Cover: School Reform Efforts: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

School Reform Efforts: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Educator Perspectives on the Rapid Life Cycle of School Reforms

Published Apr 7, 2020

by Christopher Joseph Doss, Goke Akinniranye

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Research Question

  1. How do principals and teachers perceive continuity in the programs at their schools?

School reform has become an umbrella term for initiatives and programs that aim to improve school functioning and student outcomes. Many researchers and educators have noted the emergence of a "school reform churn." New initiatives and programs are adopted, only to be dropped when the next popular reform emerges. Although experimenting with new approaches is important, continuity and stability are needed for the healthy functioning of a school. This American Educator Panels Data Note highlights discrepancies in principals' and teachers' perceptions of the continuity of school reforms in their schools. Data from AEP reveal that teachers are much more likely to perceive school reform churn than principals. These differences in perceptions exist across schools of different demographic composition and across educators of different experience levels. Though the underlying reasons for the disparity can be varied, this disconnect in perceptions can have implications for the success of reforms.

Key Findings

Principals perceive stability, teachers perceive discontinuity

  • A large majority of principals (89 percent) reported a sense of continuity in the programs at their school, while only 56 percent of teachers surveyed reported the same.
  • Ninety percent of principals reported following up on school reforms to judge their effectiveness, but only 53 percent of teachers stated that follow-up occurred.
  • Sixty-one percent of teachers said that programs "come and go" at their schools — compared with only 33 percent of principals who said the same.
  • These disparities in perceptions exist across schools of different demographic composition and across educators of different experience levels.


  • Principals might want to investigate whether perception disparities about reform churn exist in their school and, if they do exist, examine their underlying causes. Closing perception gaps might lead to greater teacher buy-in and higher rates of program success.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.