1979, the Toronto Board of Education became the first school board in Canada to set in place an official policy on race relations. By 1990, there w ere about 40 boards of education in Ontario that developed some sorts of p olicies dealing with issues of race and culture. (Rezai-Rashti, 1995) In 1985, the Ontario government, through its Ministry of Education, moved to establi sh an Advisory Committee on Race Relations. The mandate of this committee inclu ded, among others, the following duties: to promote the development of a Race and Ethno-cult ural Equity Policy by all school boards in the province. to assist and advise the Ministry of Education in t he creation of guidelines for equity policy development and recommend priorit y areas for policy development. to identify strategies that will assist boards in d eveloping and implementing racial and ethno-cultural equity polic ies. to place concepts such as multiculturalism, race, a nd ethno-cultural relations and anti-racist education in their histor ical context as an aid to their proper use in equity policy development, and to identify the threads that link them. (Ministry of Education of Ontario, 1987:2) In 1987, the Advisory Committee on race relations p ublished a report entitled “The Development of a Policy on Race and Ethnocultu ral Equity”. Although the report was validated province-wide, not much happen ed until the early 1990s when the centre-left New Democratic Party (NDP) won in the provincial election. During the NDP government, the Ministry of Educatio n and Training paid some attention to issues of racism and sexism in Ontario schools. In 1993, the Ministry made it mandatory for every school board i n Ontario to develop and implement a policy on Anti-racism and Ethno-cultura l Equity. To that effect, the Ministry established a unit within the Ministry of Education and Training to support the work of school boards and to make schoo l boards accountable for their work on equity issues. The Policy/Program Mem orandum No, 119, in 1993, recognized “there have been systemic inequities in educational experiences of minority groups” and the Ministry of Education ackn owledged that the educational structures, policies, and programs have been mainly European in perspective” (Ministry of Education, 1993, p. 45). According to this policy, all school boards in Ontario were to develop a policy o n Anti-racism and


6 of 17 Ethnocultural Equity and they were to submit their policies and the implementation plan to the ministry by March 31, 19 95. Boards were expected to begin implementation by September 1, 1995. This policy contained clear timelines, expectations, and implementation plan at tached to it. The implementation plan to be carried over a five-year period included clear annual objectives and outcomes, partnership with the local communities and the establishment of mechanisms for evaluating progress In 1995, the NDP government lost in the provincial election and the Progressive Conservative Party was elected with a majority of s eats and a platform of tax cuts, fiscal responsibility, and the elimination of employment equity policy. Soon after the new government took office, the monitorin g of the boards’ implementation of the policy on Anti-racism and Eth nocultural Equity “just died”. From 1995 to 1997, about two thirds of the budget o f the unit was cut. The staff of the unit was not allowed to monitor or interfere with boards. As Laura stated: By that time my staff was shrinking anyway because of budget cutbacks…. I stayed for a couple of years, because they didn’t get rid of us immediately. In 1997, the Anti-racism and Ethnocultural Equity Unit was shut down. The few remaining staff were either dismissed or re-distributed to the other branches o f the Ministry of Education and Training. To sum up, liberal and NDP governments supported mo re equity related initiatives, especially during the NDP, an institut ional mechanism for accountability was established. However, these poli cies and initiatives were faced with various kinds of responses from local si tes and coupled with the government’s commitment to consultation, by and lar ge did not achieve the expected goals.Conservative Government and Policy Reforms in Educa tionThe interview data support the view that the restru cturing process in Ontario has had a serious impact on all aspects of education, i ncluding the work on equity and social justice. This is especially true for the school boards with a long history of doing work in these areas. However, this research also reveals that the actual work on equity and social justice does n ot necessarily correspond with the Ministry of Education and Training’s manda ted policies. It shows that school boards may interpret and implement these pol icies based on a set of complex conditions in their individual institution. At the level of local practice, people in various local settings have been able to interpret such policies based on particularities of their communities.Two school boards were selected for this research o n the basis of their activities around issues of social justice prior and after 199 5. The Richmond school board has been a leading board in terms of providing lead ership in equity work provincially (work on race, class, gender, culture, and sexuality). After 1995, the effort of the equity workers to continue with the s ame level of activities was drastically reduced. The Victoria school board did not do much work on equity and social justice prior to 1995. After 1995, some significant activities were introduced and in some ways this board began to pla y a leading role in recent


