CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

Going to Scale: Building Effective Infrastructure

The role of districts in scaling up knowledge-based instructional reforms was the focus of this study (1996-2002). It is the conventional wisdom that while education improvements often work on a limited basis, they don't tend to "travel" easily to other places. And after they are adopted, they often lose the attention and support of their local sponsors when the next wave of reform sweeps through. Earlier studies of knowledge utilization examined how, and on what grounds, schools and districts decided to adopt particular reforms; and countless studies have addressed the factors affecting their implementation. Meanwhile, the policy environment has changed dramatically: new and powerful incentives for improvement have been developed, and the options facing districts have expanded with the emergence of national organizations promoting the adoption of whole-school designs. These new models promise more but also are more costly.

As a consequence of this new policy environment, many districts are reconsidering how they make decisions about investments in new programs and professional development, and they are developing "intermediate structures" -- K-12 clusters, networks, academies, teacher centers -- to stimulate school and classroom reforms and build the instructional capacity needed to carry them out. These changes in district roles and approaches to improvement were the focus of this study. The study was informed by a cross-site analysis of the scaling-up strategies employed by recent statewide initiatives in science and mathematics and structured conversations among reformers, policymakers, and researchers.

The Use of Research Evidence in Instructional Improvement. (Tom Corcoran, November 2003, No. RB-040)