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Compare the Candidates on Education Issues

July 15, 2016

Compare the Candidates: Where Do Clinton and Trump Stand on Education?

The presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, and Republican nominee Donald Trump have yet to release comprehensive K-12 policy plans. To give a sense of where they stand, Education Week reviewed their statements, proposals, and positions on a dozen education policy issues, from school choice to school safety. Some material is drawn from their 2016 presidential campaigns, some from before they began their current quests for the White House.

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Academic Standards
Candidate Background
College Access
Early-Childhood Education
Every Student Succeeds Act
School Choice
School Construction
School Safety & Climate
School Spending
Teacher Quality
U.S. Department of Education

Candidate Background

  • U.S. secretary of state, 2009 to 2013
  • U.S. senator, New York, 2001 to 2009
  • First lady of the U.S., 1993 to 2001
  • First lady of Arkansas, 1979 to 1981; 1983 to 1992
  • Chairman and president of the Trump Organization, which oversees investments in hotels, resorts, golf courses, merchandise, and other business ventures
  • Author and co-author of several books, including The Art of the Deal and The America We Deserve
  • Appeared on and produced “The Apprentice” reality-TV show

Reporting: Alyson Klein and Andrew Ujifusa | Design & Visualization: Sumi Bannerjee

An alternate version of this story appeared as “K-12 Issues: Where the Candidates Stand” in the July 20, 2016, edition of Education Week.

Vol. 35, Issue 36
Published in Print: July 20, 2016, as K-12 Issues: Where the Candidates Stand


This is a reblog from: http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/president-candidates-trump-clinton-education.html?cmp=eml-eb-popweek+07222016


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What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

By Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein | January 28, 2013 | Originally published on epi.org

Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.

  • Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.
  • A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample. This error further depressed the reported average U.S. test score.
  • If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.
  • A re-estimated U.S. average PISA score that adjusted for a student population in the United States that is more disadvantaged than populations in otherwise similar post-industrial countries, and for the over-sampling of students from the most-disadvantaged schools in a recent U.S. international assessment sample, finds that the U.S. average score in both reading and mathematics would be higher than official reports indicate (in the case of mathematics, substantially higher).
  • This re-estimate would also improve the U.S. place in the international ranking of all OECD countries, bringing the U.S. average score to sixth in reading and 13th in math. Conventional ranking reports based on PISA, which make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors, and which rank countries irrespective of whether score differences are large enough to be meaningful, report that the U.S. average score is 14th in reading and 25th in math.
  • Disadvantaged and lower-middle-class U.S. students perform better (and in most cases, substantially better) than comparable students in similar post-industrial countries in reading. In math, disadvantaged and lower-middle-class U.S. students perform about the same as comparable students in similar post-industrial countries.
  • At all points in the social class distribution, U.S. students perform worse, and in many cases substantially worse, than students in a group of top-scoring countries (Canada, Finland, and Korea). Although controlling for social class distribution would narrow the difference in average scores between these countries and the United States, it would not eliminate it.
  • U.S. students from disadvantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the three similar post-industrial countries than advantaged U.S. students perform relative to their social class peers. But U.S. students from advantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the top-scoring countries of Finland and Canada than disadvantaged U.S. students perform relative to their social class peers.
  • On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.

Because not only educational effectiveness but also countries’ social class composition changes over time, comparisons of test score trends over time by social class group provide more useful information to policymakers than comparisons of total average test scores at one point in time or even of changes in total average test scores over time.

  • The performance of the lowest social class U.S. students has been improving over time, while the performance of such students in both top-scoring and similar post-industrial countries has been falling.
  • Over time, in some middle and advantaged social class groups where U.S. performance has not improved, comparable social class groups in some top-scoring and similar post-industrial countries have had declines in performance.

Performance levels and trends in Germany are an exception to the trends just described. Average math scores in Germany would still be higher than average U.S. math scores, even after standardizing for a similar social class distribution. Although the performance of disadvantaged students in the two countries is about the same, lower-middle-class students in Germany perform substantially better than comparable social class U.S. students. Over time, scores of German adolescents from all social class groups have been improving, and at a faster rate than U.S. improvement, even for social class groups and subjects where U.S. performance has also been improving. But the causes of German improvement (concentrated among immigrants and perhaps also attributable to East and West German integration) may be idiosyncratic, and without lessons for other countries or predictive of the future. Whether German rates of improvement can be sustained to the point where that country’s scores by social class group uniformly exceed those of the United States remains to be seen. As of 2009, this was not the case.

