CTP Occasional Papers
The Center's Occasional Paper series addresses topics that are timely and intimately connected to the Center's agenda. Papers in this seriessome by Center members, others by researchers elsewhereinclude conceptual work, research syntheses, discussions of policy issues, and reports of empirical studies undertaken under other auspices. We warmly encourage feedback on these documents to help us refine them in preparation for final reports of our research.
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Architectures for Learning: A Comparative Analysis of Two Urban School Districts
An Occasional Report in collaboration with The Spencer Foundation by Mary Kay Stein and Cynthia Coburn, January 2007.
Policy Implementation and Learning: How Organizational and Socio-Cultural Learning Theories Elaborate District Central Office Roles in Complex Educational Improvement Efforts
An Occasional Paper in collaboration with The Spencer Foundation by Meredith Honig, January 2007.
Using Sociocultural Theory to Link Individual and Organizational Learning Processes: The Case of Highline School District's Instructional Improvement Reform
An Occasional Report in collaboration with The Spencer Foundation by Chrysan Gallucci, January 2007.
Making Subject Matter Part of the Equation: The Intersection of Policy and Content
An Occasional Paper by Pam Grossman, Susan S. Stodolsky, and Michael S. Knapp, December 2004.Description:PDF
This conceptual paper offers a framework for understanding how educational policy is related to subject matter. Drawing on literature concerning instructional policymaking and the cultures that surround teaching in different subject areas, the paper distinguishes and illustrates three types of policy, that ignore, target, or differentiate among subject matter areas, respectively. The paper then demonstrates, for each type, how subject matter acts as a crucial context for policy implementation and effects, affecting the policy's impact in often unintended ways. Typically ignored by policy research, these dynamics have special importance for the analysis of reform policies, as well as for the making of policies aimed at teaching and learning.
Theorizing About Responses to Reform: The Role of Communities of Practice
An Occasional Paper by Chrysan Gallucci, May 2003.Description:
This paper offers a summary of a policy-oriented case study that examined the practice of six elementary teachers and, more significantly, evaluates the value of a sociocultural approach for analyzing teachers' responses to the professional learning demands of standards-based reform policies.Abstract:PDFAbstract
This paper evaluates the usefulness of a sociocultural approach for analyzing teachers' responses to the professional learning demands of standards-based reform policies. A policy-oriented case study of the practice of six elementary teachers who worked in two high poverty schools in a demographically changing district in the state of Washington is summarized. Key findings of that study conclude that communities of teaching practice are sites for teacher learning and are mediators of teachers' responses to standards-based reform. Characteristics of the communities of practice, including their relative strength and openness (to learning), influence the degree to which teachers work out negotiated and thoughtful responses to policy demands. The present paper discusses the efficacy of Wenger's (1998) theory of learning for the study of policy to practice connections.
Meeting the Needs of Failing Readers: Cautions and Considerations for State Policy
An Occasional Paper by Marsha Riddle Buly and Sheila Valencia, April 2003.Description:
In this CTP Occasional Paper, the authors' findings are a caution to policymakers and educators who may be tempted to treat the same all students who score "below standard" on statewide reading assessments. By probing beneath student's failing scores on a 4th-grade state reading assessment, the authors found that scores masked distinctive and multifaceted problems having to do with 1) word identification, 2) fluency, and 3) meaning. To have treated the same all students who had failed would have been to miss the different instructional emphases called for by their underlying skills, strategies, and needs. The paper presents reading profiles of failing students and discusses five potential areas as potential policy levers for improving student performance in reading.Abstract:PDFAbstract
Every year thousands of students fail state reading tests and every year policymakers and educators search for strategies to help these students succeed. In this study, we probed beneath students' failing scores on a state reading assessment to investigate the specific reading abilities that may have contributed to student performance. We found that scores on state tests mask distinctive and multifaceted problems having to do with word identification, fluency, and meaning. Our findings are a caution to policymakers and educators who may be tempted to treat the same all students who score "below standard" on statewide reading assessments that now proliferate the education landscape. To do so is to miss the different instructional emphases called for by the underlying skills, strategies, and needs of failing students. Such a practice not only limits individual student progress; it may lead to an oversimplification of reform efforts and evaluation. This report presents reading profiles of failing students and discusses five areas-instruction; multiple indicators; alignment among standards, assessment, and instruction; allocation of resources; and evaluating reform-as potential policy levers for improving student performance in reading.
Understanding How Policy Meets Practice: Two Takes on Local Response to a State Reform Initiative
An Occasional Paper by Michael S. Knapp, June 2002.Description:
In this CTP Occasional Paper, Center Director Mike Knapp explores connections between policy and instructional practice by analyzing two studies that employed different and contrasting research perspectives to examine the same policy case-the early implementation of the California Mathematics Framework. In reviewing the studies, Knapp discusses the conceptual blind spots of each perspective and suggests conceptual work that would enable scholars to entertain richer pictures of policy, instruction, and avenues of influence on instruction.Abstract:PDFAbstract
This paper explores the connections between policy and instructional practice through a close reading of contrasting studies and through an exploration of ways, prompted by the studies, to develop better conceptualizations of policy-practice connections. The two studies each examined the same policy case (the early implementation of the California Mathematics Framework more than a decade ago) from different vantage points-the first paying close attention, from the "inside-out," to the response of a teacher to the state reform policy, and the second focusing, from the "outside-in," on the way the policy's enactment generated changes in local policy implementation and support systems. The contrast between the studies brings to light conceptual blind spots in each research perspective that make it difficult to ascertain whether the studies offer contradictory or complementary understandings of the case and that may lead to under- or over-estimates of policy effects. Further conceptual work suggested by the paper would enable scholars to entertain richer pictures of policy, instruction, and avenues of policy influence on instruction.
What Makes Teacher Community Different from a Gathering of Teachers?
An Occasional Paper by Pamela Grossman, Sam Wineburg, and Stephen Woolworth, January 2001.Description:
This CTP Occasional Paper details the formation and development of teacher community through a project that brought together 22 English and social studies teachers, a special education teacher, and an ESL teacher to plan interdisciplinary curriculum. It includes colorful sections of dialogue among the teachers and sheds new light on definitions of professional community, its stages of development, and the challenges that confront community building in a fast-paced high school workplace.Abstract:PDFAbstractOriginal Study
In this paper, the authors draw on their experience with a professional development project to propose a model for studying the formation and development of teacher community. The project they describe brought together 22 English and social studies teachers, as well as a special education teacher and an ESL teacher, from an urban high school for a period of 2 1/2 years. The teachers met twice a month to read together in the field of history and literature and to work on an interdisciplinary curriculum. This detailed account of the first 18 months of the project sheds new light on definitions of professional community, its stages of development, and the challenges that confront community in the workplace of high schools. One of the challenges consists of the need to negotiate an "essential tension" at the heart of teachers' professional community. Among this group of teachers, many felt that the primary reason to meet was to improve classroom practices and student learning, while others were more interested in the potential for continuing intellectual development in the subjects they taught. The authorsówho deliberately built the essential tension into the projectóclaim that these two views must both be respected in any successful attempt to create and sustain intellectual community in the workplace. The authors also describe the challenges of maintaining diverse perspectives within a community and how familiar fault linesóboth in society and in schoolsóthreaten the pursuit of community. The paper includes a model of the markers of community formationóas manifested in participants' talk and actionsóand concludes with a discussion of why we must continue to care about professional communities.
Federal Research Investment and the Improvement of Teaching, 1980-1997
An Occasional Paper by Julia Koppich and Michael Knapp, April 1998.