Scaling up Success: Lessons Learned from Technology-Based Educational Improvement / Edition 1

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In education, there is no shortage of extraordinary teaching, innovative programs, and successful schools. The big challenge lies in spreading these "best practices" beyond the local scene—in "scaling up" success. Technology has the potential to influence a broad spectrum of educators and students beyond the walls of an individual classroom, but its role in seeding larger change has not been well documented up to now. This book focuses on the challenge of integrating technology as part of larger school improvement efforts. It offers valuable insights that will help those trying to scale up any form of improved educational policy or practice.

Drawing from the information presented at a conference sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Technology in Education Consortium, leading educators, researchers, and policymakers, Scaling Up Success translates theory into practice and provides a hands-on resource that clearly describes different models for "scaling up" success. This important resource is filled with illustrative examples of best practices that are grounded in real-life case studies of technology-based educational innovation—from networking a failing school district in New Jersey to using computer visualization to teach scientific inquiry in Chicago. Scaling Up Success shows how the lessons learned from technology-based educational innovation can be applied to other school improvement efforts. The authors address key themes such as

  • Coping with change
  • Constituent support
  • Building human capacity
  • Effective decision making

Scaling Up Success offers a much-needed resource for educators, policymakers, and leaders who must comply with the mandate to enact research-based practice and will serve as a guide to benefit present and future efforts to strengthening American education.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"Scaling Up Success tackles one of the greatest challenges facing school districts: How do we take successful programs and best practices serving a few classrooms or students and scale them up to serve schools throughout the district? Using innovations in technology as an example, the essays take a thoughtful and well-documented look at the issues facing districts and the ways in which scaling up can be accomplished. This book brings together some of the best education authors and researchers and provides a compelling study on how districts can scale up technology-based educational innovations as well as for how any innovation or policy might be spread to every student and school."
—Thomas W. Payzant, superintendent, Boston Public Schools

"A thoughtful and important update on the power and potential of information technology in education, and a must-read for anyone wondering if the computer revolution can and should make it to our nation’s classroom."
—Michael J. Feuer, executive director, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, The National Academics

"Scaling Up Success offers two important benefits. First, the authors provide very useful and interesting examples of technology-based innovations. Second, the authors’ discussions of the challenges involved in taking improvements to scale have relevance beyond technology."
—Susan Fuhrman, dean, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

"Scaling Up Success includes an impressive array of authors in one volume and provides key lessons learned on the reform scale up process, and on the transfer technological innovations in particular."
—Amanda Datnow, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787976590
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Series: The Jossey-Bass Education Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Dede is the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

James P. Honan is a lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Laurence C. Peters currently directs the Mid-Atlantic Regional Technology in Education (MAR*TEC) based at Temple University, Philadelphia. Prior to taking this position, he was a senior education policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton Administration.

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Read an Excerpt

Scaling Up Success

By Chris Dede

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-7659-8

Chapter One



Fred Carrigg, Margaret Honey, Ron Thorpe

Successful reforms at the district level are being scaled up for statewide implementation in New Jersey.

GIVEN THE IMPORTANCE of local context, relevance, and ownership in achieving success in education initiatives, how do lessons from a local success get translated into policy that spreads the success to schools in more widespread jurisdictions? How can that policy be implemented so that fidelity of outcome is not sacrificed to fidelity of program? This chapter looks at two levels of scaling up-within a district and within a state-to examine emerging practices and strategies aimed at maintaining the integrity of an initiative as it expands to meet statewide objectives and outcomes. Our analysis is grounded in three broad assumptions:

There is limited understanding of how to take a successful local education model and convert it into state-level policy that achieves similar results throughout the state.

Coherence and support across state, district, and school levels are essential to an effective scaling-up process.

Ultimate success is anchored in the opportunity schools and districts have to localize practices while maintaining high levels of coherence and consistency concerning the goals and principles of a given policy.