Great policy attention in recent years has been focused on the high average performance of adolescents in Finland. This attention may be justified, because both math and reading scores in Finland are higher for every social class group than in the United States. However, Finland’s scores have been falling for the most disadvantaged students while U.S. scores have been improving for similar social class students. This should lead to greater caution in applying presumed lessons from Finland. At first glance, it may seem that the decline in scores of disadvantaged students in Finland results in part from a recent influx of lower-class immigrants. However, average scores for allsocial class groups have been falling in Finland, and the gap in scores between Finland and the United States has narrowed in each social class group. Further, during the same period in which scores for the lowest social class group have declined, the share of all Finnish students in this group has also declined, which should have made the national challenge of educating the lowest social class students more manageable, so immigration is unlikely to provide much of the explanation for declining performance.

Source: http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/

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Venture Philanthropy

Venture philanthropy is the name given to wealthy people who made their fortune through entrepreneurship and venture capitalism and are now heavily funding education initiatives. Invested in education has increased since 2000 (Reckhow & Snyder, 2014). That’s great, right? Not exactly. Today’s philanthropists are very political. There are two specific ways venture philanthropy has hurt education: a) undermining of educators, and b) undermining of democracy.

The three major venture philanthropists whose foundations are involved in education are Gates, Broad, and Walton.  While these three men have different political affiliations, they all made their money through business and believe in using the business model in education (Reckhow & Snyder, 2014). Their money has made them powerful. These men are not education experts nor education professionals, yet their opinions are influencing education policy because they are powerful.  This undermines the professional status of educators. Scott (2009) reports, “A recent study that asked policy makers to rank most influential individuals in education policy found that Bill Gates was first, before the U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings” (p. 128). Bill Gates may be a smart business person, but this does not make him qualified to lead our nation’s schools. Because of their business backgrounds, venture philanthropists have catapulted market-based reforms based on business models.

In business, productivity not relationship matters.  Educational psychology research is clear that in education, relationship is everything. An example of how a venture philanthropist undermined teachers  is the small schools initiative.  A big-name foundation took over the teacher-initiated small school movement in Chicago (Lipman, 2011). The original movement was about limiting the number of people in a school so that people could really get to know each other.  The movement was also about teacher autonomy. If a teacher really knows his or her students, he or she can make the appropriate professional judgments about how to best serve those students. However, when the foundation came in, the small school movement became about standardization and replicability (Lipman, 2011).  The irony is that those two words standardization and replicability scream industrial period.  School reform is supposed to move education from an industrialization economy to our knowledge-based economy. The Gates Foundation gave East Wake High School (where I taught) $1M grant to become four academies rather than 1 large institution. Each academy had a theme and a principal and the students stayed in that academy for 4 years. This meant that big expenses like technology, the media center, football and band could remain shared between the academies but the principals would have a chance to get to know all of the teachers and the students. I thought it was a great idea but it didn’t work.  East Wake remained at the bottom of Wake County test scores. Lipman’s analysis of why the small schools initiative didn’t work makes sense. This next year, East Wake will become one school again, but Knightdale High will become four small academies (Hui, 2015). This would make a great education policy case study for anyone interested.  East Wake and Knightdale are neighbor schools and serve similar populations.  I know funding was the reason behind the first change. I wonder if funding is the reason behind the changes now.

The second way venture philanthropy has hurt education is undermining democracy. Democracy gives each person an equal voice, but with their deep pockets, venture philanthropists have an amplified voice. Rather than schools and teachers being accountable to community members, venture philanthropists push quantifiable measurables for accountability. Such measurables are part of market-based reforms. Scott (2009) aptly summarizes the key issue. “Wealth that comes largely from favorable public policies is not directed into mostly tax-exempt foundations, where trustees and philanthropists directly shape public policy for the poor, without public deliberative process that might have been invoke over school reform policies were that money in the public coffers” (p. 128). These philanthropists who push for accountability are not accountable to anyone. They can, and they have, pulled their resources, leaving communities to deal with the consequences (Lipman, 2011). These wealthy men are making decisions based upon what they think, not based upon experts’ research or upon public consensus.  However, the consequences are paid by the education community and marginalized students.

I believe that philanthropists and donors have a right to know how the money they gave was spent and can even have strings attached if they so desire. I also believe that most people have good intentions when getting involved in education politics. It’s just that venture philanthropists have so much money which means so much influence that an unintended consequence can be local educators and community members being bypassed on decisions. The philanthropists making the decisions do not suffer the consequences if the experiment fails, the community does. All I am saying is that the people need a real voice in the decisions about their local schools. Teachers may not be productive based on test scores, but they know what their kids really need. Democracy might not be efficient, but it’s what our country is built upon.


