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How Coherent are U.S. K–12 Instructional Systems?

Students at Sutton Middle School compare and contrast songs representing different eras in history during an International Baccalaureate immersion day, photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages/<a href="">CC BY-NC 4.0</a>

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages/CC BY-NC 4.0

Event Details


Tuesday, June 6


1–2 p.m. EDT / 10–11 a.m. PDT

How to Join:

Details on attending the event will be sent to registered attendees.


Registration for this event has closed.


Standards-based reform is a key feature of U.S. education policy. But standards are effective only if the other inputs in an instructional system (e.g., curriculum, assessments, professional development) are aligned with those standards and coherent with each other. Without that alignment and coherence, teachers may perceive different messages about what to teach and how to teach it. At worst, those messages can conflict, leading to both fragmented instruction and reduced learning opportunities.

RAND researchers, with collaborators at the University of Southern California, have conducted several studies to investigate instructional system coherence—i.e., whether teachers are getting consistent and clear messages about the foci for instruction—for math and English Language Arts in U.S. K–12 schools.

In this webinar, RAND researchers discuss critical findings from their research on coherence over the past several years, which draws on survey responses from a nationally representative sample of public school K–12 English language arts and mathematics teachers, as well as qualitative interviews. Leading thinkers in the field—Dr. Thomas Hatch and Dr. Emily M. Hodge—join as discussants to deepen the conversation and help identify directions for future research.


RAND Researchers

Julia H. Kaufman

Julia Kaufman is a senior policy researcher who codirects the American Educator Panels. Her research focuses on how states and school systems can support high-quality instruction and student learning, as well as methods for measuring educator perceptions and instruction. She has led studies on how to support students' civics knowledge, skills, and dispositions; how state policies can encourage effective use of high-quality materials; implementation and student outcomes associated with the strategies of the Louisiana Department of Education; perceptions and implementation of state standards for kindergarten through twelfth-grade students; and implementation, outcomes, and costs associated with pipelines for preparing, hiring, and supporting high-quality school leaders and teachers. She holds a Ph.D. in international education from New York University and an M.A. in teaching from the University of Pittsburgh.

Elaine Lin Wang

Elaine Lin Wang (she/her) is a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Her primary research interest concerns K–12 instruction, especially with a focus on literacy/English Language Arts (ELA). Wang is a co-PI on a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation–funded study of characteristics of coherent instructional systems that support student success in ELA. Wang also researches the development of school leaders. She specializes in using mixed methods to examine relationships between instruction and student learning outcomes, and to understand factors that facilitate or pose challenges for policy or program implementation. Wang received her Ph.D. in the learning sciences and policy program, with a minor in research methodology, from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to pursuing her graduate studies, Wang taught high school English for nine years.


Emily M. Hodge

Emily M. Hodge is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Montclair State University. Her work uses qualitative methods and social network analysis to understand curriculum politics and the changing nature of strategies for educational equity. Recent projects have explored how educational systems, schools, and teachers negotiate the tension between standardization and differentiation in the context of the Common Core State Standards, and the varied strategies state education agencies are using to support standards implementation. Hodge is a recipient of a small research grant and a conference grant from the Spencer Foundation. Her research appears in the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Policy, Review of Research in Education, and AERA Open, among others. She received the Early Career Award from AERA Division L (Education Policy and Politics) in 2022. Hodge has a Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University.

Thomas Hatch

Thomas Hatch is a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University and director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST), and the founder of His research focuses on school, district, and system level reform. His books include The Schools We Need for a Future We Can’t Predict and Managing to Change: How Schools can Survive (and Sometimes Thrive) in Turbulent Times.

Register for This Program

Please register online to attend. Contact Aaron Lang with questions about the event.