1. What did you and your team set out to examine?
We have been studying teachers' implementation of K–12 state standards through a project funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. We asked teachers from across the country to provide their perspectives on what we see as three key areas related to implementation of state standards: (1) use of instructional materials aligned with standards, (2) teachers' understanding of approaches and practices that are aligned with their standards, and (3) teachers' classroom practices.
2. What suggested to you that Louisiana was doing something different?
We were surprised initially when teachers in Louisiana reported that they were taking advantage of standard-related instructional resources more than teachers in other states. This really showed in Louisiana teachers' thoughts about the ways their approaches aligned with state English language arts standards.
More Louisiana teachers indicated that their standards advocated for use of complex, grade-level texts and instruction that centered on texts. These are approaches that are aligned with their state standards. Other teachers in states with standards similar to Louisiana's are less likely to embrace those approaches.
3. What can other state educational systems learn from the Louisiana case?
Three key state strategies stood out to us as ones that could be supporting teachers’ implementation of their standards: (1) a persistent focus on coherence and quality across the K–12 academic system, (2) transparent and regular communication about academics, and (3) support for local decisionmaking.
At the least, states could assess all their policies and practices to consider whether any strategies in Louisiana could be adapted to the work they are doing. In our report, we suggest that the department of education in each state prioritize two areas that have a good chance of directly supporting teachers: curricula and professional development.
States might also wish to examine the clarity and frequency of their communication—both within their departments of education and with educators and other stakeholders across their states—and reflect on what they can do to ensure that everyone across the state is receiving the same messages and support.
Want to learn more? Read the full Q&A with Dr. Kaufman on the RAND Gulf States website.