Steady Work

Policy, Practice, and the Reform of American Education

by Richard F. Elmore, Milbrey Wallin McLaughlin

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Abstract

This report presents an analysis of the relationship between educational policymaking and educational practice in schools and classrooms. It is designed to contribute to the debate on reform by drawing lessons from recent attempts to reform schools with policy. The authors' central message is that the connection between policymakers and practitioners should be strengthened. Changes in education are composites of practice, structure, and rules. Federal experience indicates that educational reform must be grounded in an understanding of how teachers learn to teach, how school organization affects practice, and how these factors affect children's performance. The authors suggest that, to be effective, current reforms must (1) close the gap between policy and practice, in part by charging practitioners with developing solutions; (2) accommodate variability, through policies that lead to better understanding of effective practice; (3) recognize that rules only set standards of fairness and don't prescribe solutions to practical problems; and (4) create organizations that foster reforms.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

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