Successful School Improvement: The Implementation Perspective and Beyond

By Michael G. Fullan | Go to book overview

3: The School District and
Curriculum Implementation

Problems of curriculum implementation in school districts (LEAs) are widespread. Tight control or centralization at the district level alienates school people and/or narrows the curriculum. School autonomy or decentralization results in drift or at best small pockets of temporary success that go nowhere (Fullan 1991).

In this chapter I report on a case study of a medium-sized district - which I call East County - that has been comparatively successful in achieving districtwide co-ordination of curriculum implementation.* I first describe briefly the official curriculum model that the district has developed over a fifteen-year period. Second, I examine the 'model as practised', including the identification of key faetón affecting implementation. Third, I take up the question of the impact of the model. Finally, lessons and implications for implementation arising from the case study are derived. The purpose of this chapter is not to present East County as an exemplar of district practice. In fact, in light of later implementation work I raise some criticisms of the model in the final section of this chapter. But the case study does illustrate very well the implementation perspective when a district aggressively and explicitly pursues implementation issues.


The official model

The East County Board of Education was formed in 1969 from twelve smaller boards as part of the reorganization in the Province of Ontario, Canada, to larger units of administration. By 1986, the system had 17,500 students in 42 elementary schools and 8 secondary schools with approximately 1,000 teachers. I will not describe the methodology in detail (see Fullan et al. 1986). We conducted a case study, drawing on considerable in-house reports and evalu

* This case study is one of four conducted by Fullan et al. (1986).

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