This chapter grows out of more than a decade of successful school reform work in Union City, New Jersey. Because of school reform efforts in this Latino, urban district-which in 1989 ranked second lowest in the state-more than 80 percent of Union City students meet state standards, the number of students attending first-tier and second-tier colleges and universities has increased dramatically, and the number of students opting out of school has seen a remarkable decline. Much of the district's reform efforts can be credited to the leadership of Fred Carrigg, Union City's executive director of academic programs for more than twelve years. In 2002, Carrigg accepted a new position in the New Jersey Department of Education. As special assistant to the commissioner for urban literacy, he is entrusted with finding ways to replicate Union City's accomplishments in the poorest districts in the state. Using Carrigg's own reflections and the observations of the researchers who worked with him, this chapter follows his efforts from program development and implementation at the district level through the translation into state policy and the first steps toward statewide implementation.

Getting Beyond Idiosyncrasy

The world of public schools seems to foster a deep-seated belief in idiosyncrasy, the notion that every classroom, school, or district is unique. In our view, this way of thinking reflects a belief in local control and autonomy rather than a devotion to quirkiness. On the good side, this belief allows everyone to feel special and each organization to make decisions based on local preferences; on the bad side, the belief stands as a barrier to the replication of good ideas and practices. It is all too common to hear educators at all levels speak admiringly of a program that is successful somewhere else but cannot possibly work in their local situation. This culture of idiosyncrasy presents an obstacle to efforts to take good programs to scale. It also reveals a much deeper challenge: the basic nature of the educational infrastructure in what we call a system of public schools is so powerfully lacking in alignment that it is difficult for improvement efforts to move in any direction.

These realities are especially confounding to policymakers at the state level, where ultimate responsibility for school quality resides, and at the local level, where teaching and learning take place. Not only do state administrators have trouble getting all their districts to adopt promising models or implement policy in a consistent and coherent way, but district superintendents also have trouble scaling up good practice among their schools. Even a principal may run into resistance when trying, for example, to get a good model into all third-grade classrooms or across all sections of ninth-grade English in her school. The challenge increases exponentially when a goal requires full-school integration among all teachers in a school, district, or state.

Another internal barrier to scaling up is resistance. Public school teachers, if they have been in the system for any time at all, are well accustomed to wave after wave of new ideas being thrown in their path. Whether the ideas come from a principal or a superintendent or from the chief state school officer via the state legislature or federal government, most teachers have learned that if they avoid the idea long enough, it will be replaced by the next equally ephemeral one. Such avoidance is especially easy to pull off in high-need and urban districts where leadership turnover is rapid and the interests of many different external forces tend to ebb and flow. Understanding the nature of the system is critical; simply having a good model to replicate-either by volition or compulsion-is not enough. The task must be imagined in the fullest possible context, including incentives, time lines, feedback loops, potential areas of compromise, deployment of personnel and resources, and changes to the environment; dedicated effort is needed to ensure that avoidance or turning back is not possible.

Policy Can Prime the Pump for Scaling Up

Scale is a relative term. A teacher might pilot some new approach in one class and then, based on its success, implement the same approach in all her classes. A principal might support introducing a program into the early grades of an elementary school and later try to spread it to all grades in that school. A district might introduce a science program in all of its schools, while a state might target all of its districts or a cluster of districts facing a similar need with a comprehensive literacy initiative. All of these efforts involve scaling up, and with each move to a level that encompasses more people, institutions, and physical facilities, the complexities increase by a quantum leap. This chapter describes a case of scaling up within the schools of Union City, New Jersey, and efforts to achieve similar results statewide through policy derived from this experience. We start with a close look at a districtwide reform effort and the implementation strategies and policies that appear to be associated with its success.

Later, we will look at a bold effort to translate the specific policies that worked in Union City into state policies targeted at twenty-nine disadvantaged districts and all Title I schools in New Jersey.

A Research Context One of the most comprehensive studies concerning the impact of state policy on local instruction and learning practices is described in Learning Policy: When State Education Reform Works, by David Cohen and Heather Hill (2001). Their research presents findings from a decade-long study of a large-scale reform effort in California that was designed to improve the teaching of mathematics. The authors explore that reform effort in order to understand (1) the relationship between policy and practice, (2) the transferability of those lessons to other similar initiatives, and (3) how the resulting evidence can be used to improve policy and the nature of educational reform. The findings are based on research into the professional development available to California teachers and on surveys of nearly six hundred teachers who were involved.

