By: Diane Massell
TO: National Education Goals Panel
FROM: Diane Massell
RE: Clarifying Questions about Persistence
and Change: Standards-Based Reform in Nine States
DATE: May 9, 1997
The attached report, Persistence and
Change: Standards-Based Reform in Nine States, (Attachment
A) is hereby submitted for the consideration of the National Education
Goals Panel. This report looks at the progress of standards-based
reform initiatives undertaken by California, Connecticut, Florida,
Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas
as of the 1994-95 year. CPRE studied the evolution of state policy
and its impact in a sample of districts in each state.
In response to this report, your staff posed
additional clarifying questions. This memorandum is an attempt
to respond to those inquiries. I draw from our knowledge of reform
in the above-mentioned nine states, as well as other CPRE research
undertaken for other purposes.
Regarding Curriculum and Textbook
You asked: "What provision are
states making to support the development of curriculum that reflect
their new state standards? Are they either developing such curriculum
themselves, or helping local districts develop or adopt such curriculum?
Are state's offering grants, creating resource centers or clearing
houses, sponsoring curriculum-related meetings, institutes, training
sessions, networks, technical assistance, or undertaking other
activities? Are local districts taking the initiative to develop
curriculum based on their own state standards? Please describe.
Are districts developing curricula for the standards? How and
to what extent are they doing so? Is it fair to say that there
is an important step in standards implementation missing here?
Are states doing anything to encourage
local district use of textbooks and instructional materials that
reflect the standards? What do textbook adoption states such as
California and Texas do to ensure that textbooks approved for
use in their states express their state standards? How do they
do it? What, if anything, do other states do to encourage the
development, adoption, and use of good textbooks or other instructional
materials geared to help students meet the state standards? Do
the state's encourage the use of NSF-funded or other independently
developed instructional materials? To what extent are local districts
themselves selecting high quality, standards-based textbooks?"
The strategies states use to influence and
support curriculum that meets the standards varies widely, depending
on a number of factors. One primary influence is the ways in
which state and local policymakers negotiate the terrain of "local
control" over education. Most state policymakers proclaim
the importance of local control as a factor that constrains their
ability to input the school curricula. However, what this means
in Connecticut, for example, is very different from what it means
in Iowa. In Iowa, for example, the state does not even mandate
a statewide assessment-a common practice for other states in the
union. While less than half the states adopt lists of recommended
or required textbooks, many other states are prohibited by law
from mandating any particular curriculum. State strategies for
enabling curriculum reform must toe the line of these different
In addition, variations in state strategies
for supporting curriculum development also arise because of differences
in the resources, knowledge, and numbers of staff available both
within state departments of education and across other organizations
in the state. For over ten years, the dollars and numbers of
staff at State Departments of Education have been steadily declining
(Massell and Fuhrman, 1994). In California, for instance, the
Department has lost nearly 50 percent of its staff since 1991,
leaving it with just one math and science specialist (Carlos and
Kirst, 1997). These changes raise the importance of other institutions
and externally-funded projects as facilitators of curriculum development.
We found that projects like the multiple Systemic Initiatives
supported by the National Science Foundation, or local foundation
efforts, were providing critical resources for curriculum development
and implementation. But the extent to which states have independent,
external sources of institutional support for curriculum development
varies. Comparatively speaking, for instance, California is rich
in the types and numbers of external organizations involved in
curriculum development and reform.
Having explained why approaches to
curricular support vary, let me now go on to describe specific
ways in which states try to leverage curriculum change. One common
strategy has been for states simply to provide the incentives,
and key data, for schools and districts to make decisions about
revising their curriculum to meet state standards. In this model
of change, for example, Connecticut and Kentucky established a
new student assessment program tied to higher standards, and designed
approaches to accountability that they believed would spur alignment
and provide locals with the information they needed to change
While Kentucky is a materials-adoption state,
in the earliest years of Kentucky's reform (the early 1990s),
curriculum specialists and others were reported to have strongly
discouraged teachers from using textbooks. In the constructivist
spirit that the best curricula is tailored by the teachers to
the specific educational needs of their students, many Kentucky
officials believed that it would undermine reform to use textbooks,
or to provide teachers or districts with highly specific curriculum
programs. As mentioned in the Persistence and Change report,
however, teachers and local administrators were at a loss as to
how to develop or carry out the kinds of comprehensive curriculum
changes that was necessary to meet the demands of the high-stakes
reform climate. They demanded more guidance from the state, and
later did receive it in the form of more detailed core content
standards. Kentucky has also encouraged independent efforts
that had curriculum components that were in line with Kentucky's
standards. For example, they provided some support for the Galef
Institute-Kentucky Collaborative for Elementary Learning, which
has a primary school curriculum (Different Ways of Knowing) aligned
to their reforms.
