"Learning Policy" by David K.              Cohen

Learning Policy When State Education Reform Works David K. Cohen, Heather C. Hill

Publication date:
10 Nov 2001
Yale University Press
240 pages: 229 x 152mm
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Education reformers and policymakers argue that improved students’ learning requires stronger academic standards, stiffer state tests, and accountability for students’ scores. Yet these efforts seem not to be succeeding in many states. The authors of this important book argue that effective state reform depends on conditions which most reforms ignore: coherence in practice as well as policy and opportunities for professional learning.

The book draws on a decade’s detailed study of California’s ambitious and controversial program to improve mathematics teaching and learning. Researchers David Cohen and Heather Hill report that state policy influenced teaching and learning when there was consistency among the tests and other policy instruments; when there was consistency among the curricula and other instruments of classroom practice; and when teachers had substantial opportunities to learn the practices proposed by the policy.

These conditions were met for a minority of elementary school teachers in California. When the conditions were met for teachers, students had higher scores on state math tests. The book also shows that, for most teachers, the reform ended with consistency in state policy. They did not have access to consistent instruments of classroom practice, nor did they have opportunities to learn the new practices which state policymakers proposed. In these cases, neither teachers nor their students benefited from the state reform. This book offers insights into the ways policy and practice can be linked in successful educational reform and shows why such linkage has been difficult to achieve. It offers useful advice for practitioners and policymakers seeking to improve education, and to analysts seeking to understand it.

?This book, though designed as a study of a math innovation, is actually relevant to any policy-driven educational change. The authors? balanced comments about the way teachers serve as ?policy brokers? in adopting, adapting and rejecting components of a comprehensive change initiative are fair and balanced.??William G. Keane, The School Administrator

?Cohen and Hill greatly enhance our understanding of education policy implementation. This book will have a broad audience among education researchers and the education policy community.??Lorraine M. McDonnell, University of California, Santa Barbara

?A complex, closely-reasoned argument, supported by research that ultimately rewards the reader with an optimistic conclusion: teacher re-learning is possible--and improved student achievement sure to follow--when those in charge recognize that teachers are not ?educational clerks? but active players who judge, adopt, adapt or discard reforms.??John Merrow, Peabody Award-winning host of The Merrow Report on PBS and author of Choosing Excellence may edit ID for length, but may not edit blurb; can contact at jmerrow@merrow.org or at 212-725-7000

?A rare and exceptionally perceptive look under the hood at the engine of education reform. Learning Policy captures wise insights on the ways state pedagogical and political decisions do, and do not, have impact on powering change in the classroom.??Gordon M. Ambach, Former Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers and New York State Commissioner of Education  may edit for space, but wants approval. Email is gordona@ccsso.org and phone is 202-326-8698

?This authoritative, detailed study of California?s professional development of math teachers is a must-read for all policymakers and practitioners who are serious about improving schools and helping all students meet high standards of achievement. Thanks to David Cohen and Heather Hill the field of education now has evidence affirming this simple and powerful point: When teachers experience good professional development based on rich student curriculum they will actually use, and if they also learn about the assessments that reflect student mastery of this curriculum, their students will learn more.??Sandra Feldman, President, American Federation of Teachers

?There are good ideas here for math teachers as well as policy-makers.??Michael Duffy, Times Educational Supplement

?Cohen and Hill?s . . . analysis of what it takes to change teacher practice and student achievement is invaluable reading for policy makers at all levels as well as educational researchers and practitioners. Libraries in educational research institutions and state policy agencies should have this volume.??Choice

?The book is far more than a history of California?s mathematics curriculum frameworks, replacement units, professional development activities, and assessments. The authors . . . argue that reformers and educators must work in a more responsible manner and encourage independent research on teacher learning and professional development activities, or they will see the demise of professional development.??Journal for Research in Mathematics