Listening and Learning from the Field: Tales of Policy Implementation and Situated Practice
Why are policies not implemented as planned? Why are classroom practices so hard to change? The “implementation problem” was discovered in the early 1970’s as policy analysts took a look at the school level consequences of the Great Society’s sweeping education reforms. The 1965 passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), with its support for compensatory education, innovation, strengthened state departments of education, libraries and, subsequently, bilingual education, signaled the substantive involvement of the federal government in local educational activities. ESEA’s comprehensive intergovernmental initiatives meant that implementation no longer was just primarily a management problem, confined to relations between a boss and a subordinate, or an administrator and a teacher, or even to processes within a single institution. Implementation of the Great Society’s education policies stretched across levels of government — from Washington to state capitals to local districts and schools — and across agents of government-legislative, executive, administrative. As federal, state and local officials developed responses to these new education policies, implementation issues were revealed in all their complexity, intractability, and inevitability.
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