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Studying Implementation Within a Continuous Continuous-Improvement Process: What Happens When We Design with Adaptations in Mind?


by Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, Danielle Allen, Allison Rose Socol, Lora Cohen-Vogel, Stacey A. Rutledge & QI W. Xing — 2018

Background/Context: This study examines the implementation of an academic and social-emotional learning innovation called Personalization for Academic and Social EmotionalSocial-emotional Learning, or PASL. The innovation was designed, tested, and implemented using a continuous continuous-improvement model. The model emphasized a top-and-bottom process in which implementers played a central role in the innovation design, and adaptations were planned, tested, and refined based on local school contexts.

Purpose: This study sought to understand what implementation integrity looked like in three high schools participating in a continuous continuous-improvement process that promoted deliberate, planned adaptations to PASL, and as well as to uncover factors that may explain differences in the integrity of PASL implementation across the three schools.

Research Design: We conducted embedded, qualitative case studies of three large, racially-, ethnically-, and linguistically- diverse urban high schools. Data collected and analyzed included interviews with school innovation design design-team members, student focus groups, and observations of teachers implementing PASL.

Findings: Each school made site-specific adaptations to the PASL innovation before and during implementation. However, there was variation in the extent to which the schools demonstrated integrity to the PASL design and their own adaptations. A combination of local contextual factors helped explain differences in implementation integrity across the schools. These factors included the availability of resources and ongoing technical support, the will of local implementers, and perceptions about policy alignment.

Conclusions/Recommendations: While PASL was implemented across the three school sites, the degree of implementation integrity varied, suggesting that encouraging program adaptation alone may not solve longstanding challenges associated with achieving depth of implementation. This is the first study of its kind in education, however, and more research is clearly warranted.



At present, we do not have the full-text of this article in digital format.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 5, 2018, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22087, Date Accessed: 12/17/2017 8:39:53 AM

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About the Author
  • Ariel Tichnor-Wagner
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    E-mail Author
    ARIEL TICHNOR-WAGNER, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of Global Competence at ASCD. She received her Ph.D. in Education Policy, Leadership, and School Improvement at from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on the adoption and implementation of policies aimed at improving the academic and socio-emotional outcomes of culturally and linguistically diverse students, teacher professional learning, and global citizenship education. She has recently published on these topics in Educational Administration Quarterly, Education Policy Analysis Archives, and Leadership and Policy in Schools.
  • Danielle Allen
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    E-mail Author
    DANIELLE ALLEN is a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research areas include school choice and issues of equity and access. Recent publications include “Accountable for Care: Cultivating Caring School Communities in Urban High Schools,” published in Leadership and Policy in Schools, and “Implementing Educational Innovations at Scale: Transforming Researchers into Continuous Improvement Scientists,” published in Educational Policy.
  • Allison Socol
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    E-mail Author
    ALLISON ROSE SOCOL is a doctoral student candidate in Policy, Leadership, and School Improvement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on policies and practices that promote the academic achievement of all students, especially low-income students and students of color.​
  • Lora Cohen-Vogel
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    E-mail Author
    LORA COHEN-VOGEL, Ph.D., is the Robena and Walter E. Hussman, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Policy and Education Reform at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a co-principal investigator of the National Center for Scaling Up Effective Schools, she helped lead a continuous continuous-improvement effort aimed at raising schooling outcomes for traditionally underperforming students. Cohen-Vogel is among the first to have published on continuous improvement in peer-reviewed journals in education, and speaks widely.
  • Stacey Rutledge
    Florida State University
    STACEY RUTLEDGE, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Florida State University. Her research explores policies and reforms aimed at improving teaching and learning and how these shape both the work of district and school administrators and teachers, and, ultimately, students’ learning opportunities and experiences in schools. For the last six years, she has been a project investigator in the National Center for Scaling Up Effective Schools, and has recent publications in the American Educational Research Journal.
  • QI W. Xing
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    E-mail Author
    QI W. XING is a doctoral cstudent andidate in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her main research interests are education policy, early early-childhood education, and school choice. She has studied the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs using quantitative and qualitative analyses, as well as researching high- school improvement using continuous improvement research. 
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