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A number of challenges are encountered when evaluating a large-scale, multisite educational reform aimed at changing classroom practice. The challenges include substantial variability in implementation with little information on actual practice; lack of common, appropriate outcome measures; and the need to synthesize evaluation results across multiples study sites. This article describes an approach to addressing these challenges in the context of a study of the relationships between student achievement and instructional practices in the National Science Foundation’s Systematic Initiatives (SI) program. The authors gathered data from 11 SI sites and investigated relationships both at the site level and pooled across sites, using a planned meta-analytic approach. They found small but consistent positive relationships between teachers’ reported use of standards-based instruction and student achievement. The article also describes how the authors addressed the challenges discussed, as well as a number of additional obstacles that need to be addressed to improve future evaluations of large-scale reforms.

Originally published in: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, v. 25, no. 1, Spring 2003, pp. 1-29.

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