Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Education Policy

Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Education Policy

Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Education Policy

Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Education Policy

Synopsis

What happens to federal and state policies as they move from legislative chambers to individual districts, schools, and, ultimately, classrooms? Although policy implementation is generally seen as an administrative problem, James Spillane reminds us that it is also a psychological problem. After intensively studying several school districts' responses to new state-wide science and math teaching policies in the early 1990s, Spillane argues that administrators and teachers are inclined to assimilate new policies into current practices. As new programs are communicated through administrative levels, the understanding of them becomes increasingly distorted, no matter how sincerely the new ideas are endorsed. Such patterns of well-intentioned misunderstanding highlight the need for systematic training and continuing support for the local administrators and teachers who are entrusted with carrying out large-scale educational change, classroom by classroom.

Excerpt

Administrators and teachers in Lakeside school district, far from the hubbub of state policymaking, became increasingly busy with education policy during the 1990s. Tucked away on the southern shore of Lake Superior in northern Michigan, Lakeside enrolls fewer than a thousand students and has a district office made up of a superintendent, assistant superintendent, and secretary. In Lakeside, Ann Smith, a full-time teacher, was the districts chief instructional policymaker for science during the 1990s. With a committee of teacher volunteers, Smith, a twenty-year veteran of Lakeside's middle school, spearheaded the districts efforts to develop policies for K–12 science education. These policies were designed to fundamentally revise what science content was to be taught, when and how it was to be taught, and which classroom materials were to be used. Smith's soft-spoken manner belies her self-described risk-taking, take-charge, [type A] personal-

All names used in this book are pseudonyms.

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