‘Triage, transition, and transformation’: Advocacy discourse in urban school reform





Advocacy Coalition Framework, critical discourse analysis, educational policy, urban education


Advocacy coalitions have the potential to be a vehicle for community-based education reform in urban school systems, where state legislatures have increasingly adopted top-down policies such as state takeover and accountability systems. Yet, coalitions are influenced by and create their own informal and formal power structures that can include or exclude certain stakeholders and perspectives. In this study, the Advocacy Coalition Framework was used alongside critical discourse analysis of interviews, documents, and more than 50 news articles to explore how power and ideology shaped policy in the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren. We find that personal stories, political loyalties, and prior reform experiences shaped the narratives of Coalition members. While discourse from and about the Coalition was narrower in scope and representation during a tough legislative battle, the group’s policy victories and organizational infrastructure created potential for substantive community-led reform in the years following. This suggests that community-based education reform may require advocates to strategically sequence the promotion of diverse stakeholder interests in order to achieve broad coalition goals.


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Author Biographies

Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, Wayne State University

Sarah Winchell Lenhoff is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Wayne State University. Her research focuses on learning and improvement in education reform networks, school choice and accountability policy, and the impliations of educational policy on racial equity. 

Jennifer M. Lewis, Wayne State University

Jennifer Lewis was an elementary and middle school teacher for ten years before joining the faculty at Wayne State University. She is currently on leave from her position as associate professor of mathematics education to serve as the Executive Director of Educator Excellence in Detroit Public Schools Community District. Jenny's research focuses on teacher learning in urban settings and on building systemic efforts to improve instruction in high-poverty schools.

Ben Pogodzinski, Wayne State University

Ben Pogodzinski is an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Wayne State University. His research interests focus on state and district policies, school organizational context, and labor relations.

Robert Dorigo Jones, Michigan's Children

Robert Dorigo Jones is a policy and outreach associate at Michigan’s Children, a nonprofit working to ensure that public policies are made in the best interest of children. He holds an M.Ed. in education policy and management from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in social relations and policy from Michigan State University.




How to Cite

Lenhoff, S. W., Lewis, J. M., Pogodzinski, B., & Jones, R. D. (2019). ‘Triage, transition, and transformation’: Advocacy discourse in urban school reform. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 32. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.4230