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Cambridge University Press
Integrating Educational Systems for Successful Reform in Diverse Contexts / Edition 1

Integrating Educational Systems for Successful Reform in Diverse Contexts / Edition 1


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521674348
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 08/31/2006
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

Amanda Datnow is an Associate Professor of Education at the USC Rossier School of Education. She teaches in the EdD and PhD programs and is also the Associate Director of the Center on Educational Governance. She received her PhD from UCLA and was formerly a faculty member at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and at Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on the politics and policies of school reform, particularly with regard to the professional lives of educators and issues of equity.

Sue Lasky is an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville. She is also a Spencer fellow. Her areas of specialization are in systemic reform and school-family partnerships. Her current research focuses on identifying systemic linkages across the education policy system. She has worked in evaluation at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where she earned her doctorate and at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University.

Sam Stringfield is a Distinguished University Scholar and Co-Director of the Nystrand Center for Excellence in Education in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville. He is a founding editor of the Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk (JESPAR), and is currently serving as the acting chair of the Educational and Psychological Counseling Department. His research focuses on designs for improving programs within schools, for improving whole schools, for improving systemic supports for schools serving disadvantaged schools, and international comparisons of school effects.

Charles Teddlie is the Jo Ellen Levy Yates Distinguished Professor of Education at Louisiana State University (LSU). He received his PhD in Social Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently a Guest Professor at the Research Institute of Educational Economics and Administration at Shenyang Normal University in China. He also served as the Assistant Superintendent for Research and Development at the Louisiana Department of Education. Teddlie's major writing interests are social science research methodology and school effectiveness research. He has taught research methods courses for over twenty years including statistics and qualitative research methods.

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Integrating educational systems for successful reform in diverse contexts
Cambridge University Press
0521857562 - Integrating educational systems for successful reform in diverse contexts - by Amanda Datnow, Sue Lasky, Sam Stringfield and Charles Teddlie




This book reports the findings of an extensive review of literature of research on educational reform in school systems serving racially and linguistic minority youth. Our aim is to identify strategies for supporting reform in educational settings serving these students. In doing so, we place particular emphasis on identifying the linkages between systemic levels (e.g., school, district, community) that are important in the process of school improvement.

   Thus, the purpose of the volume is to develop an understanding of what might be needed at the teacher, school, district, state, and federal levels for educational reform to be successful in multicultural, multilingual settings. We define reform as an innovation intended to improve education (e.g., standards-based reform, site-based management, school reconstitution), rather than simply a change for change sake. We know from prior research that reform will rarely succeed without coordinated support from multiple levels (e.g., school, district, state), and that reform is rarely sustained if built on technical models alone. Political support and belief changes are required at multiple levels of the system. Instead of trying to identify“one best system,” the goal of this volume is to identify approaches that are adaptable and contextually sensitive. In particular, our aim is to identify strategies for supporting reform in school systems serving culturally and linguistically diverse communities.


This review of research covers studies that were conducted between 1983 and 2004. However, the majority of research reviewed was conducted between the mid-1990s and 2003. We chose 1983 as the beginning point because that is the year in which A Nation At Risk was published, a report that placed school reform on national, state, and local agendas. Another significant marker for the research we are reviewing is O’Day and Smith’s (1993) proposal for systemic reform, which sparked a significant amount of research and policy change across the country. We include primarily research conducted in the United States.

   We reviewed both quantitative and qualitative research. We attempted to apply rigorous, yet practical standards for inclusion. In terms of quantitative research, we attempted to focus on quasi-experimental studies of student achievement that use matched control group designs. However, the number of studies that fit this criterion is limited, and we have also included a limited number of other quantitative studies that meet relatively high standards of quality. We have also included survey research, where applicable.

   In terms of qualitative research, we included longitudinal case studies or shorter but rigorous ethnographic studies. We did not include qualitative studies that involve very limited time spent in schools or with very limited numbers of interviews and/or observations or those that were journalistic in nature. We did not include purely theoretical or opinion pieces, but included thoroughly researched historical studies.

   Finally, some of the scholarship that addresses policy-level issues, particularly regarding federal policy, is primarily descriptive. For example, the creation of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), including Titles Ⅰ and Ⅶ, the series of federal special education suits, and their historic funding levels are simply matters of public record.

   Given that we are seeking to focus on reform in multilingual or multicultural contexts, we only included research that took place in settings that are racially and / or linguistically diverse. Most urban areas in the United States are racially diverse; thus, we did not find our criteria for racial diversity to be a limiting factor. However, the research on reform in linguistically diverse settings is much more limited. As Goldenberg (1996) pointed out in his review of effective schooling for limited-English-proficient (LEP) students,

The biggest gap seems to be in studies that examine processes, substance, and outcomes of strategies for making schools more effective and successful for LEP students. The paucity of such research is striking, particularly if we consider the vast literature on effective schools and school change that has emerged since the 1970s and the concomitant rise in LEP students in U.S. schools. Even studies with the potential to shed light on issues of successful schooling for LEP students often do not do so. For example, Chasin and Levin (1995) provide a case study of an “Accelerated School” (elementary level) where 13 different languages were spoken, but they do not report students’ English-learning status, address concerns that are specific to their educational experiences, nor report changes in any outcomes for these students. Similarly, Wilson and Corcoran (1988) report on secondary schools that are successful with “at risk” – poor and minority – students. Since the schools had sizable Asian and Latino populations, it is almost certain that many of these students were LEP, but again, language backgrounds and English-learning status of students are not addressed. (Goldenberg 1996, p. 1)

