NCLB, Evidence-Based Policy-Making, and Race-Neutrality

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In the US education policy arena, the focus on “scientific evidence” is inscribed in the 2001 NCLB Act. NCLB requires that all educational practice (including school discipline) be based on research very narrowly defined. It officially legitimizes the scientific method and casts randomized field trails as the “gold standard” while it discredits critical methodologies and studies that attempt to place qualitative data in social–historical context (see Lather, 2004a). Evidence-based policy-making in education is, consequently, infused with race-neutral discourses. In his discussion of NCBL as a color-blind policy, Leonardo (2007) notes that any attempt to use race as an analytical framework or interpretive lens is itself deemed racist because it is believed to be ensnared in the white supremacist notion that race is a real form of difference. Thus, evidence- based research in school discipline and safety tends not to consider disparities in implementation across geographic areas or address unequal outcomes in school policing across racial lines. This narrowing of what constitutes research and the use of race-neutral discourses creates a hegemonic evidence-loop, or a “genre chain” (Taylor, 2004), which constitutes both the textual documentation in support of school policing and a strategy of power that normalizes differential treatment of students across racial lines.

From Kathleen Nolan (2015), “Neoliberal common sense and race-neutral discourses: a critique of ‘evidence-based’ policy- making in school policing,”Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36:6, 899.

NCLB, Evidence-Based Policy-Making, and Race-Neutrality

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