The Raw Materials of Reform: Rethinking the Knowledge of School Improvement

Abstract

Despite widespread conviction that adequateknowledge exists for improving schools, weargue that the knowledge needed for successfulschool reform goes far beyond what is currentlyavailable and accessible. Drawing on theexample of ATLAS, a collaboration among fourexperienced reform organizations in the UnitedStates – the Coalition of Essential Schools,the School Development Program, EducationDevelopment Center, and Harvard Project Zero –we argue that four significant ``problems ofknowledge'' made it difficult to collect,integrate, and use what the members of theseorganizations had learned about schoolimprovement. First, the ATLAS partners quicklyfound that, while they had substantialknowledge and resources in many areas ofschooling, there were many other aspects ofschooling, school change, and organizationaldevelopment where further knowledge wasrequired. Second, even in areas where thepartner organizations had considerableexperience, they often found that it was hardto articulate and share that knowledge in atimely and efficient way. Third, in someinstances, the lessons that members of thepartner organizations took away from theirprevious experiences were either inconsistentwith one another or downright contradictory.Fourth, the difficulties of creating andmaintaining a new collaborative organizationmay have discouraged the development andsharing of knowledge across the partnerorganizations.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

REFERENCES

  1. ATLAS Communities Project (1992). ATLAS Communities: Authentic Teaching, Learning, and Assessment for All Students. Grant proposal submitted to New American Schools Development Corporation,.

  2. Bodilly, S., Purnell, S., Ramsey, K. & Smith, C. (1995). Designing New American Schools: Baseline Observations on Nine Design Teams. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bodilly, S. (1996). Lessons from New American Schools Development Corporation's Demonstration Phase. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Cochran-Smith, M., and S. Lytle, (eds) (1993). Inside/Outside: Teacher research and knowledge. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Hargreaves, A. (1996). Transforming knowledge: Blurring the boundaries between research, policy, and practice. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (18), 105–122.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Hatch, T. (in press). What happens when improvement programs collide? Phi Delta Kappan.

  7. Hatch, T. (2000). What does it take to break the mold? Rhetoric and reality in new American schools. Teachers College Record 102(3), 561–589.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Hatch, T. (1998a). Differences in theory that matter in the practice of school improvement. American Educational Research Journal 35(1), 3–31.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Hatch, T. (1998b). How comprehensive can comprehensive reform be? Phi Delta Kappan 79(7), 518–523.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Kearns, D. & Anderson, J. (1996). Sharing the vision: Creating new American schools. In S. Stringfield, S. Ross & L. Smith (eds), Bold Plans for School Restructuring: The New American Schools Development Corporation Designs. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Lehming, R. & Kane, M. (1981). Improving Schools: Using What We Know. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Leventhal, D. & March, J. (1993). The myopia of learning. Strategic Management Journal 14, 95–112.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Lieberman, A. & McLaughlin, M. (1992). Networks for educational change: Powerful and problematic. Phi Delta Kappan 73, 673–677.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Lieberman, A. & Miller, L. (eds) (2001). Caught in the Act. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Louis, K.S. (1998). Reconnecting knowledge utilization and school improvement: Two steps forward, one step back. In A. Hargreaves, A. Lieberman, M. Fullan & D. Hopkins (eds), International Handbook of Educational Change (p. #1074). The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  17. March, J. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science 2(1), 71–87.

    Google Scholar 

  18. McDonald, J. (1989). When outsiders try to change schools from the inside. Phi Delta Kappan 71, 206–212.

    Google Scholar 

  19. McDonald, J., Hatch, T., Kirby, E., Ames, N., Haynes, N. & Joyner, E. (1999). School Reform Behind the Scenes. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Mohrman, S., Cohen, S. & Mohrman, A. (1995). Designing Team-Based Organizations: New Forms for Knowledge-Work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  21. National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Nonaka, I. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Resnick, L., Levine, J. & Teasley, S. (eds) (1991). Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Salomon, G. (ed) (1993). Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Scheffler, I. (1965). Conditions of Knowledge: An Introduction to Epistemology and Education. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Seely Brown, J. & Duguid, P. (2000). The Social Life of Information. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review 57(1), 1–22.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Squires, D. & Kranyik, R. (1999). Connecting school-based management and instructional improvement: A case study of two ATLAS schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 4, 241–258.

    Google Scholar 

  29. White, N., Muncey, D. & Fanning, K. (2000). Final Report of the ATLAS Seminar Ethnography Project. Cambridge, MA: ATLAS Seminar.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hatch, T., White, N. The Raw Materials of Reform: Rethinking the Knowledge of School Improvement. Journal of Educational Change 3, 117–134 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016516212204

Download citation

Keywords

  • Development Program
  • Education Research
  • Educational Change
  • School Improvement
  • Curriculum Study