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This article describes RAND research on two innovative attempts to improve education in the United States in the past decade. In one attempt, New American Schools (NAS), a number of nationally known CEOs launched a campaign to redesign public schools nationwide by means of innovative "whole-school designs." In the other, community groups launched a local campaign to improved early care and education for low-income children in the Pittsburgh area. The researchers conclude that whole-school designs, however well thought out, cannot by themselves transform schools without added professional development, technical assistance, and materials geared to design implementation. In addition, external interventions need to address systemic issues within schools that can hinder implementation. The early childhood initiative generated high-quality care for hundreds of children. But the cost per child was much higher than anticipated, partly because parents gravitated to the more expensive services the program provided, such as full-day center-based care; and an effort to secure long-term state funding for the program failed.

Originally published in: RAND Review, v. 27, no. 1, Spring 2003, pp. 22-29.

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