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What Does it Take to Break the Mold? Rhetoric and Reality in New American Schools


by Thomas Hatch — 2000

In 1991, the New American Schools Development Corporation (NASDC) was created in order to create “break the mold” models for a “new generation of American schools.” NASDC sought to achieve this goal by funding eleven different design teams including the ATLAS Communities Project - a collaboration of the Coalition of Essential Schools, the School Development Program, Harvard Project Zero, and the Education Development Center. While schools associated with ATLAS and the other design teams showed some signs of progress in the first few years of their work, there has been little evidence that these positive outcomes have been achieved by “breaking the mold.” In fact, the NASDC strategy and the ATLAS collaboration may have exacerbated basic conditions that make it difficult for schools and organizations to explore new ideas and develop innovative practices. By drawing on studies of innovation in business organizations, this paper argues that rather than trying to create “break the mold” school designs, reformers should aim to create the conditions that allow for a better balance between efforts to explore new ideas that may be successful in the future and the further expansion of practices that have been successful in the past.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 102 Number 3, 2000, p. 561-589
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10498, Date Accessed: 8/16/2017 11:20:05 AM

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