The idea that schools are the foremost site of meritocracy—that if nowhere else, public education represents the ideal of the level playing field—has been a driving force in educational reform throughout the 20th century. This paper traces a history of court-based educational reform starting with Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka up to the most recent wave of judicial reform, adequacy. Looking at how Brown set sky-high expectations for the potential of court-based reform to deliver on concrete changes to teaching and learning, the paper discusses the potential of the ongoing adequacy reform movement to create meaningful educational policy. Finally, the paper examines a New York case study of adequacy reform, and points to the ways in which high stakes standardized testing threatens to undermine the goals of adequacy’s early proponents
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