Hui, (2015). Changes proposed for Eastern Wake schools. News & Observer. Retrieved from  http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/01/12/4471314_changes-proposed-for-eastern-wake.html?rh=1

Lipman, P. (2011). The new political economy of urban education: Neoliberalism, race, and the rights to the city. New York: Routledge.

Reckhow, S. & Snyder, J. W. (2014). The expanding role of philanthropy in education politics. Educational Researcher, 43(4), 186-195.

Scott, J. (2009). The politics of venture philanthropy in charter school policy and advocacy. Educational Policy, 23(1), 106-136.


Researchers urge Secretary of Education to drop new regulations on teacher education

Scholars urge administration to drop new regulations on teacher training at Colleges of Education.  The new regulations include more accountability measures similar to the high-stakes testing fiasco in K-12 schools. Do we really think that more bureaucracy is going to help young people want to become teachers?  I think the answer is not more hoops to jump through but more teacher autonomy and salaries competitive to other bachelor-level professions.

Photo Credit: James D. Hogan

Read more about the changes in the US and NC.

On the national level . . .


And here in North Carolina. . .


and more in NC


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UNC Scandal & Literacy Levels: Racism, Relationships and Reading Instruction

In a recent opinion piece, Mary Carey, the founder of a volunteer group representing children who can’t read, points to the low literacy rates of black males as the cause of the UNC academic scandal. She raises important issues about race, literacy, and our education system.

Unfortunately, Ms. Cary oversimplifies aspects of both student achievement and reading instruction that we as literacy educators need to correct and explain. Above all, we want to point out that the UNC Scandal is about adults cheating, it is
not about young black males who cannot read. Young black males were a small percentage of those implicated in the cheating scandal, which was perpetrated by many non-athletes and many non-Black students, and many women. To use the UNC scandal as segue to talk about black males’ reading achievement is disingenuous at best and racist at the worst.
However, there are some important points that we feel need to be addressed. As experienced educators and literacy scholars, our classroom experiences and scholarly research address many of the issues that are related to this topic. So, while we feel that Mary Carey conflates issues when she uses her commentary about the UNC cheating scandal to focus on literacy rates of black males, we believe that there are many important issues that should be addressed. Our intention is to bring up some issues from her commentary, provide research-based understandings, and suggest some possible solutions.

Certainly, race is an issue and understanding how race impacts literacy rates is paramount to literacy levels of black males. We cannot effectively focus on low levels of literacy rates without addressing the larger issue of race and education. Achievement in public schools reflects systemic issues that affect achievement for many minorities. While some research
demonstrates that after background characteristics are controlled, African American and White students enter school with equal reading readiness, research almost unanimously demonstrates that reading achievement gaps widen for African American students as they progress through school. Research has also demonstrated a discrepancy in participation of programs that support future opportunities for African American students, such as advanced placement programs, high
school graduation rates, and admittance to college programs. All of this points to the idea that schools may sustain or add to racial disparities and thus create achievement gaps.

We believe that a key answer is to recruit more diverse teachers into education and specifically the teaching force, which is predominantly white and female (n=83%). Teachers must help African American students develop healthy racial identities and show students that academically successful people are part of all racial and ethnic groups. Also, it’s important to
incorporate diverse perspectives into the curriculum in the way of curriculum materials, texts, and approaches to learning. For many students who may be struggling with reading, the ways in which students respond to reading instruction can reflect larger issues, including what it means to be a reader and whose ideas or perspectives are accepted in school settings. We need more diverse participation in education so that we hear from multiple perspectives and voices so
children have role models.

Read more at http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/UNC-Scandal-Response.pdf 

By Angela Wiseman, Abbey Graham, Kirsten Aleman, Donna Hawkins,
June Hurt, Jill Jones, Julie Justice, Shea Kerkoff, Justin Richards

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Bullied: The LBGTQ School Experience

LGBTQ rainbow flag in shape of Belize mapSchools have too often kept silent while LBGTQ students were bullied by other students.  Murray (2011) describes how some public school policies that appear to be anti-bullying and protective of queer youth do not do as much as the policies should.  The policies may break the silence, but do not provide the training that teachers need to intervene nor do they require schools to report bullying.  Murray (2011) states that heterosexism (i.e., believing that heterosexuality is the only normal sexual orientation) is institutionalized through formal and informal educational policies that are biased against homosexual students.  An example is a zero tolerance for bullying policy.  A zero tolerance policy does not accept bullying but also does not accept homosexuality.  Due to messages such as this, youth have lost their lives.  This tragedy is the most critical manifestation of the reason why we need responsive and responsible education in the US, Belize, and around the world.

