Big institutions continue to disappoint. We worry much about the uneven efficacy and alienating ties we feel inside many organizations – from expansive school systems or impersonal health care, to impersonal firms in the private sector.
Bruce Fuller, a sociologist, digs into the roots of this breakdown, along with the rise of nimble and motivating organizations. His book, Organizing Locally (University of Chicago Press, 2015), traces stiff forces that have moved big institutions to decentralize everyday management and relations with clients over the past half-century. He then identifies key ingredients of potent, locally run firms, looking across charter schools and health care companies, an international bank and rural nonprofits.
This work stems from earlier research on the promise and pallid character of many early childhood settings, as educators earnestly aim to lift poor children. Prof. Fuller’s earlier book, Standardized Childhood (Stanford University Press, 2007), reports on the four-century old debate over how to nurture and teach young children in modernizing societies. He then asks whether a universal entitlement to one regimented form of preschool offers the optimal answer for kids, parents, and pluralistic societies.
Prof. Fuller presently digs into diversifying forms of schooling that now sprout in many cities – especially Los Angeles, hosting hundreds of magnet and charter schools, along with site-run campuses where principals and teacher-leaders enjoy (ever contested) autonomy from the central bureaucracy.
His second major line explores the everyday lives of young children and their parents – asking how formal institutions serve diverse families. He tracks the early learning and socialization of Latino children, identifying buoyant factors operating inside families and classrooms. Prof. Fuller coordinates the Latino Contexts and Early Development Project – identifying mechanisms through which integrated neighborhoods and schools advance children’s growth – in collaboration with colleagues from developmental psychology, economics, pediatrics, and sociology.
Prof. Fuller teaches in education policy and the sociology of organizations, mentoring graduate students in economics, education, public policy, and sociology. He presently hosts students from China and Saudi Arabia, exploring the implications of economic sustainability and cultural pluralism for educators.
He has previously served as education advisor to the California legislature, then for an eccentric governor. Following graduate school at Stanford University, Prof. Fuller worked as a research sociologist at the World Bank. He taught comparative policy at Harvard University, before returning to California.
The Verdict on Charter Schools? The charter movement is 25 years old, but whether it’s fulfilling the mission early advocates had envisioned is far from clear. (The Atlantic, July 2015)
Preschool is important, but it’s more important for poor children (The Washington Post, February 2014)
Differing Cognitive Trajectories of Mexican American Toddlers: The Role of Class, Nativity, and Maternal Practices (Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, January 2015)
Lee, J., & Fuller, B. (2017). How decentralizing school finance may narrow achievement gaps: Uneven progress in California after $41 billion. Berkeley: Institute of Human Development, working paper.
Fuller, Bein, Bridges, Kim, & Rabe-Hesketh (2017). Do academic preschools yield stronger benefits? Cognitive emphasis,dosage, and early learning. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
Fuller, Study finds pre-school benefits middle-class kids, with biggest boost for black youngsters (graphics)
Fuller, Castillo, Lee, & Ugarte (2016). Will $4 Billion in New Spending Make a Difference? Narrowing Achievement Gaps in Los Angeles. Berkeley and Los Angeles: United Way of Greater Los Angeles
Jung, Fuller, & Galindo (2012). Family functioning and early learning practices in immigrant families. Developmental Psychology (in press).
Fuller (2011). Preschool as public entitlement: Advancing children or political interests? Pp. 27-33 in Zigler, Gilliam, & Barnett (eds.) The Pre-K debates: Current controversies. Baltimore: Brookes Pub.
Fuller (2011). College credentials and caring: How teacher training could lift children. Pp. 57-63 in Zigler, Gilliam, & Barnett (eds.) The Pre-K debates: Current controversies. Baltimore: Brookes Pub.
Fuller & García Coll (2010). Learning from Latinos: Contexts, families, and child development in motion. Developmental Psychology, 46, 559-565.
Livas-Dlott, Fuller, Stein, Bridges, Figueroa, & Mireles (2010). Commands, competence, and cariño: Maternal socialization practice in Mexican American families.Developmental Psychology, 46, 566-578.
Galindo & Fuller (2010). The social competence of Latino kindergartners and growth in mathematical understanding. Developmental Psychology, 46, 579-592.
Fuller, Bein, Bridges, Halfon, Jung, Rabe-Hesketh, & Kuo (2010). Maternal practices that influence Hispanic infants' health and cognitive growth. Pediatrics, 125, http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/125/2/e324
Fuller, Bridges, Bein, Jang, Jung, Rabe-Hesketh, Halfon, & Kuo (2009). The health and cognitive growth of Latino toddlers: At risk or immigrant paradox? Maternal and Child Health, 13, 755-768.
Loeb, Bridges, Bassok, Fuller & Rumberger(2006). How much is too much? The effects of duration and intensity of child-care experiences on children’s social and cognitive development. Economics of Education Review.
Loeb, Fuller, Kagan, and Carol (2004) Child Care in Poor Communities: Early Learning Effects of Type, Quality, and Stability. Child Development , 75, 47-65.
Interests and Professional Affiliations
Early Childhood Development
Policy Analysis and Evaluation
Expanding Preschool in New York City
BRIEF 1. Which Communities Benefit from Gains in Supply? October 2014
A first look at differing growth rates in pre-k supply across the city’s diverse neighborhoods, based on preliminary data early in year 1 of the mayor’s initiative. Includes maps showing the distribution of growth tied to the city’s initiative.
BRIEF 2. Lifting Poor Children or Middling Families? March 2015
A wider analysis of all licensed preschool centers across the city, revealing a somewhat regressive distribution of supply. Includes a survey of pre-k programs not funded under the mayor’s program, revealing significant migration of children, tempering claims of increased access.
BRIEF 3. Failing to Count Children Entering Catholic, Charter, and Jewish Schools, New York May Fall Short of Universal Pre-K. April 2015
Detailing how the city is under counting 4 year-old children eligible for the mayor's program, suggesting that universal access will not be achieved in the 2015-16 school year. This disadvantages low-income families as they compete with better-heeled parents for rationed pre-k seats.
BRIEF 4. Almost 19,000 Children Remain Outside Any Public Preschool, Newly Released Data Reveal
Mayor de Blasio has expanded pre-k seats in many low-income neighborhoods. But data released by the city – resulting from the university’s freedom-of-information petition – show that nearly 19,000 four year-olds in poor and working-class neighborhoods remain outside any city-run preschool program. The mayor’s focus on his own initiative has led to falling enrollments in existing child-care and pre-k centers, rather than extending access to additional families.
BRIEF 5. Year 2 Expansion Yields Few New Seats for Poor Neighborhoods
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious effort to widen children’s access to preschool resulted in just a 1% increase in new seats for young families in the poorest fifth of New York City neighborhoods. Looking across the two-fifths of zip codes with low household incomes, more than 12,000 four-year-olds remain outside any public preschool, Berkeley researchers find.
REVIEW ESSAY. What Pre-K Expansion Teaches Us about Family Entitlements
The expansion of quality preschool – no longer focused on lifting poor children and families – offers lessons about the potential and the hazards of universal entitlements. This review essay, looking back at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s two-year effort to extend access and lower pre-k costs for better-off families, examines alternative policy strategies for narrowing inequality, while backstopping the true middle class.