Since the policy was successful for some teachers and students but not for others, as measured by performance improvement on the California Learning Assessment System tests, the authors analyzed the data further to shed light on possible explanations. Cohen and Hill conclude that the policy established by the California Department of Education improved the teaching and learning of mathematics only when teachers had sustained and significant opportunities to make sense of the reform initiative in their local context. While this finding strongly suggests that professional development was the key to success, by looking more deeply at the data, the authors further establish that it was among "teachers whose learning was focused around study of students' work on the new state assessments" that the greatest gains were found (Cohen and Hill, 2001, p. 3). In other words, it is not enough for policy to promote a particular curriculum by exposing teachers to it; effective professional development helps teachers gain a deep understanding of that curriculum as it appears in student work.

Policies that aim to improve teaching and learning depend on complex chains of causation. Making the policies work depends on defining and connecting the links in those chains. One crucial element in many of those links is instructional content: policies that offer professionals suitable chances to learn and coherent guidance for teaching and learning increase the opportunities to connect policy and practice (Cohen and Hill, 2001, p. 8).

Also linked to successful outcomes is the degree of coherence in both curriculum and the accompanying professional development. Cohen and Hill's study identifies the three key areas in which coherence is needed among as well as within the elements: (1) the primary elements of the curriculum, (2) assessment, and (3) learning opportunities for teachers. The rarity of such coherence and the difficulty of achieving it can be seen in the fact that only 10 percent of teachers in California elementary schools reported that they were experiencing it.

Cohen and Hill posit that this lack of cohesion at least in part reflects the many layers of governance and responsibility that exist within education and how poorly they are connected. As policy travels from a state department of education across these layers, en route to the teachers who have ultimate responsibility for its implementation, its integrity is threatened. Cohen and Hill report, "For most California teachers, reform was substantially less coherent in their school than it was in Sacramento" (2001, p. 9).

How professional development is delivered to teachers also affects implementation, because current practice both localizes the delivery (thereby increasing the variation in how curricular content is delivered and received) and often assigns the work to contract providers who have less of a stake in the outcomes than professionals within the schools and districts. Cohen and Hill, as well as other researchers, have found that most professional development providers deliver programs that are grounded in training paradigms, focus on teachers as individuals, and tend to be short-term, with little follow-up (Little, 1981, 1993; Miller, Lord, and Dorney, 1994; Spillane, 2002).

In addition, a lack of quality curricular resources proved problematic in the California initiative (Cohen and Hill, 2001, p. 23). Although the state offered replacement units as transitional instructional tools until more effective curricular materials were developed, most districts purchased curricula from a handful of large, well-established commercial publishing firms. Other research confirms that textbooks structure approximately 75 to 90 percent of classroom instruction (Grouws and Cebulla, 2000; Woodward and Elliot, 1990). Traditional commercial textbooks dominate the instructional landscape; two-thirds of teachers report that they use them every day (Clements, 2002; Grouws and Cebulla, 2000). The large publishing companies, concerned with meeting state adoption requirements, often attempt to meet every objective of every state, resulting in an incoherent mix of instructional strategies that do little more than give the appearance of meeting state and national standards (Clements, 2002; Ginsburg, Klein, and Starkey, 1998).

A final factor that emerged as a powerful determinant of failed state policy in Cohen and Hill's study is the culture of professional individualism that governs the instructional work of the majority of teachers in most schools. On measures of instructional practice, teachers working in the same schools were only slightly more likely to resemble colleagues in their own buildings than they were to resemble teachers they did not know working in buildings hundreds of miles away (p. 176). In striking contrast, Cohen and Hill found that this individualism did not pervade all aspects of teachers' professional life. When asked about school conditions such as the state of parent involvement or student attrition, teachers were much more likely to agree with their building colleagues than with teachers they did not know. On technical and affective points, then, teachers had much more of a shared understanding. Still, Cohen and Hill suggest that for teachers in the United States, professionalism is synonymous with instructional individualism.

