Local Autonomy versus State Constraints: Balancing Evolution and Creationism in U.S. High Schools

Berkman, Michael B.; Plutzer, Eric
October 2011
Publius: The Journal of Federalism;Oct2011, Vol. 41 Issue 4, p610
Academic Journal
Do state curricular standards and examinations constrain the behavior of public school teachers? More specifically, do they interfere with teachers’ responsiveness to local district preferences? We explore these questions in the highly contested arena of instruction in evolutionary biology. Drawing upon an original national survey of high school biology teachers, we find that their classroom practices conform to community preferences. This responsiveness occurs largely through a process of assortative employment. However, we show that teachers are less responsive to public opinion when state curricular standards are supported by high-stakes testing. We therefore offer a general model of how policy implementation can be influenced by local community sentiment and, more generally, how the architecture of public policy can attenuate responsiveness to local public opinion.


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