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Instructional Policy and Classroom Performance: The Mathematics Reform in California


by David K. Cohen & Heather C. Hill 2000

Educational reformers increasingly seek to manipulate policies regarding assessment, curriculum, and professional development in order to improve instruction. They assume that manipulating these elements of instructional policy will change teachers' practice, which will then improve student performance. We formalize these ideas into a rudimentary model of the relations among instructional policy, teaching, and learning. We propose that successful instructional policies are themselves instructional in nature: because teachers figure as a key connection between policy and practice, their opportunities to learn about and from policy are a crucial influence both on their practice, and, at least indirectly, on student achievement. Using data from a 1994 survey of California elementary school teachers and 1994 student California Learning Assessment System (CLAS) scores, we examine the influence of assessment, curriculum, and professional development on teacher practice and student achievement. Our results bear out the usefulness of the model: under circumstances that we identify, policy can affect practice, and both can affect student performance.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 102 Number 2, 2000, p. 294-343
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10377, Date Accessed: 6/22/2017 8:11:11 AM

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About the Author
  • David Cohen
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    David K. Cohen is John Dewey Collegiate Professor of Education, and Professor of Public Policy at The University of Michigan. His current research interests include educational policy, the relations between policy and instruction, and the nature of teaching practice. His past work has included studies of: the effects of schooling, various efforts to reform schools and teaching, the evaluation of educational experiments and large-scale intervention programs, and the relations between research and policy.
  • Heather Hill
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    Heather C. Hill is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Her current work examines how practitioners come to understand policy.
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