How State Education Reform Can Improve Secondary Schools—Part I

Study Findings
Allan R. Odden
University of Wisconsin–Madison
David D. Marsh
University of Southern California


In 1983, California enacted a comprehensive bill (Senate Bill 813) containing dozens of education reform provisions. The scope of the proposed changes had no previous parallel. The bill's many ideas for school improvement, if implemented, potentially could have altered the curriculum and instructional practices of virtually every school in the state.

However, despite the bill's sweeping scope, and the large accompanying revenue increases, it included neither a proven effective reform philosophy nor a cohesive school change strategy. At the most fundamental level, Senate Bill 813 represented a return to conventional wisdom, a set of aspirations intended to restore California's education system to a former level of achievement and academic rigor.

Many of Senate Bill 813's provisions could be linked logically to school improvement. Nevertheless, a question remained as to whether districts could implement them in a systematic manner. Also, little was known about the interactive effects of such a large number of reform ideas being enacted simultaneously. Could local school districts and schools cope with this level of complexity? In short, after all the excitement of enactment, could local districts weld together Senate Bill 813's disparate provisions into a coherent and forceful set of tools for school improvement'?

The purpose of this study was to understand how selected California schools reacted to state school improvement inducements and mandates. Specifically, the study assessed whether or not reform components contained in Senate Bill 813 could contribute to school improvement, and, if so, how?

Suggested citationOdden, A. R., & Marsh, D. D. (1987, December). How state education reform can improve secondary schools: Part I: Study findings [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.