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Globally Competent Teaching

I currently attend North Carolina State University working on my PhD.  NC State makes up one point of what is called the “Triangle”. Duke and UNC Chapel Hill make up the other two points.  As you know if you read this blog, I am highly interested in Global Education.  I recently read this EdWeek blog on Global Education that quotes Dr. Deardorff, who is at Duke and received her PhD from NC State, Dean Fleener at College of Ed at NC State, and Dr. Glazier at UNC Chapel Hill.  Looks like the Triangle is the place to be to study Global Education!

Read what they have to say about assessing pre-service teachers’ global competence on Edweek.org:


Diane Ravitch Chides NC Legislature

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Diane Ravitch is an education policy analyst and historian at New York University. In addition, she served in the Clinton and G. W. Bush administrations. Her bestselling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, addresses issues with high-stakes testing and quantifying teacher quality. Here, she addresses the audience of the 2014 Emerging Issues Forum: Teachers and the Great Economic Debate in Raleigh, NC.

Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g0KDYvUmtY&list=PL7_JAXDeVTvI25eVqvUvIQ2309Y_uWfRK North Carolina Representatives Rick Glazier, Bryan Holloway, and Craig Horn, and Senators Angela Bryant and Jerry Tillman discuss education policy later the same day at the Forum.

Take Action! Write to the NC Legislature and let them know what you think.  If you are in NC, click here to find the e-mail address of your representative. http://ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx

Here is a sample letter:

Dear Representative,

I teach/taught at _______ for  ___ years. I currently reside in _________.  I left teaching/am considering leaving teaching because I was fed up with the overemphasis of standardized tests. I saw how _____________. Now, it seems that I do not just need to stand up for students against the overemphasis of standardized tests, but for teachers also. Teachers should not be paid based on students’ performances on standardized tests. While pay for performance may work in low-skill jobs, Daniel Pink’s research shows that pay for performance does not work in jobs that require high level thinking. In my opinion, being paid based on student test scores would increase competition amongst teachers, which would interfere with collaboration. I understand that the NC Legislature wants to change the teacher pay scale from seniority to merit. However, I do not know of a fair way to do this.  Until a fair way is negotiated, I ask that you increase the base pay for all teachers in NC.
Interested in what Daniel Pink had to say while in NC?  Listen here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LCq73WBI_A

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The High-stakes Tests Debate is Not New

High-stakes testing was a part of education before No Child Left Behind and the Common Core State Standards.  The selection process for gifted and talented education, special education, secondary schooling, and post-secondary schooling has always included a high-stakes test.  Selection could be based on inheritance, chance, purchase, or achievement. All democracies have deemed achievement or merit as the just way (Heyneman, 2004). Talent has thus been chosen by secondary and post-secondary schools as the entrance criteria so that access is just.  Four ways exist to assess talent: past academic achievement, oral examinations, written examinations, and essay examinations.  Although academic achievement is the best predictor of university completion, ministries of education have little control over individual teachers’ evaluative standards, and the larger the country, the larger the discrepancies can be between schools in regards to grade inflation or rigor of course work.  Therefore, most countries have chosen the standardized examination route (Heyneman, 1987).

Selection for university entrance is necessary (a) to reward the right skills and (b) to decrease biases and corruption.  According to Harris and Herrington (2006), achievement “should be based on merit” and the school system should be “the great equalizer” (p. 209).   It is important that nations look at these two areas when choosing which type of entrance examination to give.

The best tests to show both talent and to rule out bias due to cultural background or English language learning have proven to be teacher-created essay examinations (Heyneman, 1987).  The con is that essay tests are costly in time, human resources, and money to administer.  On the other hand, they match high level classroom discussion more closely than multiple-choice tests.  Small and wealthy nations can afford to administer the accountability mechanisms needed to keep out corruption in a subjective format test.  Teachers find school-based examinations popular because they are better able to measure what external standardized tests cannot, such as motivation and diligence, which determine graduation rates in higher education more effectively than aptitude (Heyneman, 1987).  Because of the size and diversity in the U.S., the most common high-stakes tests are standardized multiple choice tests.

