Archived Information

[CPRE Policy Briefs]

Building Capacity for Education Reform

December 1995

by Jennifer O'Day, Margaret E. Goertz, and Robert E. Floden


Jennifer O'Day is the associate director of the Pew Forum on Education Reform at Stanford University. Her research and analysis have focused primarily on systemic reform, educational equity, and capacity-building strategies. Her current research interests include teacher and system learning, student assessment, and the education of linguistic minority students.

Margaret E. Goertz is a professor in the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania and a senior research fellow at CPRE. She has conducted extensive research on education reform, school finance, teacher testing, and state and federal programs for special needs students.

Robert F. Floden is a professor of teacher education and educational psychology at Michigan State University and codirector of the National Center for Research on Teacher Learning. Active in the design and conduct of teacher education programs, he has written extensively on teaching and teacher education.


Education reformers are urging that all students meet new and more challenging expectations for learning. Teachers, schools, and districts are being called on to drastically change the ways they do their work. But does the education system--including the people who comprise it--have the ability to meet these new demands?

This crucial question is being examined from a variety of angles by those involved with reform in this country. Many debates focus on resources such as money and adequate staffing levels. Others focus on professional development for teachers. However, these debates often fail to consider the many factors that interact to determine educational capacity.

This issue of CPRE Policy Briefs argues that discussions of capacity should be broadened to include factors such as the relationships between individual, or teacher, capacity and the abilities of schools, and districts to accomplish standards-based, or systemic, reform. It provides a framework for thinking about capacity and suggests ways that systemic reform strategies could help increase capacity. It also describes how two such strategies--professional development and state assessment--were used to enhance educational capacity in states examined by CPRE.

The brief reports findings of a three-year study of systemic reform conducted by CPRE researchers.* Researchers conducted case studies of 12 schools in 6 school districts reputed to be active in reform. The districts are located in three states taking somewhat different approaches to reform--California, Michigan, and Vermont. The brief also draws from research conducted by others looking at teacher and organizational capacity.


*Contract RR 91-172005, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

The Consortium for Policy Research in Education

CPRE Finance Briefs are published occasionally by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. The Consortium operates two separate, but interconnected research centers: The Policy Center and The Finance Center. CPRE is funded by the U. S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research. The Policy Center of CPRE is supported by grant #OERI-R117G1007; the Finance Center of CPRE is supported by grant #OERI-R117G10039.

The CPRE Policy and Finance Centers are part of a nationwide network of university-based research and development centers whose mission is to strengthen the performance of American students by providing useful and sound information. The research agenda for both Centers is built around three goals:

The views expressed in CPRE publications are those of individual authors and are not necessarily shared by the Consortium, its institutional members, or the U. S. Department of Education.

For further information on CPRE publications contact Dawn Weniger at CPRE, Carriage House at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, 86 Clifton Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1568; 908/932-1331.



CPRE Management

Susan H. Fuhrman
Director, The Policy Center
Co-Director, The Finance Center
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Allan R. Odden
Co-Director, The Finance Center
Wisconsin Center for Education Research
University of Wisconsin-Madison

William H. Clune
Wisconsin Center for Education Research
University of Wisconsin-Madison

David K. Cohen
School of Education
University of Michigan

Richard F. Elmore
School of Education
Harvard University

Michael W. Kirst
School of Education
Stanford University

[CPRE - Consortium for Policy Research in Education]

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[Dimensions of Capacity]
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