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When State Policies Meet Local District Contexts: Standards-Based Professional Development as a Means to Individual Agency and Collective Ownership


by Elizabeth Dutro, Maria Chesley Fisk, Richard Koch, Laura J. Roop & Karen Wixson — 2002

This article focuses on how a statewide reform initiative, when envisioned as a professional development opportunity, impacted teachers’ capacities to become change agents in their classrooms and districts and how individual district contexts shaped the development of those capacities. The interview and artifact data used for this study were gathered from teachers and administrators in four demonstration districts that were involved in a standards-based professional development initiative within the federally funded Michigan English Language Arts Framework (MELAF) project. These data reveal that teachers experienced changes in their personal literacy practices and views of themselves as learners and felt an increased ability to evince change in a variety of educational contexts, including their classrooms, buildings, and districts. Across these changes in teachers’ practices, district patterns emerged that spoke to the individual districts’ capacities to support teacher growth and foster reform. These differences suggest that the changes that took place were a function of many factors, including the size and structure of the district, the district’s readiness for change, and the source of language arts leadership within the district. One implication of these results is that the particular histories and competing forces that operate for both individuals and districts shape the implementation of new policy.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 4, 2002, p. 787-811
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10891, Date Accessed: 10/17/2017 11:55:34 PM

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About the Author
  • Elizabeth Dutro
    University of Washington
    ELIZABETH DURTO is assistant professor of Language, Literacy and Culture at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research interests include standards-based reforms in literacy education, literacy as social practice, and issues of genre and representation in qualitative research. Her recent publications include, “'But that’s a girls’ book!’ Exploring Gender Boundaries in Children’s Reading Practices,” forthcoming in The Reading Teacher.
  • Maria Fisk
    University of Michigan
    MARIA CHESLEY FISK is a doctoral candidate in educational administration and policy at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include school leadership and connections between policy and classroom instruction.
  • Richard Koch
    Adrian College
    RICHARD KOCH is professor of English at Adrian College, where he teaches writing and the teaching of writing. His research interests include relationships between classroom literacy pedagogy, assessment, and the aim of social justice. He recently coauthored The Portfolio Guidebook: Implementing Quality in an Age of Standards (Christopher-Gordon, 2000) with Jean Schwartz-Petterson.
  • Laura Roop
    University of Michigan
    LAURA ROOP is an outreach project manager at The University of Michigan School of Education, where she directs the Oakland Writing Project, a National Writing Project site. She studies models of professional development, systemic reform, and university/school collaboration. In January 2001, her essay, "Surprising Ourselves: Toward Truly Democratic Literacies and Methodologies," appeared in English Education.
  • Karen Wixson
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    KAREN K. WIXSON is dean and professor in the School of Education at the University of Michigan. Her research interests focus on issues of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in literacy education. Her recent publications include two in collaboration with Sheila Valencia from the University of Washington: "Inside English Language Arts Standards: What's in a grade?" which appears in Reading Research Quarterly, and "Literacy Policy and Policy Research that Make a Difference," forthcoming in the 2001 National Reading Conference Yearbook.
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