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Converging Reform "Theories" In Urban Middle Schools: District-Guided Instructional Improvement In Small Schools Of Choice


by Chrysan Gallucci , Michael S. Knapp, Anneke Markholt & Suzanne Ort — 2007

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of the paper is to explore an instructive case in which two potentially opposed reform theories converge on schools, in order to understand how productively or unproductively the two theories coexist. We attempt to answer the following questions: Can these two reform theories coexist, or do they get in each other’s way? In what ways, if any, do the two complement each other? Separately, or together, how do they affect instructional practice and the school-level conditions that support teaching and learning? Finally, can policies and leadership, in this case reflecting two such different reform theories, provide mutually supporting conditions for teaching and learning in urban schools?

Setting: The theories are analyzed as they occurred over the 1990s and into this century in four middle schools in one New York City Community School District.

Research Design: The study utilized a qualitative multiple case study design. Four small middle schools within one district were sampled using criteria related to student population, school structure, and configuration of resources such as time and staff. Data were collected over three years during three site visits per year and included extensive interviews, observations, and analysis of pertinent documents.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We argue that the reform theories primarily complemented one another in this case. In the schools, differences in steps taken by school leaders and staff to realize the first reform theory enabled schools to respond productively to, rather than resist, district initiatives based on the second theory. The sophistication of the district’s vision for teaching and learning (both for students and adults), combined with a flexible approach to implementing the second reform theory, reduced the likelihood of conflicting reform messages.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 109 Number 12, 2007, p. 2601-2641
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14487, Date Accessed: 10/16/2017 10:00:34 PM

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About the Author
  • Chrysan Gallucci
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    CHRYSAN GALLUCCI, Ph.D.,is research assistant professor in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Washington and a research associate with the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy (CTP). Her teaching and research focus on education policy and its connection to issues of professional learning, especially for education professionals who work in diverse systems and engage in problems of practice related to the improvement of teaching and learning. Dr. Gallucci specializes in qualitative methods of research. She is research director for the Center for Educational Leadership and co-director of the Masters in Instructional Leadership program at the University of Washington.
  • Michael Knapp
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    MICHAEL KNAPP, Ph.D., is a professor of educational leadership and policy studies and director of the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy in the College of Education at the University of Washington engages in teaching and research focused on educational policymaking, school reform, leadership development, and policy research methods, with emphasis on how policy and leadership connect to classroom and school improvement. His studies have often concentrated on the education of disenfranchised populations, mathematics and science education, and the professional development of educators. Dr. Knapp has written extensively about his research, including eight books, among them, School Districts and Instructional Renewal (2002), Investigating the Influence of Standards (2002), Self-Reflective Renewal in Schools (2003), and Leading Learning in Schools and Districts (2006).
  • Anneke Markholt
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    ANNEKE MARKHOLT, Ph.D., began her career as an English as a second language specialist for the Tacoma Public Schools where she taught for 10 years. Currently, she is a project director for the Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Washington, where she designs and directs partnerships between CEL and school districts focused on the development of instructional leadership at all levels of school district systems. She is particularly interested in the intersection of teaching, learning, and the leadership capacity necessary for school systems to engage in instructional improvement. Prior to her work with CEL, she spent five years as an associate researcher for the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy at the University of Washington.
  • Suzanne Ort

    E-mail Author
    SUZANNE ORT, Ed.D., began her career as a social studies teacher at an alternative high school in the Bronx and then as a teacher of English as a second language in the Czech Republic. She has worked as a research associate at the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College, Columbia University on several research and development projects including revamping the Regents assessment system in New York State and large scale studies of policy implementation in New York City Community School Districts 2 and 3 (with the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy). Currently she is a “teaching coach” at Park East High School in New York City through the Institute for Student Achievement.
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