UMass Amherst Education Professor Co-edits Journal on 50-Year Impact of Pivotal 1965 Education Law

Kathryn A. McDermott, professor in education policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has co-edited a 50-year retrospective on the impact of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

McDermott was joined by David A. Gamson of Pennsylvania State University, and Douglas S. Reed of Georgetown University in editing the current issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, and in writing the lead article, “The Elementary and Secondary Education Act at Fifty: Aspirations, Effects, and Limitations.”

ESEA was a key component of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and was designed to aid low-income students and to combat racial segregation in schools. Over the last several decades, the ESEA has become the federal government’s main source of leverage on states and school districts to enact its preferred reforms, including measures such as standardized testing, write McDermott and her colleagues.

Bringing together research on the successes and shortcomings of the ESEA, the issue offers new insights into federal education policy and demonstrates that this landmark legislation remains a powerful force in the lives of educators and students 50 years after its initial implementation.

McDermott and her colleagues examine the historical evolution of the ESEA, its successes and pitfalls, and what they portend for the future of education policies. The issue also investigates the unintended consequences of the ESEA and offers solutions to offset them, and in the process takes on issues such as standardized testing mandates and the neglect of minority students and second language learners.

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