External efforts at district-level reform: The case of the National Alliance for Restructuring Education
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- Glazer, J.L. J Educ Change (2009) 10: 295. doi:10.1007/s10833-008-9068-8
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Non-government interveners have been at the forefront of school-level change for over a decade, yet little is known about their capacity to foster change at the district level. This paper develops a theoretical frame for analyzing district-level intervention and applies it to the National Alliance for Restructuring Education. The frame highlights three factors that are salient for reformers’ efforts to enhance district capability: (1) a design for change that elaborates goals, processes, and the overall change process; (2) the social and political environments that shape interveners’ capacity to sustain effective district-level intervention; and (3) the capability of the intervener’s own organization. Applying this frame to the National Alliance for Restructuring Education, a district and state-level intervention that was active in the 1990s, reveals a fundamental dilemma that district-level interveners must manage in order to sustain their efforts. Designs that provide more intensive guidance are more potent instruments for improving districts, but designs that are less detailed place far less pressure on the intervener organization by requiring less human and fiscal resources. A consequence of this is that the logic of improving districts and the logic of organizational survival can be in direct conflict with one another.