Reforming Reading, Writing, and Mathematics: Teachers' Responses and the Prospects for Systemic Reform

Reforming Reading, Writing, and Mathematics: Teachers' Responses and the Prospects for Systemic Reform

Reforming Reading, Writing, and Mathematics: Teachers' Responses and the Prospects for Systemic Reform

Reforming Reading, Writing, and Mathematics: Teachers' Responses and the Prospects for Systemic Reform

Synopsis

In this book S. G. Grant reports his study of how four Michigan elementary school teachers manage a range of reforms (such as new tests, textbooks, and curriculum frameworks) in three different school subjects (reading, writing, and mathematics). Two significant findings emerge from his comparison of these responses: teachers' responses vary across classrooms (even when they teach in the same school building) and also across the reforms (a teacher might embrace reforms in one subject area, but ignore proposed changes in another).

This study of teachers' responses to reading, writing, and mathematics reform and the prospects for systemic reform is part of a growing trend to look at the intersection of curriculum policy and teachers' classroom practice. It is unique in the way the author looks at teachers' responses to multiple subject matter reforms; uses those responses as part of an analysis of the recent move toward systemic reform; and employs empirical findings as a means of examining the current movement toward systemic reform.

Reforming Reading, Writing, and Mathematics is important reading for researchers, practitioners, and graduate students of educational policy, teaching and learning in reading, writing, and mathematics, and elementary education, and for policy analysts in universities, foundations, and government.

Excerpt

This book represents a study within a study. The core study examines how teachers make sense of multiple subject matter reforms. More specifically, I examine the responses of four Michigan elementary school teachers to recent reforms in reading, writing, and mathematics and why their responses vary across both teachers and reforms. The outer study explores the prospects for the current movement known as systemic reform, which promotes coherence through the alignment of educational policies. Although conceptually separate, the two studies necessarily interact. The study of teachers' responses to multiple reforms helps us to understand some of the problems and possibilities the systemic agenda holds, and the systemic reform study provides a context for the study of teachers' reform responses.

Although it is becoming more common, the notion of talking to teachers as a means of understanding the importance of educational policy is relatively new. This approach challenges traditional conceptions of policy analysis in two ways: by elevating the perspective of teachers in relation to the policy process, and by promoting an alternative conception of that process that interprets policy as an instance of teaching and learning rather than one strictly of implementation. Considering these challenges, I argue that teachers play a different, but no less important, role than policymakers when policies are constructed (and reconstructed).

Chapter 1 provides the groundwork for both studies by sketching some of the ways that recent reform efforts differ from those in the past, and by introducing the four teachers and the cross-teacher and cross-reform variations in their reform responses. The chapter concludes with an overview of the many reasons advanced for those varied responses.

Chapters 3 through 6 are individual case studies where I describe and compare how teachers made sense of, and responded to, new and chal-

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