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The Radical Promise of Reformist Zeal: What Makes “Inquiry for Equity” Plausible?



Education reform movements often promise more than they deliver. Why are such promises plausible in light of seemingly perpetual education reform? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork based in a nonprofit education reform organization, this article explores the appeal of popular notions about “using data to close the racial achievement gap.” It focuses on training institutes wherein passionate reformers made complex claims about the power of a program called Inquiry for Equity. It argues that zealous performances of faith in the program raise expectations for social—not just educational—transformation. Because such radical claims cannot be pinned down in either public documents or daily discourse, they elude critical assessment.[education reform, affect, equity, progressive politics, inquiry]