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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 11, no. 35 (September 25, 2003).
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Communities of practice and the mediation of teachers responses to standards-based reform / Chrysan Gallucci.
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1 of 30 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publication to the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Volume 11 Number 35September 25, 2003ISSN 1068-2341Communities of Practice and the Mediation of Teachers’ Responses to Standards-based Reform Chrysan Gallucci University of California, Santa BarbaraCitation: Gallucci, C. (2003, September 25). Commun ities of practice and the mediation of teachers’ responses to standards-based reform. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11 (35).Retrieved [Date] from /v11n35/.Abstract This paper evaluates the usefulness of a sociocultu ral approach for analyzing teachers’ responses to the professional l earning demands of standards-based reform policies. A policy-orient ed case study of the practice of six elementary teachers who worked in two high poverty schools in a demographically changing distr ict in the state of Washington is summarized. Key findings of that stud y conclude that communities of teaching practice are sites for teacher learning and are mediators of teachers’ responses to standards-b ased reform. Characteristics of the communities of practice, inc luding their relative strength and openness (to learning), influence the degree to which teachers work out negotiated and thoughtful respons es to policy demands. The present paper discusses the efficacy o f Wenger’s (1998) theory of learning for the study of policy t o practice connections. Over the past decade, as the standards-based reform movement has swept the


2 of 30 United States, the focus of education policy has sh ifted to the work of classroom teachers (Elmore, 1996; Thompson & Zueli, 1999). (Note 1) Researchers note that the content standards commonl y associated with the reforms constitute a demanding curriculum for teach er learning (Borko & Putnum, 1995; Hawley & Valli, 1999; Thompson & Zuel i, 1999). However, even in states that have placed high stakes on the impro vement of student learning outcomes, scholars report that the reforms are not producing significant or large-scale change in teaching practice (Spillane & Zueli, 1999; Elmore, 2000). One major flaw in the design of standards-based pol icies is the insufficient attention that has been paid to the teacher learnin g that is necessary for instructional change to occur (Elmore, 1999; Darlin g-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1999). Thompson and Zueli (1999) argue that the pro blem with the implementation of government-driven systemic reform is a misunderstanding on the part of policymakers about the kind of transfor mative learning required by teachers if the ambitious content standards are to be realized in practice. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the useful ness of a sociocultural approach to this problem. Using the construct, communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998), I describe how the cha racteristics of professional communities mediate teachers’ response s to reform policies. I summarize the findings from a group of teacher case studies that were developed during the 1999-2000 school year (Gallucc i, 2002). In arguing that the implementation “problem” inherent in standardsbased reform is about professional learning, I draw upon sociocultural th eories of learning to aid my analysis of the practice of teachers who work in tw o high poverty schools. In this analysis, I ask: how do communities of practice med iate what teachers learn in response to reform efforts and, consequently, what shifts or changes do they make in their instructional practice? The treatment of findings is intentionally brief in this paper and is provided as a reference point for the theoretical discussion that follows. For a full explication of the evidence base of the larger, multi-level policy study, the reader is referred to Gallucci, 2002. The research reported here builds on an earlier set of classroom-based case studies that focused on teachers’ responses to stan dards-based instructional policies (EEPA, 1990). Those studies demonstrated t hat teachers’ responses to curricular reform are likely to be modest, even whe n the teachers themselves believe they are making major changes in practice ( Cohen & Ball, 1990). That team of researchers also found that teachers’ respo nses and predispositions toward policies vary across a broad spectrum that r anges from active openness to the demands of new policies, to active resistanc e to them (Cohen, 1990; Ball, 1990; Wilson,1990; Wiemers, 1990). The studies sugg ested that local contexts—broadly conceived to include local conditi ons, interacting local policies, and teachers’ own knowledge and assumptio ns about teaching and learning—powerfully shape teachers’ responses to sy stemic policies. And increasingly, studies consider critical contextual dimensions of practice, especially the effects of professional relationship s, even when the research focuses on subject-specific teacher learning. (Gros sman & Wineburg, 2000; Franke & Kazemi, 2001. There is a history of research regarding the relati onship between teacher learning, teacher collaboration, and school improve ment (Little, 1982, 1990,