7 of 17 times.The Richmond School BoardThe Richmond school board had a long history of pro gressive work in education. Interviews with several members of the e quity department who have been working in this institution for over twenty ye ars revealed some of this history. Marjorie, one of the interviewees, discuss ed this history from her perspective as an educator in this school board. Sh e talked about how in early 1970s a group of social activists decided that they would run progressive trustee candidates in order to try to get a majority of sea ts on this board. Until then, political parties were not involved in municipal el ections. Trustees would run as independents.These trustees were interested in a range of equity issues such as parents’ participation, multiculturalism, alternative school s, and the education of working class and poor students and parents. The board beca me a place where issues related to gender, race and ethnocultural equity we re actively discussed. The board tried to create positions for people responsi ble in the system running initiatives that would try to level the playing fie ld for groups that have been identified as having less success in the school sys tem. They also substantially funded the equity initiatives. As Marjorie discusse d: We had the power of the purse to try to make things more even, and we used our power. And…. They raised the mill rate in order to fund these programs that they thought they needed. You k now, we had run these programs, we had made our research depart ment backing up some of our initiatives. We had an organizationa l culture that, even though we didn’t always agree with each other, this was the direction, and it was one of the three parts of our mission statement that the last director of the board, kind of pushed through—Equity, Excellence and Accountability, with the emphasis on Equity, not on the Accountability. In other words, his vision was, we have to be accountable for equitable outcomes. Therefore, before restructuring, this board had mor e than 20 years of experience dealing with various equity issues. They had developed curriculum materials and their work with teachers and students was a model for other boards of education in the province and at the nati onal level as well. When restructuring was initiated and the amalgamation ha ppened this board had to amalgamate with several other boards of education t hat did not have the same experience and the level of commitment to equity is sues. Those who were interviewed and who work for the Ric hmond School Board gave the following reasons for not being able to co ntinue the equity work with the same level of intensity: amalgamationthe board was amalgamated with severa l other school boards. The size of the board became six times bigg er than the previous board of education. downsizing and reduction of staff with equity portf olios and the elimination


8 of 17 of some of the programs.devaluation of trustees as public figures. shifting of the organizational culture and difficul ties of generating interest in the system around equity issues. the province taking over funding and not allowing t he school boards to set the mill rate. The interviewees indicated that these interrelated factors, together affected equity work in this school board. As Tom, one of th e participants in this research summed up: The old vehicle that was holding the system account able was the trustee.On the one hand, trustees’ wards have now been expa nded to encompass federal ridings, they are huge, so that n o trustee has first-hand knowledge of any of the communities or t heir schools or their principals, you know, they’re.. because they have got dozens and dozens and dozens of sites. And the second thin g is that the provincial legislation said that trustees could be paid a maximum of five thousand dollars a year [from previous 45 thou sand], which means there are no full-time trustees, so not only do the people who are there have these enormous areas that they’re re sponsible for, but they have to have another job or to be independ ently wealthy…So that it means that the kind of accountab ility, where before a parent who was having trouble in a school with their child could phone up the trustees if nothing else worked out, today if a parent can find a trustee is a small miracle. The devaluation of trustees as public figures in th is board with such progressive history of work around issues of equity and social justice was a serious problem for equity workers. Considering the history of the board and its unique development since the 1970s, there is no surprise t hat equity workers within this board perceived trustees predominantly as political allies. This is one example of local particularities that is not generalizable to other boards of education. In my interview with equity workers from the two other boards, the devaluation of trustees was a not an issue because there was no hi story of trustees’ involvement and commitment to equity and social jus tice. Another participant, Maria, discussed the size of t he school board and the number of schools within the district. She commente d that the size of the current board makes it almost impossible to do equi ty work: Now, with amalgamation all of that changed. On the one hand suddenly the board became huge… There are 600 schoo ls… Three hundred thousand students. Attempting to make anyth ing work in that kind of massive structure suddenly becomes an administrative nightmare. It becomes really, really very difficult So, just the size of this new formation itself is a huge impediment to a ny kind of systematic change, because the system itself is jus t too large to manage.


