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Revolution at the Margins: The Impact of Competition on Urban School Systems Hardcover – March 19, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"Hess states at the outset that he is 'not seeking to provide a definitive account of educational markets, but to launch a more useful conversation on the topic,' and he has achieved this goal.... Hess succeeds in posing a challenge to those who see choice and competition- the manipulation of incentives, if you will- as a way of improving schools without getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty issues of providing a quality education." —Edward B. Fiske, Education Next, 7/1/2002

"Anyone interested in school choice ought to place Frederick M. Hess' 'Revolution at the Margins: The Impact of Competition on Urban School Systems' on their reading list.... Mr. Hess successfully strives to be objective in his analysis.... The result is a book that will increase the knowledge of anyone interested in school choice.... Mr. Hess' excellent book will make anyone interested in school choice better informed about the history of vouchers and the changes vouchers have made in our schools." —Martin Morse Wooster, Washington Times, 7/14/2002

"[A] meticulously researched book.... Reading 'Revolution at the Margins' will take most educators out of their comfort zone- the zone that deals with urban reform focused on teaching, learning, classroom practice, assessment, standards, traditional school funding options, and community involvement." —Terry Stirling, Northeastern Illinois University, Teachers College Record, 11/5/2002

"A nuanced study." — Future Survey, 11/1/2002

"Hess's analysis [is] sound and moves the voucher debate helpfully away from the rigidities of the state-vs.-market debate.... Hess's most important contribution is clarifying and redefining the debate." —John Gardner, Milwaukee School Board, Education Next, 7/1/2002

"[A] revealing and timely book..." —David Ruenzel, Teacher Magazine, 11/1/2002

"Hess explains very clearly why public education cannot compete effectively in a competitive education industry." —Myron Lieberman, School Reform News, 8/1/2002

"He has made an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the context in which market based urban school reforms occur." —Michael Mintrom, University of Auckland, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

"Presents new ideas and evidence in a readable form that is likely to be noticed and noted. Hess's concept of the 'political market' is valuable and has relevance even beyond the school choice debate. " —Jeffrey R. Henig, Rethinking School Choice and coauthor of The Color of School Reform and Building Civic Capacity: The, 2/1/2002

"Well-written and nuanced work that gets us to reflect realistically on what competition might accomplish in public education. A rich set of cases." —Henry M. Levin, William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education and Director, National Center for the, 2/1/2002

"Hess provides us with the first empirically based, theoretically informed, institutionally rooted, non-ideological assessment of the way in which public schools have initially responded to choice initiatives. For those interested in education reform, this is a highly accessible must read." —Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and director, Program on Education Policy and Governance,, 2/1/2002

"Drawing upon extensive case studies, Rick Hess sheds new light on how teachers and administrators are responding to educational competition. What he finds may disappoint school choice enthusiasts and opponents alike. Educators do respond to competitive pressure, but their responses are muted and slowed by a culture that is antithetical to competition, a system that fails to provide incentives to respond to competition, and a political dynamic that insulates schools from the consequences of competition." —Jay P. Greene, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, 2/14/2002

"Drawing on economic, political, and organizational theories, Rick Hess constructs a broad-based theory of the way urban schools respond to educational choice policies. He looks with a cool, dispassionate eye on the claims and counterclaims of choice advocates and opponents in three urban settings. This book makes a major contribution to the field of educational choice and to our broader understanding of the political economy of urban schooling." —Richard Elmore, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2/10/2002

About the Author

Frederick M. Hess is the director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. He is the coauthor (with Michael J. Petrilli) of No Child Left Behind Primer (Peter Lang, 2006) and editor of Educational Entrepreneurship (Harvard Education Press, 2006).


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (March 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815702086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815702085
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,739,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An educator, political scientist and author, Rick Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include The Cage-Busting Teacher, Cage-Busting Leadership, Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age, The Same Thing Over and Over, Education Unbound, Common Sense School Reform, Revolution at the Margins, and Spinning Wheels. He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog "Rick Hess Straight Up" and is a regular contributor to The Hill and to National Review Online. Rick's work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and National Affairs. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind. Rick serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review board for the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Most of the research on school vouchers and charter schools is a matter of dueling statistics. Different authors study the same programs and come to opposite conclusions. Since they all offer elaborate defenses of their methods, making sense out the analyses becomes a matter of statistical nit-picking. Meanwhile, they don't say much about how or why educational competition works. This book approaches the issue from the opposite direction: it doesn't offer any statistical proof of anything, but it provides a challenging look at the reality of educational competition.

What I really liked about this book is that the author doesn't try to prove that school choice does or doesn't work. Instead, he dives into trying to understand how it affects the public schools in the community. Using extensive interviewing, research, and document collection, he offers the deepest look I know of into how school choice competition actually plays out. The reliance on interviews and historical narrative also has the plus of making it much more engaging than the standard analysis of school vouchers. The book also offers some important insights regarding urban schooling and the nature of urban school reform.

This is a book that is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in school vouchers, or even those who just want to learn more about school reform or urban schooling.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Chris Brand on December 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book provides an evaluation by an educational and governmental researcher of the impact of several schemes of the 1990's setting up voucher and charter schools - paying poor parents if they withdrew their children from inner-city state schools and enrolled them in the private sector. As previous school reform efforts backed by liberal-leftists had failed children, and as court-propelled desegregation led to White flight, many of America's inner-city schools became so appalling that even Democrat-voting Blacks wanted the opportunity to seek private education - and linked up with Republicans to achieve that goal. Frederick Hess's concern here is with the argument of pro-choice campaigners that the new private schools, far from threatening public schools by creaming off brighter children, would actually stimulate much-needed reforms in the public sector; and his strategy is to interview heads, teachers and administrators in three public authority areas which allowed some degree of parental choice - Milwaukee, Cleveland and the Edgewood district of San Antonio, Texas.

Regrettably, Revolution at the Margins says rather more about educational research than about the impact of pro-choice initiatives. Essentially, Hess finds virtually no result at all from competition with the politically well-entrenched public sector. Bureaucrats occasionally mobilized themselves to a little mendacious propaganda (hanging banners outside public schools saying 'High Standards Start Here'), to teaching test-taking strategies to children, and to mounting legal actions to cramp the style of choice schools; but usually there was no action beyond verbal "lashing out" (for example at the "racist and rapacious" proponents of choice).
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Hess explores these issues in a unique and interesting way.
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