Standards without standardisation? Assembling standards-based reforms in Australian and US schooling

Year: 2019

Author: Lewis, Steven, Savage, Glenn, Holloway, Jessica

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Our aim in this paper is to examine how standards-based reforms (SBRs) relating to teachers and teaching are being constituted in Australia and the US, with a specific focus onfederally-driven government strategies and investments since the late 2000s. We seek here not to understand the specific impacts of policies as enacted practices in schools or teacher training institutions, but rather to compare thedynamics of policy productionand examine how federally-driven policies have been assembled in each country. Such work is situated in relation to emerging research on policy mobilities, topologies and policy assemblages, which attempts to understand the dynamics of policy movement, mutation and uptake in the wake of new spaces and relations associated with globalisation. Bringing together Collier and Ong’s (2005) notion of ‘global forms’ with the dual concepts of ‘political rationality’ and ‘political technology’ from governmentality studies, and drawing on policy documents relating to teaching standards in Australia and the US, we emphasise how reforms that are both similar and differenthave concurrently emerged in the two nations. We theorise SBRs as a type of ‘global techno-scientific form’ that coheres at the level of political rationality and which can be abstracted across contexts, but which also manifests in unique place-specificassemblages of political technologies. In so doing, we argue that even while reforms in both nations share deep similarities, and especially in terms of assumptions concerning the benefits of SBRs and a related desire to standardise core aspects of teachers’ work, this has not translated into a standardisation of policies. In other words, while the global form of SBRs might well be capable of standardising how teaching and teachers are understood, this need not guarantee the standardisationof policy practices.