9 of 17 In terms of specific impact on equity issues, it wa s stated that: When amalgamation happened there were about a dozen people who had different kinds of equity portfolios in the amalgamated board…. Well, this year the equity department consi sts of one district-wide coordinator, three …. they are not co nsultants now, they’re learning something-or-other, but they’re co nsultants [inaudible] yeah. And just two student program work ers left over, so basically there are six people…. These views, as expressed by the interviewees, refl ect the serious impact of the government cutbacks and the restructuring process i n their efforts to teach about equity and social justice. They expressed tha t several of the programs such as work with students (residential camp) was d rastically cut. In addition, they mentioned that with the high spee d of restructuring process and the profound changes in the nature of teaching and learning, teachers are just fed up and bitter. As Peter mentioned, “ teach ers are at their wit’s end, and fed up, and any kind of talk of anything that may s eem as more work or something beyond what they’re already doing, in a s ituation where they’re incredibly stressed seems like add-on and they just don’t want to do it.” In terms of their work as equity workers (in variou s positions) they discussed that unlike the previous situation, now they are ma inly responding to crisis and trouble-shooting. As Tom stated, “ I end up doing a lot of, you know, one-shot workshops here and there, but generally I’m ending up doing a lot more kind of administrative stuff and trouble-shooting and, you know, stuff that is not particularly interesting or exciting.”To summarize, it appears that equity workers at Ric hmond School Board are faced with several interrelated issues that impact on their work with equity issues. Together, these issues significantly change d the nature of their work, their relationship to trustees, teachers, and stude nts. A work that had previously been pro-active and creative changed to one of pred ominantly being a respond to crisis and the carrying out of administrative wo rk.The Victoria School BoardThe Victoria school board was not much involved in equity issues prior to the restructuring of the education system in Ontario. A fter 1995, however, this school board became involved in some significant wo rk on equity and social justice, initiated several new curriculum documents and an extra staff member was hired to implement the new initiatives. Remarka bly, it was not the board’s trustees or administrators who initiated equity act ivities. On the contrary, a number of people whose job was not initially connec ted to the equity department pushed and struggled for equity and soci al justice in the board. In some cases, this work was beyond the job descriptio n of some of these people. Despite limited success, they explained that the wo rk on equity issues was not easy and they had to deal with tensions and resista nce from people working in the board.


10 of 17 Those who were interviewed thought that some of the following factors might have helped their limited success: the board did not have to amalgamate because it was already huge. The existence of a network, or group of people conn ected to the equity network in early 1990s (during NDP government) who continued their work after the educational restructuring. some of the senior administrators, including the di rector, were supportive of equity initiatives. The initiatives during the NDP government in the ea rly 1990s (mandating a policy on Race and Ethnocultural Equity) created a space for several people within this board to form a group and organize in o rder to conduct workshops, seminars, and develop proposals around equity issue s. They explained how they met one another at conferences, workshops and curriculum initiatives related to equity education (outside of their board ). In a focus group interview one of the participants discussed how this all happ ened and how the group was formed: I don’t know. I really don’t. The only thing I can think of is that it’s really the mix of people that have come together to do this. We generally trust each other, I mean, “the superinten dent” trusts us, and we trust him not to sort of forge off on his ow n to do something that won’t work…. Another participant discussed how they decided on a strategy that would work in their system: We made connections (4 of them), we started talking about how… we realized that in some ways being subversive woul d be the only way to get something going on at the system level, so we set up something called [Equity Group Support], which was a network that met for four years, I guess six, five or six times a year and we offered workshops on whatever people wanted…. The p articipants were teachers, elementary and secondary, resource t eachers, some of our professional support staff, teaching assista nts, principals, people who worked in this building [board of educat ion office], in the field office and so on and there were about a hundr ed and fifty people or so on the mailing list. Most of the workshops were conducted at the teacher s’ federation offices because some of the issues discussed (for example g ay and lesbian issues) were too sensitive to be discussed at the board off ice. When asked what was the involvement of people who officially had the eq uity portfolios within the board, they responded: They were and they weren’t [involved]. What we deci ded to do was set it up as something that was grass root. We were afraid that if it centralized it would get pulled in and destroyed an d sort of, you know, hidden away. We had many offers, but we sort of said, “We’d like to run this out on our own.


