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Lauen, Douglas L. (2008). False Promises: The School Choice Provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act.. Sadovnik, Alan R.; O'Day, Jennifer A.; Bohrnstedt, George W.; & Borman, Kathryn M. (Eds.) (pp. 203-226). New York: Routledge.


Scholars have long debated the extent to which education enhances mobility chances or simply maintains existing patterns of inequality. On the one hand, social scientists have argued that mobility based on achievement, rather status maintenance, is a hallmark of the US social system (Blau and Duncan 1967). The US educational system has been characterized as one with “contest,” rather than “sponsored” mobility. Unlike the British system, in which elites induct a select group of youth at an early age to groom them for high-status positions, youth in the United States compete in multiple contests, with every effort taken to keep students in the game (Turner 1960). Alternative views argue that through hidden curriculum and tracking, the US system “cools out” the mobility aspirations of disadvantaged students, thereby reinforcing, rather than overturning, existing patterns of stratification (MacLeod 1995; Oakes 1985; Rosenbaum 1976). If the United States is indeed characterized by mobility through achievement, one must consider the rules of the game. To establish the legitimacy of contest mobility regimes and maintain social control, participants must believe that differential outcomes, and the rewards that flow from these outcomes, are due not to differential access to the resources necessary to compete in the contest, but rather to effort and merit. In order for success in school to be viewed as an effective mechanism to attain the rights and privileges of high status, all students must have access to high-quality teachers, curricula, and schools.

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Lauen, Douglas L.