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How Schools Change Reforms: Redefining Reform Success and Failure


by Larry Cuban ó 1998

Because schools change reforms as much as reforms change schools, judging an innovationís success or failure has been, and is, no easy task. I identify three common criteria used by policymaking elites (effectiveness, popularity, and fidelity) and two less common ones used by practitioners (adaptability and longevity) and apply them to the two-decade-old Effective Schools school reform. What emerged as crucial in evaluating school reforms is what criteria are being used to make judgments, whose criteria they are, and how schools change reforms as they are implemented. The example of Effective Schools challenges policymakers and researchers to become more explicit about which criteria they employ to judge success and to understand how the journey of school reform is a story of constant adaptation that ultimately undermines the common criteria generally used to judge success and failure.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 99 Number 3, 1998, p. 453-477
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10273, Date Accessed: 10/19/2017 3:25:59 AM

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About the Author
  • Larry Cuban
    Stanford University
    E-mail Author
    Larry Cuban is professor of education, Stanford University. He is the coauthor, with David Tyack, of Tinkering Toward Utopia (Harvard University Press, 1995).
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