When things come undone: the promise of dissembling education policy

Jill Koyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This article focuses on the enactment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the USA's broad sweeping federal education policy, in a persistently low-achieving school in which the majority of students are refugees and immigrants. Drawing on a 26-month ethnography, I reveal the ways in which a NCLB-guided school turnaround plan is enacted variably, especially for refugees. I utilize assemblage, a term often associated with actor network perspectives, to study how people, their material objects, and their discursive practices are brought together to implement the plan. Assemblage analysis reveals the struggles and contestations between various entities as they aim to establish the authority and legitimacy of ideas and practices of schooling refugees – most of whom speak languages other than English and have had several prolonged interruptions in their formal education. I trace how certain ideas come to cohere as a more-or-less durable curriculum assemblage, and how they are mobilized, defended, and challenged. The findings reveal that even under the constraints of assessments and sanctions, the assemblage is disrupted and comes apart as new actors, including refugee parents and community leaders, bring unexpected elements into play, introducing emotion, challenging expertise, questioning motives, and resisting the practices produced by the authorized policy actors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)548-559
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 8 2015


  • ANT
  • assemblage
  • policy
  • refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language


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