11 of 17 They discussed how, out of these workshops, they fe lt the need to provide teachers with curriculum support and develop docume nts that would support them with equity work in the classroom.The question is how they could manage to do all of this despite drastic cutbacks to the education system. Anna, one of the participa nts, responded that most of the cuts were at the management level and it seems that when the administration is supportive, they always find a wa y to get the support. As Allen, one of the equity workers discussed, “so, they have lost money, it’s.. But I don’t know where they keep finding it. I mean, we are not talking about big bucks.” Allen commented how the hiring of the new staff mem ber responsible for the implementation of new curriculum documents on equit y and inclusive curriculum happened. He discussed how a combination of several factors made the board realize that there was a need to hire a new staff m ember: Yeah, you know, I’m thinking a couple of things mig ht have been happening. One is that as we were going through the boxes of documents in the superintendent’s office, and the a mount of his time going to this work was just increasing. Like althou gh he kept trying to give stuff to four of us [those involved in equity work], I mean, his…. And I think he started… ‘cause we started to say, y ou know, “well, we’re getting these kinds of requests. Who will do this?” And the more and more we kept saying that, I think he start ed to realize… And then we said, “you know, there’s seven corporat e goals, there’s a budget for all of them except for this one…” The fact that the administration at this board beca me gradually supportive of equity work was mentioned several times by those in terviewed. Of course, they also mentioned that this was not always the case.Two of the participants in the focus group intervie w discussed how sometimes they themselves do not believe the kind of progress that they have been making: We just pinch ourselves and say like “is this reall y happening?” Like how can it all be happening? This can’t be happenin g. We can’t be this far.” I mean, when they approved the position I couldn’t believe we’d get this position. In summary, the Victoria school board has been enga ged in significant equity activities since 1996, including conducting on-goin g workshops for their staff, curriculum development and policy initiatives aroun d issues of equity and social justice.ConclusionThe findings of this research suggest that the educ ational policies introduced by the government had an uneven impact in two local si tes. It has been illustrated that policy implementation is far more complex, and in the case of equity workers there have been variations of interpretatio n, possibilities and spaces for


12 of 17 oppositional work.The Richmond school board, with a long history of e quity work, could not continue the work with the same level of intensity. Several factors were at work here, including the effects of the amalgamation of school boards. The Richmond school board’s amalgamation with other boa rds created two main issues for equity workers, one being that the schoo l board became a very large organization and the other that it amalgamated with boards that did not have the same history of equity work, thus raising a challen ge in terms of organizational culture. Another factor that was mentioned earlier and seems to have had an impact for this board was the trustees’ diminishing authority. As mentioned, trustees played a historically significant role whi ch government made less important by reducing it to a part time and margina l position. These and other factors contributed to the reduction of equity work at the Richmond school board.The Victoria school board was not amalgamated becau se the board was already a large institution. In addition, during th e previous two governments (Liberal and NDP) there was a significant shift in the administration of the board with the creation of a network that consisted of a group of educators (mostly teachers) who played an important role in continuin g the equity work with more intensity despite the elimination of the Anti-racis m and Ethnocultural Equity Unit of the Ministry of Education and Training.These two case studies show that policy process is never straightforward. Based on various contextual, historical and sometim es opposing interests (Taylor, Rizvi, Lingard and Henry, 1997) there are unpredictable consequences, some of which could be either intended or unintende d by the policy makers. Practitioners do not confront policy texts as nave readers, they comewith histories, with experience, with values and pu rposes of their own, they have vested interests in the meaning of t he policy. Policies will be interpreted differently as the histories, v alues, purposes and interests which make up any arena differ…. Furtherm ore, interpretation is matter of struggle. (Bowe, Ball, and Gold, 1992, p. 22). The final point that I would like to emphasize is t hat the unpredictability of a policy text should not lead educators to think that they should not be resisted or contested. In fact the process of contestation and resistance by those from various positions is natural and may result in test ing and developing new ideas and policies. The restructuring of education and th e global policy discourses on education that are based on market dynamic and econ omic rationality have had significant effects for minorities and working clas s students and teachers (Ball, 1993; McNeil, 2000) and they should certainly be re sisted by those who support the creation of a more egalitarian society.Notes


13 of 17 1. I would like to thank Don Fisher and Roxana Ng for their thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of this work. I am als o grateful for the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided through Standard Research Grant No. 410-2001-1622. 2. The research method in this study is influenced by the work of Dorothy Smith and her method “Institutional Ethnography” and its particular interviewing procedures. For further information see Dorothy Smi th, 1987, 2002. 3. Equity workers are those whose work is specificall y related to equity issues such as race, culture, gender, social class, and se xual orientation. They work with teachers, students, administrators, trustees, etc. 4. Originally, 3 school boards were selected for th is project. The third board had no one officially doing equity work, and did not sy stematically engaged with equity issues prior and after restructuring of educ ation. Only one teacher active in equity work was interviewed.ReferencesApple, M. (2000). Racing toward educational reform: The politics of markets and standards. Pp. 84-107 in R. Mahalingam and C. McCar thy (eds). Multicultural curriculum: New directions for social theory, pract ice, and policy. New York: Routledge.Apple, M. 1993. Constructing the “Other”: Rightist reconstructions of common sense. Pp. 24-39 in C. McCarthy and W. Crichlow (ed s). Race, identity, and representation in education New York: Routledge. Ball, S. J. (1994). Education reform: A critical and post-structural ap proach Buckingham: Open University Press.Ball, S. J. (1993). Education markets, choice and s ocial class: the market as a class strategy in the UK and the USA. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 14 (1), 3-19. Bourdieu, P. (1999). Acts of resistance: Against the tyranny of the mark et. Trans. Richard Nice, New York: New Press.Bowe, R & S. Ball & A. Gold. (1992). Reforming education and changing schools: case studies in policy sociology. London and New York: Routledge. Burbules, N. C. & C. A. Torres. (2000). Globalizati on and education: an introduction. Pp. 1-26 in Burbules & Torres (Eds). Globalization and education: Critical perspectives. New York: Routledge. Dehli, K. (1996). Travelling tales: education refor m and parental ‘choice’ in post-modern times. Journal of Education Policy, 11 (1), 75-88. Dei, G, S. & L. L. Karumanchery. (2001). School ref orm in Ontario: The “marketization of education” and the resulting sile nce on equity. Pp. 189-215 in


