This presentation explores what we can learn about school reform policy by comparing Danish school policy (understood as a European national case), which is increasingly embedded within a transnational policy arena, with the development of K-12 school policy in the United States, framed within the transformations of complex state vs federal relations (cases: California and Texas).
In both regions education has risen on the political agenda, as reflected in increasing concerns whether school curricula and standards match 21st century demands regarding citizens’ competences. In Europe ‘lifelong learning’ and ‘employability’ have become the keywords, while keywords in the US are ‘college- and career-ready students’. Education has become the solution for ‘knowledge economies’ that must nurture their human capital. Reforms of nation-state/state school curricula and associated evaluation and testing approaches are aligned to (trans-)national comparative templates in both regions.
The presentation will narrow down this comprehensive agenda by highlighting as an exemplary case the increased attention in both regions to specify curricular standards in literacy, numeracy and science and according to ‘21st century skills and competences’. This is done according to evidence-oriented approaches; building accountability and testing cultures to ensure compliance with such curricular policy demands. Studying Denmark as a national case within a transnational European policy arena reveals that Danish curricular and testing and evaluation procedures are increasingly framed in close interaction with the OECD, the International Educational Assessments (IEA) and the EU. In the United States alignment among states concerning curricula and standards have progressed considerably more as standards-based education discourse has progressed since the NCLB (2001) to comprise Common Core State Standards (2009) and Next Generation Science Standards (2013), as well as cross-state testing and evaluation collaborations like the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium).
The presentation mainly draws on (post-) Foucauldian traditions (e.g. Dean, 1999, 2007; Foucault, 1971; Pereyra & Franklin, 2014; Popkewitz, 1998, 2008; Popkewitz & Brennan, 1998). In his genealogies Foucault made the present problematic by asking questions similar to ours like: How has it come about that researchers, policy-makers and practitioners today make school problematic in terms of ‘comparability’, ‘standards-based curriculum’, ‘evidence’ and ‘testing’ etc.? In line with our approach to understanding the discursive forces at play in a nation-state like Denmark within the larger frame of transnational European collaborations, and in states like California and Texas within the larger frame of national education discourse in the US, Foucault argued that a truth regime, a discourse, must be measured by the extent to which it matches and mirrors the dominant configuration of dominant and less dominant discourses that set the boundaries for how individuals can think and act at a given time and in a given space in history (Foucault, 1993, 1997).