Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


School of Education


Over the course of the twentieth century curriculum differentiation became a mainstay in education, particularly in secondary schools. Much has been written on how this is a purposeful selection process often tied to larger social and political status and relationships. Moreover, knowledge is largely deemed appropriate based upon whose knowledge it is and for what student it is appropriate. Also, within the past two decades, there has been an increase in neoliberal school choice policies and neoconservative standardization policies in public education largely in the form of charter schools and high-stakes testing. These market policies aim to increase innovation and academic achievement via increased competition among schools and students. Nevertheless, many scholars argue that these policies only serve to exacerbate educational inequality. Standardization policies also claim to increase educational equality by holding all students to the same standards, though they have been critiqued for their potential biases against disadvantaged population, their one-dimensional measure of success, and their effect of narrowing the curricula to testing skills only. These two themes in educational research and reform raise questions concerning how curricula content is affected by choice and accountability policies. As a result, this study finds that overall, even among different institutional options within Chicago's school choice policy, low-performing, low-status schools are increasingly similar in stated course plans which emphasize test preparation and skills specifically for standardized tests, particularly in the test taking year. Also, schools that have the highest achievement scores, ironically, also have the most authority to deviate from a test preparation focused curricula with the ability to focus on developing abstract skills in students, such as critical thinking and cultural awareness.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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