More recently, officials in Kentucky have
begun discussing ways to evaluate and disseminate information
about existing curricula to help locals make the leap from data
on student and school performance to specific curriculum and instruction
that can help them make improvements. Similarly, Connecticut
officials believe that their next major task is to build local
awareness of how to select well-matched and high quality curricular
material, of which they feel there is a good supply. Like many
states, they are, for example, sharing information about the new
curricula coming from the National Science Foundation.
California undertook a more multi-layered
approach to the challenge of helping local educators develop and
implement curricula aligned to its standards. While the state
has a long tradition of textbook adoption, officials did not rely
exclusively on that strategy. In part they realized that getting
the industry to reconceptualize their materials in the way the
new curriculum frameworks required would not happen easily. Many
were also aware that textbooks alone would not be sufficient to
bring about the broad kinds of curriculum changes they wanted
to see. Thus, the state supported multiple strategies for curriculum
Let us look at the case of mathematics reform.
After developing its new mathematics framework in 1985, the State
Board of Education used it to try to push publishers to develop
more innovative curriculum. Although they rejected many texts-much
to the publishers surprise at the time-officials were not satisfied
with the outcome. At that time California decided to sponsor
the development of "replacement units," which were new
curriculum modules focused on specific mathematical topics in
the state framework. Similarly, when the state received a Statewide
Systemic Initiatives grant from the National Science Foundation
in 1991, they funded a Mathematics Renaissance initiative, a network
aimed at replacing traditional computation and drill curriculum
with new framework-based lesson units for middle schools.1
At the high school level, California introduced
a new transitional course consistent with standards reforms called
Math A. Math A is designed to upgrade general math courses and
serve as a bridge to get more lower-achieving students into college
preparatory math courses. It replaces general math with a course
that stresses powerful content, an emphasis on problem-solving,
real-world applications, empirical reasoning, and the use of questioning
strategies, manipulatives, calculators, and cooperative learning.
A CPRE study found that transition math courses resulted in many
improvements in practice. After taking this class, students ended
up taking more challenging math in later years. Students learned
more and more challenging as well as practical (real-life) material,
and had a better opinion of math and a higher sense of self-esteem
than students in lower-level math courses (White, Porter, Gamoran,
and Smithson 1996).
Perhaps the most central piece of California's
strategy to align classroom teaching and curriculum with the frameworks,
however, was the use of teacher networks. While there are many
of these, the Subject Matter Projects (SMPs) stand out as well-established
and exemplary. The origins of the SMPs can be traced to the Bay
Area Writing project (BAWP), first established over twenty years
ago. Building on this model, the Subject Matter Projects were
created to expand the number of teachers and teacher leaders knowledgeable
about curriculum. The legislature provided them with funding
in three-year cycles, which both provided stability and enabled
interested teachers to make a long-term commitment and evolve
into a cadre of teacher leaders. By 1994, the SMPs were running
in 90 sites as of 1994, and represented work in 11 curriculum
areas. Through several-week summer institutes and follow-up
training through the year, participating teachers have had the
opportunity to reflect on and develop instructional and curricular
strategies and projects.
