developing and administering its own policies for standards, curriculum, materials selection and adoption, teacher licensure, student assessment, and educational accountability. Across states, the authority of schools and districts to enact policy varies considerably. In states with “local control,” more power resides at the district level than is found in states with centralized control.

Although the federal government contributes less than 10 percent of all funds invested by states and local districts in education (U.S. Department of Education [USDoE], 2000a), it influences education at all levels through a combination of regulations, public advocacy, and monetary incentives. For example, the USDoE creates mandates for serving special-needs students, provides aid for districts serving disadvantaged students, and distributes funds to support professional development (through Title I and Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). In addition, the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies award competitive grants that address targeted educational priorities in science, mathematics, and technology education.


Based on research, interactions with practitioners in the field, and members’ own experiences, the authoring Committee has chosen to represent the U.S. education system as shown in Figure 3–1. The figure highlights the layers of governance described earlier in this chapter and identifies three main routes or “channels” through which national reform ideas might flow to various layers of the system and eventually influence teaching and learning. It also includes the social and political contexts within which the U.S. education system operates. Other factors, such as organizational development, could have been selected as system components, but the Committee agreed that the elements identified in Figure 3–1 are most relevant to tracing potential effects of nationally developed standards on the education system—and, in particular, on student learning.

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