The resources will be made available to local school districts rather than retained at the state level. The third element is to align the education system to support reform through curriculum development, teacher training, and student assessment consistent with the content standards.

The detailed rationale for systemic school reform, as summarized by Smith and his colleagues, is based on eight major research findings:

  1. All students can learn to far higher levels than we ever imagined in the past.
  2. What you are taught matters.
  3. The quality of teaching matters.
  4. Teachers are more likely to teach well things that they understand well and that they have been taught to teach.
  5. Schools, and the teaching and learning within them, are more likely to change when the school staff has ownership and some control over the nature of the change.
  6. Teachers and the public, in general, do not have a common conception of what is meant by high international competitive academic standards.
  7. Individual school reform has a long, complex, and unhappy history in the United States.
  8. The education system often does little to support change or to sustain schools that appear to be effective.

These research findings support the proposition that the performance of the education system can be improved if its major elements are aligned to help all students meet more demanding content and performance standards. Since teachers and the general public do not have a clear conception of the goals of education, the role of federal and state governments is to articulate the goals through standards developed by the individual states. Achievement of these goals will require higher-quality teaching and better teacher training. With the addition of resources provided by the federal government through Goals 2000 and ESEA, schools will improve through systemic reform.

While previous school reforms have not been notably successful, the diagnosis given by Smith and his colleagues is that teacher training and educational assessments have not been properly aligned to support reform. This will be remedied under systemic school reform by inculcating content standards through teacher training and aligning assessments with performance standards. However, optimism about the effectiveness of the new approach to reform must be tempered by the fact that the education system does little to support change or even to sustain individual schools that appear to be effective. Persistence and time will be required for success.

The research findings that undergird systemic school reform have been produced by psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists. School performance research by economists has not been used in designing a new approach to

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement