The impact of standards-based reform on special education and the creation of the ‘dividual

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An urban Pre-K through 5th grade school referred to as Westvale Elementary School was the focal point for this research study. Westvale was located within an urban district in New York State that was host to approximately 20,000 students. Both the school and the district were labeled as failing under the No Child Left Behind Act. Foucauldian conception of biopolitics and Deleuzian notion of the ‘dividual are the theoretical frameworks used to make meaning of qualitative data collected for this study. Interview, observation, and document data revealed how the structures of a biopolitical society hierarchized, segregated, and geographically shifted certain demographic groups of students throughout the school district based on their potential to succeed on high stakes examinations. Teachers and administrators were also linked to the demographics of the students they taught and mandates of standards-based reform (SBR) often required the turnover of school personnel, causing frustration and stigma for educators and students alike. Mandated teacher and leader evaluations were also found to increase fear of teaching students with disabilities because they were viewed as ‘dividuals within the biopolitical system that SBR exacerbated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-383
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2 Sep 2015


  • Deleuze
  • Foucault
  • disability
  • educational policy
  • inclusive education
  • special education


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