14 of 17 J. P. Portelli & R. P. Solomon. (eds) The erosion of democracy in education: Crtique to possibilities Calgary, Alberta: Detselig Enterprises Ltd. Gilborn, D. (1994). The micro politics of macro ref orm. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 15 (2), 147-164. Goldstein, T. (1998). Working toward equity. Orbit. 14-16. Griffith, A. (2001). Texts, tyranny, and transforma tion: Educational restructuring in Ontario. In J. P. Portelli & R. P. Solomon (eds) The erosion of democracy in education: Critique to possibilities Calgary, Alberta: Detselig Enterprises Ltd. Levin, B. (2001). Conceptualizing the process of ed ucational reform from an international perspective. Education Policy Analysis Archives 9 (14). Retrieved December 28, 2003 from Majhanovich, S. (2002). Conflicting visions, compet ing expectations: Control and de-skilling of educationA perspective from On tario. McGill Journal of Education 37 (2), 159-176. McNeil, L.M. (2000). Contradictions of school reform: Educational costs of standardized testing. London and New York: Routledge. Ministry of Education and Training of Ontario. (198 7). The development of a policy on race and ethnocultural equity. Toronto: Ministry of Education. Ministry of Education and Training of Ontario. (199 3). Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity in School Boards: Guideline fo r Policy Development and Implementation. Toronto: Ministry of Education and Training. Paquette, J. (2001). Cross-purposes and crossed wir es in education policy-making on equity: the Ontario experience, 19 90-1995. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 33 (1), 89-112. Rezai-Rashti, G. (1995). Multicultural education, a nti-racist education, and critical pedagogy: Reflections on everyday practice Pp. 3-19 in Ng, Station, & Scane (eds). Anti-racism, feminism, and critical approaches to e ducation Westport: Bergin and Garvey.Rizvi, F & Lingard, B. (2000). Globalization and ed ucation: Complexities and contingencies. Educational Theory, 50 (4), 419-426. Smith, D. (1998). The underside of schooling: Restr ucturing, privatization, and women’s unpaid work. Journal for a Just and Caring Education, 4 (1), 11-29. Taylor, S & M. Henry. (2000). Globalization and edu cational policymaking: A case study. Educational Theory, 50 (4), 487-503. Taylor, S., Rizvi, F., Lingard, R. & Henry, M. (199 7). Educational policy and the politics of change. London: Falmer. Torres, C. (2002). Globalization, education, and ci tizenship: Solidarity versus


15 of 17 markets? American Educational Research Journal. 39 (2), 363-378. Whitty, G., Power, S. & Halpin, D. (1998). Devolution and choice in education: The school, the state and the market Buckingham: Open University Press. Whitty, G. (2001). Education, social class and soci al exclusion. Journal of Education Policy, 16 (4), 287-295.About the AuthorGoli M. Rezai-Rashti teaches at the Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario. She has a scholarly and activist i nterest in the areas of equity and social justice. She has published a number of a rticles in scholarly books and journals. Email: The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is Editor: Gene V Glass, Arizona State UniversityProduction Assistant: Chris Murrell, Arizona State University General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State Un iversity, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin David C. Berliner Arizona State University Greg Camilli Rutgers University Linda Darling-Hammond Stanford University Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on TeacherCredentialing Gustavo E. Fischman Arizona State Univeristy Richard Garlikov Birmingham, Alabama Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Ontario Institute ofTechnology Patricia Fey Jarvis Seattle, Washington Daniel Kalls Ume University


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