Districtwide Standards-Based Reform and Its Impact on Teaching and Learning

How, and to what extent, can educational reform move from isolated pockets of success at individual schools to whole systems? King and Chawszczewski  are studying efforts in one school district of "going to scale" through standards-based reform. They seek to understand the influence of reform in instruction, assessment, and student learning, with special regard for educational equity. These questions are being addressed: How are standards-based reform efforts governed, and how do they alter teaching and learning across schools within a district? What are the ways in which the district and schools strike a balance between centralized regulation and school-based authority regarding policies and programs for standards-based reform? To what extent do schools, within a district context of standards-based reform, demonstrate pedagogy associated with more equitable outcomes across economic and racial and ethnic groups?

The study examines school reform in one midsize urban district in California, which serves economically, racially and ethnically, and linguistically diverse communities. This district has recently embarked on a systemwide approach to reform through developing performance standards and assessments in mathematics and literacy. This reform builds on previous efforts in which the district has identified equity in achievement across racial and ethnic and economic groups as a priority and has cultivated teacher inquiry at individual schools and inquiry for principals and district administrators. The study will serve as the US component of a cross-national comparative study.

The research team includes three university researchers, a district administrator, and a teacher-researcher from the site. The team is responsible for the following main tasks for the 12-month planning period: refine initial research questions and develop research questions related to the site; develop research design, instruments, schedules, and plans for data collection; and prepare the analytic essay and full project proposal. A spring conference will bring the research team together to finalize research plans and prepare the analytic essay.