Unintended consequences of standardized high-stakes tests have caused controversy in the U.S. surrounding their use.  Au (2007/2013) conducted a qualitative metasynthesis of 49 studies about high-stakes testing.  The study found that high-stakes tests led to a narrowing of the curriculum, fragmented knowledge, and teacher-centered pedagogy.  Au states, “As teachers negotiate high-stakes testing educational environments, the tests have the predominant effect of narrowing curricular content to those subjects included in the tests, resulting in the increased fragmentation of knowledge forms into bits and pieces learned for the sake of the tests themselves, and compelling teachers to use more lecture-based, teacher-centered pedagogies” (2007/2013, p. 246).  Sleeter and Stillman (2005/2013) studied mandated curriculum standards. They also found a narrowing of the curriculum based on the standards and teaching independent skills in a fragmented manner. The findings concerned Sleeter and Stillman because multicultural education practices call for real-life teaching experiences that connect skill learning to real life situations (rather than fragmented skill and drill) and students and teachers making the decisions about what students should learn (rather than someone outside of the classroom such as test-makers or standards-creators).

Siskin (2003/2013) shows an interesting example of how a curriculum is changed once part of the high-stakes testing environment.  Music class, once a model for what education should look like, became a paper and pencil worksheet class.  Because what is tested is what is valued in schools, music teachers rallied to be tested.  The music teachers were afraid of their programs being cut and wanted the tests to show how valuable their programs were.  Before the tests, music classes typically had high expectations for all students, real-life assessments in the form of concerts, and accountability to the parents and the community through these performances.  However, after the tests were implemented, teachers found themselves teaching the content of the test the way the test was administered.  They started giving paper and pencil worksheets and they felt accountable for the number scores rather than for the community performances.

Further controversy surrounds the rewards and the sanctions for teachers and schools as a result of standardized high-stakes test scores.  Eisner (2001/2013) points to the extrinsic motivation such an emphasis on high-stakes testing promotes.  Students become “reward junkies” according to Eisner.  The culture is one of learning for the test and not learning for learning sake.  As educators, we know that intrinsic motivation not extrinsic motivation is the hope for our students so that they will be life-long learners.  In addition to rewards, sanctions affect students and teachers also.  Sanctions can induce stress for teachers (Ravitch, 2010) and students.  As Ravitch stated on The Daily Show, poverty is a predictor of academic achievement. Those who need the resources are punished by not getting resources while those who do not need resources are rewarded with more resources.  This creates a Matthew Effect, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Value added measures have been one attempt to control for student and school characteristics when analyzing standardized test scores, but the value added measures are not a predictable statistical model.   Ravitch states, “With all their caveats and flaws—would drown out every other measure so I concluded that value-added assessment should not be used at all” (2010).  Using value added measures to assess teacher effectiveness, teachers who are highly effective one year may be rated ineffective the next (Ravitch, 2010).  SAS is responsible for the value added measurement of teachers in NC.  It is hard to evaluate their algorithm because they keep their formula a secret.

Ravitch (2010) believes, “Our most important public institution is under siege by people who want to privatize it, turn it into profit centers, and treat children as data points on a chart.” That was not the original intention of the accountability movement. The intention of standardized testing was to get an objective look at a students’ achievement.  The intention of mandated standards was to set high expectations for all of our students.  The intentions were good, but they aren’t working. Eisner (2001/2013) points out the biggest problem.  We don’t have a better alternative yet, but researchers are working on that.


Au, W. (2007/2013). High-stakes testing and curriculum control: A qualitative metasynthesis. In D. J.Flinders & S, J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp.235-251).

Baker, E., Barton, P., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H., Linn, R., Shavelson, R., & Shepard, L. Economic Policy Institute, (2010). Epi briefing paper: Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers (278). Retrieved from Economic Policy Institute website: https://moodle1314-courses.wolfware.ncsu.edu/pluginfile.php/391680/mod_resource/content/1/Probs_w_ use_of_student_test_scores_to_evaluate_teachers.pdf

Eisner, E. W. (2001/2013). What does it mean to say a school is doing well? In D. J. Flinders &S. J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp.279-287).

Harris, D. N., & Herrington, C. D. (2006).  Accountability, standards, and the growing achievement gap: Lessons from the past half-century.  American Journal of Education, 112(2),  209-238. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.1086/498995?uid=3739776&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21103046056843

Heyneman, S. P. (2004).  Education and Corruption.  International Journal of Educational Development, 24(6), 637-648. Retrieved from http://www.vanderbilt.edu/peabody/heyneman/PUBLICATIONS/Education%20%26%20Corruption.pdf.

Ravitch, D. (2010). Retrieved from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/diane-ravitch/ravitch-why-teachers-should-ne.html.  

Siskin, L. (2003/2013). Outside the core: Accountability in tested and untested subjects. In D. J. Flinders & S, J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp. 269-278).

Sleeter, C. & Stillman, J. (2005/2013). Standardizing knowledge in a multicultural society. In D. J. Flinders & S. J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp. 252-268).