Theses Doctoral

Fault Lines: the View from California’s Core Districts as a Local Response to Federal Accountability on a Shifting Educational Policy Landscape

Bradley, Kimberly Noel

The purpose of the study was to describe and examine how the constraints on urban school districts led to the establishment in 2010 of a consortium of California’s largest urban school districts that included structures of mutual accountability in response to neoliberal school reforms and top-down accountability since the implementation of No Child Left Behind. Using a qualitative case study research design and critical policy analysis as an analytical framework, this study examined how California’s CORE districts (i.e., Fresno Unified School District, Long Beach Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, Oakland Unified School District, San Francisco Unified School District, and Santa Ana Unified School District) experienced, negotiated, and responded to the shifting landscape of education policy resulting from the expansion of privatization and neoliberal school reform.

The expansion of the top-down high-stakes accountability and neoliberal school reform policies since No Child Left Behind has impeded the work of districts, by narrowly focusing their work on accountability and limiting their flexibility in determining how to allocate resources to support improvement. These top-down reform policies have also limited opportunities for collaboration and diminished ownership and responsibility at the district level. Urban district leaders not only in California, but in urban districts across the United States, have felt the impact of competing social, political, and economic forces, such as the high-stakes, top-down federal accountability of No Child Left Behind, neoliberalism, and privatization. To better understand the conditions that led to the creation of the CORE districts and their subsequent impact on urban school district leaders in California, the following research questions guided the study:

1. What social, political, and economic forces led to the creation of California’s CORE districts?
2. What are the governance and leadership models that characterize the CORE districts?
3. What impact have the CORE districts had on the urban education policy landscape in California?

An examination of these questions not only helps us understand the circumstances that led to the establish of the CORE districts, but how their work impacted the policy landscape in California and supports the learning of other district leaders.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Douglass Horsford, Sonya
Young, Jeffrey M.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2020