Archived: Chapter 7 - Implications of Study Findings for Policy and Research

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Systemic Reform - October 1996

Chapter 7
Implications of Study Findings
for Policy and Research

The three states investigated in this study are all attempting some variation of standards-based systemic reform. As discussed in previous chapters, the contexts, goals, and histories differ among the states. Specific strategies also differ, as do the sources of leadership for the reform efforts. Yet in each case, the goal is improved student learning, and the overall approach for attaining this goal has been to raise standards and to increase coherence (to varying degrees) among elements of state education policy. Our data suggest that, despite differences among the states, this general strategy brings with it common issues and needs, some of which we have outlined in the previous three chapters.

We believe these commonalities across such different contexts suggest some common lessons for policy makers, while also raising important issues for further study. We discuss the potential lessons in the first part of this chapter under the rubric "implications for policy." Our intention in this discussion is not to imply that all states should take up systemic reform as their strategic approach; we acknowledge that there are many possible roads to improved student learning. However, those states embarking on a standards-based strategy may find it helpful to consider the issues and suggestions raised here.

The second section of the chapter outlines several key areas for further research that have emerged from this investigation. On one level, the need for further research derives directly from our limited sample of states and schools and thus from the need to explore the relevance of our findings to other settings. In addition, however, a number of patterns and issues have emerged from the data which were not part of our original focus and which were therefore not investigated fully or uniformly across the states. These, we believe, merit further concentrated attention. And finally, we believe it is important to note that the research base in this area is still quite limited. We as a nation simply have very little experience with standards-based reform, and for researchers, as for teachers engaged in this process, new experience continually breeds new questions. We hope that our delineation of some of those questions will spark interest among policy makers, funders, and practitioners as well as among others engaged in investigations of educational policy and practice.
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