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Despite the Odds:
The Contentious Politics of Education Reform
Merilee S. Grindle

Paperback | 2004 | $39.95 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691118000
288 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 4 line illus. 30 tables.
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Despite the Odds poses an important question: How can we account for successful policy reform initiatives when the political cards are stacked against change? Theories of politics usually predict that reform initiatives will be unsuccessful when powerful groups are opposed to change and institutions are biased against it. This book, however, shows how the strategic choices of reform proponents alter the destinies of policy reforms by reshaping power equations and undermining institutional biases that impede change.

In many countries, the political path to reform can be daunting. Antireform interests are powerful and support for change is, at best, lukewarm. Centrally important institutions strongly defend the policy status quo. Despite these political odds, reformers have seized the initiative in promoting reform, weakening and marginalizing opposition groups, and marshaling political patrons and networks to advance their initiatives.

Despite the Odds opens the "black box" of decision making in five initiatives designed to enhance the quality of education services in Latin America. The book addresses the strategies used by reformers to manage the political process of change and those adopted by opposition groups and institutions resisting their efforts. Individual chapters consider how leaders set national policy agendas for education, how policy design teams created the content of reform initiatives, how they dealt with the messy and public confrontations that greeted reform proposals when they were announced, and the carryover of political conflict when they were implemented.


"A welcome and sorely needed addition to the literature on social sector reform. The book has important implications for developing countries as well as for the literature on political leadership, the role of international financial institutions, and even the dynamics of international policy diffusion."--Wendy Hunter, University of Texas

"The book is valuable for political scientists and political economists interested in unpacking the policy process. Grindle's conceptual scheme applies beyond the education sector. It is helpful in addressing broader debates and generalizations about the politics of institutional reforms in general."--Joan M. Nelson, Senior Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center, Smithsonian Institution; Scholar-in-Residence, School of International Service, American University

Table of Contents:

List of Tables and Figures ix
Acknowledgments xi
Abbreviations xiii
A Note on Terminology xvii
CHAPTER ONE: A Conundrum: Reform Despite the Odds 1
CHAPTER TWO: From Public Problems to Political Agendas 27 CHAPTER THREE: Sponsoring Reform: Executive Leadership, Formidable Constraints 58
CHAPTER FOUR: Designing Reforms: Problems, Solutions, and Politics 93
CHAPTER FIVE: Contesting Education: Teachers' Unions and the State 119
CHAPTER SIX: Contesting Education: Teachers' Unions versus Reformers 140
CHAPTER SEVEN: Implementing and Sustaining Change: New Arenas for Conflict 165
CHAPTER EIGHT: In Process: The Politics of Education Reform 189
Notes 207
Bibliography 233
Index 249

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Merilee S. Grindle:

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