   We found the same to be true in this review of literature a decade later. Goldenberg (1996) said, “However, findings from the more ‘generic’ effective schools research are probably applicable to LEP students, even if LEP issues are not specifically highlighted nor directly addressed. Indeed, these findings probably serve as reasonable starting points, although obviously a number of other factors related to language, culture, or immigration experience are also likely to come into play for LEP students” (p. 1). We proceeded with our review in a similar fashion, highlighting the diverse contexts in which the research took place, even if the authors of the studies did not see them as salient to their findings.

   We have generally limited our review to research that focuses on reform, with the exception of research focused on the school level because we believed there was important research on school effectiveness that needed to be included. Also, the chapter on the role of the reform design team addresses issues of school-level reform. We also tried to find as many studies as possible that deal with at least two levels of the system (e.g., state and district, district and school). Our focus is such because our synthesis team activity focused on identifying linkages between levels; hence, we reviewed research that speaks to these linkages. The linkages are perhaps most explicit in the chapters that address the state, district, and community, where the majority of studies were found.

   We hypothesize that examining linkages across policy domains will provide insights that can inform the fields of educational research, policy development, and evaluation. However, in trying to identify the linkages between the domains that make up the policy system, it became readily apparent that there is a dearth of empirical research that has as its primary goal identifying or describing such linkages. This gap in the reform literature reflects a systemic weakness in understanding why reform efforts have not been more successfully sustained.

   A linkage is in essence a bridge between at least two policy domains. It creates the connection between two otherwise disconnected points. It is an expression of existing capacity, while also being a potential aspect of capacity building. Linkages can be formal, as in official mandates or policies, or informal, as in telephone communications or e-mails between colleagues. Linkages can also be structural, as with funding that comes from states or the federal government to support schools. They can also be relational, as when district leaders work with friends or professional colleagues in the community as a way to develop partnerships.

   Linkages can be ideological. This is especially important when reform stakeholders hold different beliefs or ideologies about the purposes of reform, how reform should look, or how it should be achieved. Linkages can be created, destroyed, or simply not used when implementing reform. Coordination of the movement of human and material resources across the linkage is as important as the linkage between two policy domains. A linkage is only a passageway or pathway between two or more policy domains; it is not necessarily reflective of how it is (or is not) used, nor is it reflective of the quality of the resources or communications that cross it.

   Our volume begins with a conceptual framework. We then proceed to a review of research on reform by level (e.g., school, district, community, state, design team, federal). In each case, we use the particular level as a lens through which to review linkages with other levels and to identify key areas of capacity building to support reform implementation. In all cases, the effect on the school level is highlighted because this is the arena of central interest. We then discuss the methodological issues in the study of systemic integration for effective reform and close with a review of key points, implications, and directions for future research.


This review presumes that educational reform is a co-constructed process (Datnow, Hubbard, and Mehan 2002). Clearly, educational reform involves formal structures. We propose that it also involves both formal and informal linkages among those structures. Yet, reform involves a dynamic relationship, not just among structures but also among cultures and people’s actions in many interlocking settings. In the following paragraphs, we first will present a model of formal structure and then a discussion of the more complex sense of the co-constructive processes of reform adaptation and implementation.


We begin with a static model of the systemic-school-teacher space. The model does not explain change or reform but provides a series of reference points for each of the levels of review (e.g., federal, school, classroom) that follow. The model also demonstrates the complexity of the task of reform, underscoring the importance of a human organizational/creative role in creating and sustaining any change from stasis.

   The U.S. education system is nothing if not colorfully complex. The federal Department of Education is intended to support the education of young people. These include, but are certainly not limited to, Title Ⅰ (known as “No Child Left Behind”), migrant and bilingual education, special education legislation and court rulings, Perkins-Ⅲ funding to support career and technical education (formerly known as vocational education), and Head Start. The latter two programs illustrate that complexity: Head Start is funded and administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, while career and technical education are funded through the Department of Education. A third example of the complexity of federal involvement in the education system is special education. Federal courts have ruled on several special education issues, in effect making special education a very substantial source of required action for local educators.

   Fifty state governments as well as the educational governing bodies of the District of Columbia, the schools of the U.S. military, and the schools in various U.S. protectorates all have separate governance organizations. For simplicity’s sake, we will discuss these as “state government,” while noting that other structures exist within the United States. The term “state department of education” has a range of meanings. For example, in terms of geographic size and number of students, Rhode Island could fit inside Dade County, Florida; yet, the latter is one school district. There are fewer students in all of Wyoming than in the Denver school system, and fewer students in all of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana combined than in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Hawaii operates all of its schools within a single, unified school district spread across several islands. Montana, like Hawaii, has fewer than 1 million residents, but more than 700 school districts.

