State Initiatives Can Foster School Improvement
States can play substantive and important roles in helping local schools. The article in this section, which stems from a study by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), document those elements of the change process that work to transform schools into more effective organizations.
Since the late 1970s, well before the start of the current reform movement in education, the states have been actively engaged in helping districts and individual schools to implement research findings on effective schools, effective teaching, and the processes of educational change. This article reports the findings of a study of the implementation and impact of these programs in local schools conducted by ECS. The basic finding of the study is that states can play several substantive and important roles in helping local schools—and the students, teachers, and principals in them—to improve over time.
The study identified those elements of the local change process that work to improve the skills of teachers and principals and to transform a school into an effective organization. The study also identified the various roles that states can play in the change process.
The key elements, and their sequencing and links over time, provide a general implementation structure that local schools can use as they put into place programs designed to improve the quality of education. The findings of the ECS study, when combined with other recent research on successful school improvement efforts, provide a relatively solid knowledge base on which local and state-level educators and policymakers can build strategies to implement most of the objectives of current state-mandated education reforms.
The ECS study focused in particular on two important questions: What are effective school improvement strategies at the state level? And under what conditions do state-level strategies work effectively in local schools? Using a case study approach, the researchers analyzed data collected in some 40 schools in 10 states. The study began in late 1983, and the fieldwork was completed in early 1985.
This article was originally published in The Phi Delta Kappan by Phi Delta Kappa International and Journal Storage (JSTOR).