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Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Education Policy

Abstract

"Instructional policy reforms that focus on standards and assessments have gained popularity in the last two decades. State governments, which had previously left most instructional matters to local governance, set challenging learning standards and developed related assessments and curricular frameworks. Despite their popularity and persistence, standards-based reforms face the challenge of successful local implementation. Occupying an intermediary position between the statehouse and the schoolhouse, the local school district has significant potential to influence standards implementation. It is important to consider the consequences for classroom instruction of what districts do in response to standards. While states may set standards and provide incentives for implementing them, district policies often determine how teachers comprehend the standards. [This report] examines state and local government relations as the standards move from the statehouse to the district policymakers and teachers who attempt to make sense of them. It takes a case study approach, focusing on a single state, Michigan, and strategically sampled school districts."

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