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Abstract

This article includes portions of a report on the structure, governance, operations, and effectiveness of the Boston School Committee that was commissioned by the Boston Municipal Research Bureau in 1980. The passages provide an overview of the mandate, background, and recommendations, examining how a set of prominent professionals and citizens viewed the problem facing school department governance, including its isolation and the longstanding credibility gap fueled by patronage politics. It also looks at continued tensions between “equality” and “quality,” which occupied the heart of court-ordered desegregation; rising demands on a system that lacked the capacity to serve a broad array of students; and the continued problems of securing financial support. Also presented is a thumbnail history of public schooling in Boston that traces mid-twentieth-century efforts by black parents and other reformists to secure civil rights and a decent education for all of Boston’s children and shows the evolution of advocacy for better management and cost-effectiveness that occurred alongside cries for more equitable and just performance. It concludes by showing the challenges facing an entrenched school bureaucracy confronting modern demands for educational, social, management, and fiscal accountability—challenges that continue to be apparent in 2018.

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