Cohen and Hill conclude by suggesting that policy is most likely to succeed in producing the desired outcomes under the following conditions:

Policy is understood as separate from the instruments used in deploying the policy (curriculum, assessment, and learning opportunities for teachers).

Teachers' knowledge goes beyond the framework of the reform effort.

Teachers and students have access to curricular materials.

Assessments enable students to demonstrate their learning.

Teachers have access to professional development that is grounded in student work.

Policy instruments are marked by consistency and coherence.

Safeguards ensure the integrity of the policy and its implementation as it moves from its source to those who must use it in the service of student achievement.

These recommendations are consistent with the findings of other policy researchers, as well as those who have studied large-scale education reform efforts (Bryk, Sebring, Kerbow, Rollow, and Easton, 1998; Elmore, 1995; Fullan and Pomfret, 1977; Fullan, 1991, 1994; 1999; McLaughlin, 1987, 1990; Pogrow, 2001). They provide a compelling context in which to discuss the policies of Union City and the proposed state policies derived from them.

Going to Scale at the District Level: Union City

In 1989, the Union City school district was the second-worst-performing district in New Jersey. It had failed forty-four of fifty-two indicators that the state uses to determine the efficacy of school systems; in fact, the state had threatened to take over governance unless radical and successful restructuring was implemented within five years. Such poor performance results are not surprising for a school district located in arguably the most densely populated U.S. city, which the Brookings Institute classifies among the ninety-two most impoverished communities in the nation. The student population, numbering approximately 11,600, has the following demographic profile:

93 percent Latino

75 percent living in homes where English is not spoken

86 percent receiving free or reduced-price lunches

Nearly 30 percent living below the poverty line

14 percent have been residents of the United States for less than three years

Thus, the transformation in academic achievement that the district experienced during the 1990s and has sustained into the current decade constitutes a surprising success story. By 1995, Union City's average scores on the state's eighth-grade readiness test surpassed those of its urban counterparts by as much as 20 percentage points. In one seven-year period, the percentage of students who received passing eighth-grade test scores jumped from 33 percent to 83 percent in reading, from 42 percent to 65 percent in writing, and from 50 percent to 84 percent in mathematics. By 2000, 80 percent of the high school students passed New Jersey's High School Proficiency Test. By 2002, Union City's test scores ranked highest among New Jersey cities with populations of 50,000 or more.


Excerpted from Scaling Up Success by Chris Dede Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword (Ellen Condliffe Lagemann).


1. Moving from Successful Local Practice to Effective State Policy: Lessons from Union City (Fred Carrigg, Margaret Honey, Ron Thorpe).

2. Dewey Goes Digital: Scaling Up Constructivist Pedagogies and the Promise of New Technologies (Martha Stone Wiske, David Perkins).

3. Adapting Innovations to Particular Contexts of Use: A Collaborative Framework (Barry J. Fishman).

4. Designing for Scalable Educational Improvement: Processes of Inquiry in Practice (Susan R. Goldman).

5. Scaling Up Professional Development in the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Chile (Laurence C. Peters).

6. Technology as Proteus: Digital Infrastructures That Empower Scaling Up (Chris Dede, Robert Nelson).

7. Scaling Up Data Use in Classrooms, Schools, and Districts (Sam Stringfield, Jeffrey C. Wayman, Mary E. Yakimowski-Srebnick).

8. Foundations for Success in the Great City Schools: Lessons from Some Faster-Improving Districts (Michael Casserly, Jason C. Snipes).

9. Scaling Up Technology-Based Educational Innovations (Barbara Means, William R. Penuel).

10. Critiquing and Improving the Use of Data from High-Stakes Tests with the Aid of Dynamic Statistics Software (Jere Confrey, Katie M. Makar).

11. Scaling Up Success: A Synthesis of Themes and Insights (Chris Dede, James P. Honan).

The Contributors.


Name Index.

Subject Index.

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