3 of 30 1997; Rosenholtz, 1989; Johnson, 1990; Hargreaves, 1994; Louis, Marks & Kruse, 1996; Marks & Louis, 1999). And while there is much agreement that collaborative cultures create beneficial conditions for teacher learning, the nature of professional cultures and their connectio n to teacher learning have long been viewed as problematic (Lortie, 1975; Litt le, 1982; 1990; Hargreaves, 1994). Recently, some researchers have considered t he role of professional community on teachers’ work. Variation among professional co mmunities has been found to influence the ways that teachers thin k about their practice. For example, McLaughlin & Talbert (2001) found that dif ferences in qualities and characteristics among high school departments (prof essional communities that were either innovative or traditional) accounted fo r differences in the ways that teachers conceived of instruction for their increas ingly diverse student bodies. A relatively small number of policy researchers have also demonstrated that professional teaching communities play a role in me diating teachers’ responses to policy (Spillane, 1999; Coburn, 2001). In an ana lysis of the ways in which teachers make collective sense of dynamic reading p olicies through conversations that take place in their formal and i nformal professional affiliations, Coburn (2001) suggests that this sens emaking process mediates the nature of individual instructional change.I move beyond single subject matter analyses in thi s work and suggest that the general characteristics of their communities of pra ctice make a difference in how elementary school teachers respond to reform po licies across content areas. Knowing more about the ways that communities of practice influence teachers’ work enriches our understanding of the re lationship between education policy and classroom practice.Using Sociocultural Learning Theory to Study Teacher Learning in ContextI connected two bodies of conceptual and theoretica l work in the framing of this study. First, I adapted ideas about the embedded contexts of teachers’ work for use in this policy implementation study (McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001). (Note 2) McLaughlin & Talbert (2001) identified a layer of c ontext between the classroom and the school organization as “teacher community a nd culture” (p.144). For the purposes of this study, I defined entities such as grade-level teams of teachers, teaching partners, and other configurations of teac hers who work together as potential communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). Communitie s of teaching practice were conceptualized as the locus of (a) en gagement in the actions of teaching, (b) interpersonal relations, (c) shared k nowledge, and (4) negotiation of meanings about the work (Wenger).I also took into account in this study the array of social and organizational variables that have the potential to impact teacher action in relation to policy intent. They included, (a) the social conditions of students’ lives, (b) school-level organizational features (such as scheduling, school design features, school culture), (c) features of the community including p arent culture, (d) professional contexts, and (e) district, state, and national pol icy environments. The assumption was that teachers may respond differenti ally to a set of policies based on the social, organizational, or political c onditions of their work.


4 of 30 Second, social theories of learning provide a theor etical basis for understanding how teachers perceive policy environments, assign m eaning to them, and extract insights from them. Sociocultural learning theories create a bridge between models of embedded contexts and the study o f individual teacher learning within a reform environment. In general, t hese theories assume that learning is a phenomenon that is situated in and me diated by sociohistorical features of the environment such as language or art ifacts (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wertsch, 1991; Wenger, 1998). I draw here on a practice-oriented social theory of learning because the focus of this study was on learning as it occurs in the context of teaching practice.Lave and Wenger (1991), and later Lave (1996), situ ate learning in communities of practice. They describe learning as shifts of pa rticipation in changing communities of practice (Franke & Kazemi, 2001). Th ey suggest that these shifts—or learning—involve both changes in action a nd transformations of identity. The assumption is that individuals use me ans such as language, material tools or symbols, and interaction with oth er people to mediate their actions. Communities of practice collectively produ ce and are a source of cultural tools (or mediating factors) that affect i ndividual teacher learning. The study of the relations among (a) teachers’ lear ning in communities of practice, (b) the organizational and social context s of their work, and (c) teachers’ instructional change calls for a theory o f learning that links local practice to global supports or constraints on that practice. Wenger (1998) provides a framework for the analysis of communitie s of practice and their relationship to external structures. He locates com munities of practice as a mid-level unit of analysis. He states that they are neither sites of specific, narrowly defined activities and interactions nor br oadly defined conceptual aggregates that are abstractly social or historical (Wenger, 1998) (refer to Table 1). (Note 3) Wenger’s framework suggests, rather, that the anal ysis of teacher learning (learning situated within and mediated by communities of practice) falls between minute interactions and activities and the world in aggregate. This theory can elucidate the potential connections between teachers’ practice and standards-based reform measures.Research MethodsA multi-level case study design was employed for th is study (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993; Miles & Huberman, 1994). The study was conducted in an embedded set of policy environments (e.g., Washingt on State, Pinehurst School District, and two high poverty schools in th at district—Rice Elementary and Maple View Elementary). Three teachers from eac h of the two schools were selected as the case study participants (refer to Appendix A for further description of the state, district, and school cont exts). While background interviews and document collection were developed f or the state, district, and school contexts, the teachers and their classroom p ractice were the subjects of focus for the study. The selected teachers taught a range of grade levels at the schools (1st through 5th grade) and their teaching experience ranged from 3 to 11 years.


