Research on Policy Environments & the Quality of Teaching

Principal Investigators

  • Michael Knapp, University of Washington
  • Milbrey McLaughlin, Stanford University
  • Joan Talbert, Stanford University
  • Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University
  • Jon Snyder, Bank Street College of Education


Focusing on four states (California, New York, North Carolina, and Washington) and a large urban school district within each, CTP's "core study" examined connections between policy environments and teaching practice through fully nested state, district, school, and teacher samples. The research carried out from 1998-02 combined case studies with survey research and document analyses. Analytic work integrated what was learned from each level within and across states into a combined set of insights about the way teachers' work and student learning opportunities reflect and are shaped by various policy environments and contexts in which they work.

Core Substudies Related Analyses

Publications on Policy Environments and the Quality of Teaching

Hint! Click on a title to see more information about it. Click on that title again to hide the information.

  1. The Relation Between State and District Literacy Standards: Issues of Alignment, Influence, and Utility
    A Research Report by Elizabeth Dutro and Sheila W. Valencia, January 2004.

    This Research Report explores how state content standards in reading affect local content standards. The study, undertaken in four states, shows that under the guise of "alignment" between state and local standards, there is considerable variability, and that the usefulness of the state's efforts to promote local standards-based reform in this areas of the curriculum depends on various attributes of the state policy, the characteristic relationship between state and local level, and local engagement in professional development.

    PDFAbstractOriginal Study
  2. Building Instructional Quality and Coherence in San Diego City Schools: System Struggle, Professional Change
    Policy Brief 9, September 2003.
  3. Building Instructional Quality: "Inside-Out" and "Outside-In" Perspectives on San Diego's School Reform
    A Research Report by Linda Darling-Hammond, Amy M. Hightower, Jennifer L. Husbands, Jeannette R. LaFors, Viki M. Young, and Carl Christopher, September 2003.

    This research report looks at the aggressive set of policies San Diego City School District used to improve instruction. It reveals how San Diego consolidated and redirected resources, redesigned the district office as well as work in schools, and mediated and leveraged state policy to further its reform agenda. The report also documents the difficulties of managing the politics and implementation of a coherent approach to change in a large district with an established culture of decentralization located in a state with a piecemeal, sometimes conflicting, menu of reforms.

    PDFAbstractOriginal StudyOriginal StudyOriginal Study
  4. Reforming Districts: How Districts Support School Reform
    A Research Report by Milbrey McLaughlin and Joan Talbert, September 2003.

    By detailing the experiences of three reforming California districts, this research report offers new evidence of district effects on school reform progress and improved student outcomes. The case studies offer instructive exception to conventional wisdom-or myths-about district reform. Among the refuted myths: teachers and principals resist a strong district role; turnover derails efforts to establish and sustain a consistent reform agenda; and local politics will defeat any serious reform agenda.

    PDFAbstractOriginal StudyOriginal Study
  5. Triage or Tapestry? Teacher Unions' Work Toward Improving Teacher Quality in an Era of Systemic Reform
    A Research Report by Nina Bascia, June 2003.

    By examining the work of six teacher unions, this report considers the contributions that teacher unions make toward improving the quality of teaching in today's context of systemic reform.

    PDFAbstractOriginal StudyOriginal Study
  6. Related Article: Darling-Hammond, Linda; Sunder, J. (2003). Organizing schools for student and teacher learning: An examination of resource allocation choices in reforming schools In Plecki, M.L. & Monk, D.H. (Eds.) School Finance and Teacher Quality: Exploring the Connections. The 2003 Yearbook of the American Education Finance Association. Larchmont, NJ: Eye on Education
  7. Related Book Chapter: Monk, D. H.; Plecki, Margaret; Killeen, K. M. (2003). Examining investments in teacher professional development: A look at current practice and a proposal for improving the research base In Plecki, M.L. & Monk, D.H. (Eds.) School Finance and Teacher Quality: Exploring the Connections. The 2003 Yearbook of the American Education Finance Association. Larchmont, NJ: Eye on Education: 137-156
  8. What School Districts Spend on Professional Development
    Policy Brief 6, November 2002.
  9. San Diego City Schools: Comprehensive Reform Strategies at Work
    Policy Brief 5, February 2002.
  10. San Diego's Big Boom: District Bureaucracy Supports Culture of Learning
    A Research Report by Amy M. Hightower, January 2002.

    This research report chronicles three years of reform by San Diego City Schools and explores what it means to radically refocus a large urban district on instructional improvement.

  11. Related Article: Killeen, K. M.; Monk, D. H.; Plecki, Margaret (2002). School District Spending on Professional Development: Insights Available from National Data (1992-1998) Journal of Education Finance, 28 (1), 25-49. (This article is available on the CTP web site with permission from The Association of School Business Officials International. Any variation in appearance from the printed document is due to technical limitations.) [PDF]
  12. Connecticut's Story: A Model of State Teaching Policy
    Policy Brief 4, June 2001.
  13. A Case of Successful Teaching Policy: Connecticut's Long-Term Efforts to Improve Teaching and Learning
    A Research Report by Suzanne M. Wilson, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Barnett Berry, February 2001.

    This Research Report describes 15-years' worth of successful effort by Connecticut to implement a comprehensive set of teaching quality policies to support improved student learning. The authors hypothesize that the power of Connecticut's teaching policy reform lies not simply in their comprehensiveness and in the state's political stability over the last decade but also in the power of policies to build capacity in teachers, students, administrators, teacher educators and state department staff. A Policy Brief based on this report is also available.

    PDFBriefAbstractOriginal Study
  14. Revisiting What States Are Doing to Improve the Quality of Teaching: An Update on Patterns and Trends
    A Working Paper by Eric Hirsch, Julia E. Koppich, and Michael S. Knapp, February 2001.

    This updated version of an earlier CTP Working Paper takes a fresh look at recent developments in the realms of state policy related to teacher and teaching quality. The broad-brush, descriptive analysis covers state-level policy action pertaining to (1) development and promotion of high standards for student learning and for teaching; (2) attempts to attract, reward, and retain capable people in the teaching profession; (3) support for high-quality initial preparation and induction of new teachers; (4) attempts to motivate and support teachers' ongoing professional learning; and (5) enhancements to the school workplace environment.

    PDFAbstractOriginal Study
  15. Related Article: Wilson, Suzanne; Darling-Hammond, Linda; Berry, Barnett (2001). Steady work: The story of Connecticut's school reform. American Educator, (Fall 2001), 34-39 & 48.
  16. Connecting Districts to the Policy Dialogue: A Review of Literature on the Relationship of Districts with States, Schools, and Communities
    A Working Paper by Julie A. Marsh, September 2000.

    This Working Paper reviews literature about the key roles that districts play in supporting improvements in teaching and learning, including the district role in implementing state policies and enacting school-level change and what the key factors are that enable districts to effectively support improvements. It also considers how community involvement and collaboration contribute to districts' improvement efforts. The paper suggests directions for future research to advance the state of knowledge on school districts.

    PDFAbstractOriginal Study
  17. Related Article: Killeen, K. M.; Monk, D. H.; Plecki, Margaret (2000). Spending on instructional staff support in big school districts: Why are urban districts spending at such high levels? Educational Considerations, 28, 8-25
  18. State Action to Improve Teaching
    Policy Brief 1, December 1999.