Contested spaces of a "failing" elementary school

Roi Kawai, Stephanie Serriere, Dana Mitra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Amid the recent proliferation of teacher-led movements resisting high-stakes testing across the United States, the authors identify how a "failing" elementary school reclaimed local discourse by taking political action against top-down measures. Framed as competing modes of school reform, the authors offer the sociocultural framework of "contested spaces" to build understanding of top-down and bottom-up school reform efforts. The data are organized in three descriptive scenarios: (1) the principal of Dewey Elementary created spaces to reclaim public education as local, (2) teachers created a Facebook group called "Democracy in Action" with a corresponding call and write-in campaign to protest current political measures, and (3) parents pulled their students from taking standardized tests to an extent that merited national news coverage. Drawn from the results of interactive qualitative analysis performed with the participants, the authors examine the contextual supports in which all participants were capable, if not privileged, to act. Conclusions show how school reform might succeed from the bottom up via grassroots contestation in a top-down reform era. The article sets a wider goal of reimagining how schools, school leadership training, teacher education, and pedagogy might reclaim the idea of education as a democratic, public, and intellectual activity to redefine the educational landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)486-515
Number of pages30
JournalTheory and Research in Social Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Contested spaces of a "failing" elementary school'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this