WHY PAST REFORMS FAILED
When an institution becomes as dysfunctional as today’s urban school districts in America, piecemeal reforms will not make it better. Instead, these efforts become a string of repeated failures that discourage subsequent reformers by contributing to a climate of pessimism. This chapter highlights the failures of past reforms from that perspective, leading to the emergence of mayoral control in the 1990s and 2000s as a new strategy, based on its potential for enacting the systemic change that was largely absent from previous reform efforts.
A Systems View
The failures of urban school districts that systems-oriented management thinkers cite are the result of a complex set of factors, including a dense network of embedded institutions outside school districts as well as relationships, procedures, mindsets, and habits within (see, for example, Senge et al. 2000; Ouchi 2003). Together these factors have contributed to the emergence of a highly problem-ridden institution, exemplified in its...