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 ó 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 otherís 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 districtís 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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