Sunday, July 2, 2017

Dilemmas in Scaling Up “Successful” Reforms (Part 2) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Dilemmas in Scaling Up “Successful” Reforms (Part 2) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

Dilemmas in Scaling Up “Successful” Reforms (Part 2)

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For decades, under the influence of efficiency-minded policymakers the “wisdom” of reform has been as follows:
To solve serious school problems policymakers and philanthropists take “good” ideas, find the right people to implement them faithfully on a small scale (e.g., pilots, “demonstration” projects), and then, using positive results from independent research and evaluation, spread the results across a larger playing field to reach the most students. Rational and scientific, that is how reform should be done.
That policy “wisdom” on how best to “scale up” reforms has dominated reform for the past half-century. Often called research and development (“R & D”), the results, however, have been often  disappointing, and occasionally disastrous.  Unanticipated issues arose. Flaws in the original design went unaddressed. Faulty implementation occurred.  Teachers and principals tailored the design of the innovation to their settings. Unexpected consequences popped up. Insufficient resources were allocated. Educators lacked capabilities. The list of reasons documenting the failure of scaling up innovations from pilots to entire districts or states speak to the documented limits of R&D (see here and here).
I could easily cite instances between the 1950s through the 1980s (e.g., math and science “new” curricula, the self-esteem movement, school site decision-making, Effective Schools, outcome-based schooling) but won’t elaborate. These failures to alter districts, schools, and classrooms substantially and for extended periods of time have been well documented. This conventional wisdom of starting small and then scaling up reforms to larger populations–has anyone tried to scale up Socrates’ success with students?– continue as the dominant way of thinking about school reform in the face of disappointing evidence and outright failure.
The core dilemma that policymakers and donors face in “scaling up” is whether they are seeking faithful replication of the innovation–fidelity to the model–that Dilemmas in Scaling Up “Successful” Reforms (Part 2) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

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