   Local school districts (or local education authorities, LEAs) are even more diverse than state education agencies (or SEAs). There are more than fifteen thousand LEAs in the United States. Some are reputed to have more school board members than employees and serve under 100 students, while New York City’s school system serves over 1 million students. Within the United States, approximately twenty-five LEAs each serve more than one hundred thousand students. Some districts serve only elementary schools, others only high schools, and a few serve pre-K through community college populations. Many districts serve entire counties, while others serve carefully gerrymandered, very small communities. There are more than ninety thousand public schools in the United States. They range from one-room, K–12 facilities to campuses serving several thousand students in only two to four grades.

   The most cursory examination of Figure 1 makes clear that while each of over a half-dozen sources of influence on students’ education affect their achievement, no single source can lay rational claim to being “the major” or “controlling” influence.1 Rather, as will be discussed below, virtually any educational change process that is likely to be long-lived is, in part, negotiated among multiple levels of our educational system.

FIGURE 1. A Static Representation of the Relationships of Educational Organization Types and Their Potential Influences on Students

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   At each “level” of this review, we will return to both the formal structure and the research indicating that reform stakeholders co-construct actual reforms, both within and among levels. Borrowing from the work of Datnow, Hubbard, and Mehan (2002), we believe that formulating educational reform as a co-constructed process is helpful in making sense of the complex, and often messy, process of school change. Educators’ actions in schools shape and are shaped by actions simultaneously occurring in diverse contexts, including the classroom, school, district, reform design team, state, and federal levels. Interactions at one policy level can generate “outcomes,” such as policy statements, new rules, or new procedures, which in turn potentially condition the interactions of other actors in other contexts in the policy chain (Hall and McGinty 1997). This book looks at the possibilities enabled by and the constraints imposed on school reform by conditions in these various settings.

   Datnow, Hubbard, and Mehan (2002) emphasized the relationship between structure, culture, and agency and illustrated how this dynamic works in the implementation of school reform. They took the premise that social structures are the contingent outcomes of practical activities of individuals. Real people – confronting real problems in classrooms, school board meetings, and reform design labs – interact together and produce the texts, the rules, and the guidelines that are essential in the school change process. Reform implementation is not an exclusively linear process by which design teams, districts, or states “insert” reforms or policies into schools. Rather, educators in schools, policy makers in districts, and design teams co-construct reform adoption, implementation, and sustainability. Whether reforms “succeed” is a joint accomplishment of actors at various levels, operating within their own particular constraints.

   The theoretical framework guiding the work of Datnow, Hubbard, and Mehan (2002) was somewhat similar to Fullan’s (1999) use of complexity theory as a vehicle for understanding school change, as well as Helsby’s (1999) use of structure, culture, and agency as a vehicle for addressing how reforms change teachers’ work. Both Fullan and Helsby argued that change unfolds in unpredictable and nonlinear ways through the interaction of individuals in different settings under conditions of uncertainty, diversity, and instability.

   In addition to finding a defense for these tenets of change, Datnow, Hubbard, and Mehan (2002) paid attention to the role of power and perspective in shaping reform implementation. They acknowledged that educators in schools must sometimes respond to realities that are created among powerful people and organizations – some who may have accrued power due to their institutional, race, class, or gender position (Erickson and Shultz 1982; Mehan, Hertweck, and Meihls 1986). They also acknowledged that the meaning of reform varies according to a person’s or organization’s perspective (Bakhtin 1981; Garfinkel 1967).

   Contexts are inevitably connected to other contexts (Sarason 1997) throughout the social system. By necessity, in this review and in most studies of reform, the interaction among social actors in one context is foregrounded, and by necessity, the other contexts are backgrounded. In the sections that follow, we foreground particular levels of the system – school, district, community, state, federal, and design team – while backgrounding the linkages at other levels.


This volume is organized into nine chapters. Chapter 2, which was written primarily by Charles Teddlie, foregrounds the school level and identifies what we mean by effective school practices for racially and linguistically diverse students. Chapter 3, authored primarily by Sue Lasky, focuses on the district as a policy domain and explores linkages across the policy system from a district perspective. Chapter 4, also written primarily by Lasky, examines the community context and community linkages that can affect school reform processes. Chapter 5, also written primarily by Lasky, foregrounds the state as a policy domain and explores linkages across the policy system through a state lens. Chapter 6, written primarily by Amanda Datnow, highlights comprehensive school reform designs as key linkages between the federal government and schools. Chapter 7, written primarily by Sam Stringfield, foregrounds the role of the federal government in directing and supporting school reform and discusses linkages through the federal lens. Chapter 8, authored primarily by Charles Teddlie, focuses on methodological issues in the study of systemic integration for effective school reform. Chapter 9 provides a final discussion and identifies areas for future research.

© Cambridge University Press

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; 1. Introduction; 2. School level improvement efforts; 3. District level reform efforts; 4. Community level reform efforts; 5. State level reform efforts; 6. The role of reform design teams; 7. The role of the Federal Government in reform efforts; 8. Methodological issues in the study of systemic integration for effective reform; 9. Discussion and conclusion; Bibliography.

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