5 of 30 I observed the teachers in their classrooms and acr oss a variety of school settings especially in meetings and in other intera ctions with their colleagues over the course of a school year. I interviewed eac h teacher three times during the year and collected a variety of relevant docume nts such as curricular materials, lesson plans, and examples of student wo rk. Interviews were also conducted with school principals, teacher specialis ts, and relevant district administrators.Descriptive case summaries were developed for the d istrict, school, and the six teacher cases. The teacher cases were analyzed indi vidually using the coding system described in Table 1. I also conducted cross -case analyses of the teacher cases to develop interpretive understanding s that helped explain the teachers’ responses to standards-based reform (LeCo mpte & Preissle, 1993). Table 2 presents a summary of the major cross-case themes in each analytic category. An extended discussion of the research me thods can be found in Appendix A.Table 1 Analytic Codes Used to Develop Case SummariesAnalytic CodeDefinition (Adapted from Wenger, 1998)1. Communities of PracticeDefined as grade level te ams of teachers, teaching partners, or other configurations of teachers working together t hat are potential communities of teaching practice. Defined here as the most local group of teachers with whom the case study teacher works out the daily demands of her work. Characteri zed by Wenger (1998) as having the following indicators: Sustained mutual relationships, either harmonious o r conflictual. Shared ways of doing things (together). Rapid flow of information and propagation of innova tions and ideas. Absence of introductory preambles, as if conversati ons and interactions were merely the continuation of anongoing process. Substantial overlap in participants’ descriptions o f who belongs. Knowing what others know, what they can do, and howthey can contribute to an enterprise. Mutually defining identities. Ability to assess the appropriateness of actions an d products. Specific tools, representations, and other artifact s. Local lore, shared stories, inside jokes, knowinglaughter. Jargon and shortcuts to communication as well as th e ease of producing new ones. Certain styles recognized as displaying membership. Shared discourse reflecting a certain perspective o n the world.


6 of 30 Analytic Codes Used to Develop Case Summaries.2. Engagement in teachingpracticeSub codes: instructional style(e.g., pedagogies, classroommanagement, interactions with students); curriculum andassessment (e.g., reading/writing, math); planning and organization;ideas and attitudes about practice. One of the ways that teachers participate and belon g to communities of practice (learn within communities o f practice). Involves doing joint tasks, developing relationship s and a shared repertoire. Could be meeting; talking; havin g time and places to do so; having or giving help; developing and defining competence; devising solutions and meanings; having stories about practice; gossiping; remembering; developing discourses; maintaining continuity over time; and constructing a learning trajectory. 3. Opportunities for ImaginationSub codes: district opportunities(e.g., curricular standards,assessment practices, professional development); theschool as an opportunity, teacher-initiated opportunities. The materials or resources that enable teachers to adopt other perspectives outside of their own bounded practice. Involves orientation to images of what could be (e.g., class es, curricula, videos, models, etc.); reflection (e.g., retreats, time-off, conversations, breaks in rhythm, etc.); and explora tions or trying new things out (e.g., trying out new curricula, usi ng ideas from an inservice, visiting other classes). 4. Alignment of practice withpolicySub codes: curricular policies(e.g., reading, math), assessmentpolicies, other relevant policies. The process that produces the ability to act with r espect to a broad and rich picture of the world, to do somethin g in concert with others, to embrace a bigger idea as part of ou r identity. Alignment involves making shifts or changes in prac tice based on a new idea or set of ideas. Alignment includes c onvergence around a common vision, coordinating practice with new standards or methods, or enforcement of new policie s or procedures (i.e., by external structures).Table 2 Implementation as a Learning Problem: Cross-Case Th emesCategoryCross-case Theme Engagement in Practice Common Tendencies amongTeachers across Cases Teachers were using the district-mandatedcurricula. There was evidence of new or progressiveideas seeping into these teachers’ practice. The teachers saw themselves as caregivers fortheir students. Variation among Communities ofPractice New teachers in weak communities of practicefollowed the curriculum closely. Strong and open communities made decisionsabout what to discard from their current


7 of 30 repertoire.Some communities were relatively open to newideas and some were set in their current ideas. Strong and open communities looked forinstructional solutions to help ameliorate thesocial conditions of their students’ lives. Strong and closed communities tended to“blame” the students and their families for theways that the conditions of their lives interferedwith their schooling. Opportunities to Imagine New Ideas Common Tendencies among Teachers acrossCases Curriculum and assessment policiesrepresented an opportunity for new learning. There was a disparate array of inservicecourses that represented the professionaldevelopment opportunities for these teachers. The teachers learned from each other. Variation among Communities ofPractice Strong, closed communities of practice weresuspicious of new materials and tended to reject them as a source of new learning. Strong, open communities examined theadoptions in light of their own practices and, thus, used them as an opportunity for learning. New teachers in weak communities relied onthe new curricula in a way that beggedquestions about the richness of this means of learning. Decisions about inservice opportunities tendedto be made at the individual or school level.Communities of practice were overlooked as a source of collaborative or embedded learning. School-level decisions created opportunities (ornot) for teachers to work together althoughsome communities of practice did not take advantage of the opportunities. Strong communities were more apt to influenceeach other and open communities tended to have a positive influence on learning within thecommunities. Alignment Between Practice and Policy


8 of 30 Common tendencies acrossTeachers1. Curriculumpolicies2. Assessmentpolicies Curriculum adoption policies at the district-leveloverrode a focus on content standards. Veteran teachers negotiated alignment withdistrict mandates. Early career teachers followed the adoptedcurricula and seemed to appreciate thestructure. Some classroom practice broadened as a resultof the assessment content. State and district assessments were drivingcurriculum and instruction toward test-relatedcontent. Teachers think they know better (that theyshould be teaching to the individual child andnot to a test). Variation among Communities ofPractice Strong communities talked about curriculumtogether. