Understanding How Policy Meets Practice: Two Takes on Local Response to a State Reform Initiative

In this CTP Occasional Paper, Center Director Mike Knapp explores connections between policy and instructional practice by analyzing two studies that employed different and contrasting research perspectives to examine the same policy case-the early implementation of the California Mathematics Framework. In reviewing the studies, Knapp discusses the conceptual blind spots of each perspective and suggests conceptual work that would enable scholars to entertain richer pictures of policy, instruction, and avenues of influence on instruction.

Standards-Based Reform and Small Schools of Choice: How Reform Theories Converge in Three Urban Middle Schools

This report examines the ways two seemingly opposite theories of educational reform converge in three New York City middle schools. Using in-depth case studies, the authors look at what happened when a theory of centralized, standards-based instructional improvement was introduced into these schools on top of an existing theory that emphasized small schools, distinctive programs, and close relationships among students and adults. The result, a surprise to some, is that the two theories can coexist, even complement each other, but not without some tension.

Redefining and Improving School District Governance

This paper takes a close look at local school boards-an enduring feature of public education governance. Using published accounts in the research literature, the paper synthesizes the frameworks, beliefs, and activities concerning the roles and responsibilities of the district school board. Using three common critiques of modern school boards as a guide, the paper further identifies the underlying currents of governance reform, conditions that influence governance structure, and the connections between governance and learning-focused leadership.

Redefining Roles, Responsibility, and Authority of School Leaders

This report considers school leaders' roles and responsibilities, and the authority they need to pursue an agenda of improving teaching and learning. The report frames what it means to lead schools toward improvements in teaching and learning, who does or can exercise that leadership (including but not limited to the principal), how leaders can be equipped to lead learning communities, what conditions empower leaders to lead in this way, and how such leadership is cultivated in individuals or school communities over time.

Purposes, Uses, and Practices of Leadership Assessment in Education

This report discusses connections between learning-focused school leadership and leadership assessment as it contributes to coherent leadership assessment systems. Drawing upon exemplary research, and through the use of scenarios drawn from common school leadership assessment practices, this report outlines multiple purposes and uses of leadership assessment in national, state and local contexts. The central theme of the report is connecting learning-focused leadership with leadership assessment.

Making Subject Matter Part of the Equation: The Intersection of Policy and Content

This conceptual paper offers a framework for understanding how educational policy is related to subject matter. Drawing on literature concerning instructional policymaking and the cultures that surround teaching in different subject areas, the paper distinguishes and illustrates three types of policy, that ignore, target, or differentiate among subject matter areas, respectively. The paper then demonstrates, for each type, how subject matter acts as a crucial context for policy implementation and effects, affecting the policy's impact in often unintended ways.

Leadership and Learning

This report maps out activities and supporting conditions in states, districts, and schools, that enable educational leadership to exert productive influence on learning. The report draws together threads from the research literature and from practical experimentation in a variety of states, districts, and schools, as described in greater detail within six reports that comprise the Improving Leadership for Learning series.

Data-informed Leadership in Education

Drawing from empirical studies and the landscape of current practice, this report explores ideas related to how educational leaders access data, the meanings they give to it, and the uses to which they put these data in the varying settings in which leaders seek to improve teaching and learning. Moving away from the potentially appealing rhetoric that data can provide clear, indisputable direction for future action (e.g. data-driven decision making), the notion of data-informed leadership captures the complex and often ambiguous nature of data use in educational settings.

Allocating Resources and Creating Incentives to Improve Teaching and Learning

This report reviews research, practice, and theory related to resource allocation and its relationship to teaching and learning. The report describes the state of the field, discussing a range of practices, both current and emerging, while framing the central challenges facing leaders who make resource decisions at the state, district, and school levels. The report links the allocation of resources to the exercise of learning-focused leadership.