Policy Barriers to School Improvement: What's Real and What's Imagined?

Education and Literacy

Policy Barriers to School Improvement: What's Real and What's Imagined?

Some of the most promising reforms are happening where school leaders are thinking differently about how to get the strongest student outcomes from the limited resources available. But even principals who use their autonomy to aggressively reallocate resources say that persistent district, state, and federal barriers prohibit them from doing more.

What are these barriers? What do they block principals from doing? Is there a way around them?

CRPE researchers probed these questions with principals in three states (NH, CT, MD). These principals cited numerous district, state, and federal barriers standing in the way of school improvement. The barriers, 128 in all, fell into three categories: 1) barriers to instructional innovations, 2) barriers to allocating resources differently, and 3) barriers to improving teacher quality.

Upon investigation, researchers found that principals have far more authority than they think. Only 31% of the barriers cited were "real" -- immovable statutes, policies, or managerial directives that bring the threat of real consequences if broken.

The report recommends educating principals on the authority they already possess, to help them find workarounds to onerous rules. The report also outlines a number of specific state and district policy changes to grant schools the autonomy they need to improve student outcomes.

June 2014

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Southern)-Maryland, North America-United States (Northeastern)-New Hampshire, North America-United States (Eastern)-Connecticut

Strengthening High School Teaching and Learning in New Hampshire's Competency-Based System

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy

Strengthening High School Teaching and Learning in New Hampshire's Competency-Based System

For a century, most students have advanced from grade to grade based on the number of days they spend in class, but in New Hampshire, schools have moved away from "seat time" and toward "competency-based learning," which advances students when they have mastered course content. This report profiles how two high schools in New Hampshire made this shift and examines the changes that were necessary to make competency-based advancement an important part of New Hampshire's strategy for implementing the Common Core State Standards and ensuring that students graduate ready for college and a career.

January 2013

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New Hampshire

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