These types of efforts seem to have been
effective in beginning the transformation of teaching towards
more ambitious standards. In a 1994-95 CPRE survey of California
elementary school teachers' response to state mathematics reforms,
researchers found that teachers' participation in workshops2 centered
on the new student curriculum had important impacts on teachers'
behavior and classroom practices. Compared to teachers who were
involved in more generic types of workshops, these experiences
prompted teachers' involvement in reform-related activities and
reform-related instruction. Better yet, the study found that
these changes seemed to translate into students' success on the
statewide mathematics test (then, the California Learning Assessment
System) (Cohen, Wilson, and Hill, 1997). Some observers also believe
that these networks of teachers will help stabilize and protect
reform from shifting political winds in education policy (Loucks-Horsley,
Certainly, as these examples demonstrate,
states have not ignored the important issue of bridging the gap
between standards and local practice via curriculum. Yet clearly
local educators want and need more external guidance and support
for curriculum and instruction than they receive. What support
they get frequently comes from the commercial publishers whose
textbooks they have adopted, on a one-shot workshop basis. While
some states have taken some important steps to help districts
and schools "flesh out" the curricular implications
of the standards, it would be fair to say that an enormous amount
needs to be done. Some of the California efforts, for example,
had only scratched the surface of the teaching population. By
1994, only 2 percent of its teachers were estimated to have been
involved in the Subject Matter Projects. States' strategies-ranging
from efforts to leverage change in the commercial publishing industry,
sponsorship of curriculum development, or sponsorship of curriculum
development as part of professional development, evaluation and
dissemination of knowledge about existing curricula-need more
focus and support from state policymakers.
Whatever path is taken, state policymakers
must also be reminded of the lessons learned about the National
Science Foundation's efforts to develop and implement state-of-the-art
curricula from the late-1950s through the 1970s. That lesson
was, and is, that curricula is not teacher-proof, and that long-term
professional develop and support is critical to effective change
in classroom instruction. For example, supporting teachers to
implement a new textbook can be as minimal as a district curriculum
specialist providing a sequencing guide for teachers pace their
instruction in the new textbook to match up to the topics covered
in the statewide exam. Such support does nothing to help teachers
understand new, richer content or more appropriate instructional
strategies. In the astute observation of Richard Elmore about
the NSF curriculum reforms of the 1950s through 1970s:
"The reformers saw the problem of change in a charmingly simple way-get some teachers to try out a new approach to teaching by exposing them to it in a summer workshop and then provide them with the materials they need to teach it on a regular basis. The reformers failed to understand..the multitude of forces that operate on the seemingly simple problem of why teachers teach the way they do. The biggest determinants of how teachers teach are factors like how they themselves were taught, what they actually know about the content they are teaching, how knowledge is defined by individual teachers and by the organizations in which they work, and what access teachers have to new knowledge and to models about how to teach differently. Trying to change teaching by changing curriculum is a bit like trying to improve one's writing by changing the word processing software in one's computer An incompetent, poorly educated teacher, without access to the support necessary to think and teach differently, will turn the best filet mignon curriculum into meatloaf." (Elmore, 1993, pp. 48-49).
In addition to professional support for teachers, policymakers must not neglect the often critical brokering role played by state and local central office staff in interpreting, and deploying resources, for schools to undertake curricular change.
Regarding Instruction and Professional
You asked: "Have states or state
universities made any effort to encourage pre-service teacher
education programs to prepare new teachers with the knowledge
and skills to help students meet state education standards? How
do states encourage in-service professional development opportunities
for classroom teachers to acquire the knowledge and skills called
for in state education standards? Are there instances where teachers,
teacher educators, or others have identified what teachers need
to know to teach students to meet the standards, and have they
tried to design pre-service or in-service experiences to do so?
State policymakers, and increasingly university officials, are aware of the critical need to improve teacher education and state teacher policies, and move them in line with the more demanding instructional goals embedded in state standards. One important goal reformers have identified is to expand teachers' knowledge of the subject areas in which they teach. Some states have consequently tried to improve the disciplinary learning that occurs in teacher preparation programs by requiring more credits in academic subject areas, imposing discipline-based tests of entry-level teachers, and expanding interactions between faculty in the liberal arts and sciences and faculty in teacher education programs.
Connecticut is a state that has undertaken change in several of these areas. For example, in 1989 the state first implemented its Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) program. BEST pairs beginning teachers with veteran classroom teachers trained as mentors in peer coaching, team teaching, and using instructional resources, and new teachers must successfully complete the BEST program to receive a provisional certificate. Through its participation in the national Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC)3, Connecticut developed and piloted new, discipline-based teacher performance evaluations in BEST which uses teaching portfolios and is congruent with state instructional reform goals.
Secondly, the Connecticut SSI initiative
provided grants to university faculty to redesign teacher education
curricula. Through what they called "co-teaching partnerships,"
K-12 and college faculty jointly taught content and pedagogy courses,
and college faculty visited and co-taught in K-12 classes to see
how standards were being implemented. Studies found that these
efforts had laid the groundwork for the restructuring whole degree
programs in mathematics, science, and teacher education in several
of the institutions. However, as could be anticipated, change
was not universal; inertia or poorly conceived designs for the
grants caused some initiatives to fall short (Bruckerhoff and
Kentucky provides an interesting example
of a state that has done much to encourage in-service professional
development for classroom teachers, and has provided the resources
and the time that has stimulated strong support for change.
Unlike many states, Kentucky provided new, dedicated funds for
professional development to districts and, most importantly, have
continued to provide these resources over time. Too frequently,
these investments have been seen as short-term fixes and have
been the first target of budget cuts. Kentucky provided $1 per
pupil in 1990-91, and by 1995 was sending $23 per pupil to districts.
For a four-year period, Kentucky also extended the number of
instructional days that schools could use for professional development.
The extensive nature of Kentucky's standards-based instructional
reforms, coupled with a high stakes accountability system, stimulated
a demand for professional development specifically focused on
improving student performance and instruction. Rather than a
more traditional structure, where central office staff decide
on a set of professional development offerings for the entire
local system, most professional development in Kentucky has been
decided by school-level professional development committees that
are involved in all phases of school planning. In some schools,
teachers collaborate to identify the curricular weaknesses revealed
by KIRIS and plan improvements.
Several states wed professional development
to policy-making initiatives. For example, Minnesota made teachers
an integral part of assessment development for the state in ways
which also had benefits to teachers' knowledge and understanding
of reform. California, South Carolina, and other states also
brought teachers into assessment development activities.
Among other things, state policymakers considering
changes to improve teacher preparation and professional development
policies should develop ways to tie reforms in meaningful ways
to the academic and pedagogical knowledge teachers need, without
being so prescriptive that professional development becomes a
mandate that fits poorly with teachers' particular needs. Connecticut,
like Kentucky and many other states, eliminated permanent educator
licenses and required teachers to earn a particular number of
continuing education units (CEUs) for relicensure. However, these
policies usually do not require that credit hours be linked to
reform goals or to the content areas that teachers teach. Furthermore,
many observed that once teachers satisfied these CEU requirements,
teachers ceased to participate in professional development activities.
In other words, they worked against the goal of promoting teachers'
understanding of themselves as professionals needing continuous
professional improvement. Changing that mindset is an important
next step. One way to do this is to reconfigure the school day
and school year to build in time for professional development
on a regular basis.
I hope these responses provide some concrete
examples of ways in which states have approached the tasks of
curriculum reform and teacher change. Much remains to be done,
and the work of the National Education Goals Panel can play an
important role in guiding state policymakers to take the next
steps in standards-based reform.
Carlos, L. and M. W. Kirst (1997) California
Curriculum Policy in the 1990's: "We don't have to be in
front to lead." Draft paper presented at the 1997 American
Education Research Association annual meeting, Chicago, IL.
Cohen, D. K., S. Wilson, and H. Hill (1997)
"Teaching and Learning Mathematics in California," draft
paper presented at the 1997 American Education Research Association
annual meeting, Chicago, IL.
Elmore, R. F. (1993) "The Development
and Implementation of Large-scale Curriculum Reforms." Paper
prepared for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Goertz, M.E., R.E. Floden, J. O'Day (1995).
Studies of Educational Reform: Systemic Reform. Volumes I and
II. Philadelphia, PA: CPRE.
Loucks-Horsley, S.(1997) "The Role
of Teaching and Learning in Systemic Reform: A Focus on Professional
Development," draft paper presented at a meeting of the LRDC
and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, March, 1997.
Massell, D. and S. Fuhrman (1994) Ten Years
of State Education Reform, 1983-1993: Overview with Four Case
Studies. Philadelphia, PA: CPRE.
White, P.A., A.C. Porter, A. Gamoran, and
J. Smithson (1996) Upgrading High School Math: A Look at Three
Transition Courses. Consortium for Policy Research in Education
Policy Brief RB-19-June 1996. Philadelphia, PA: CPRE.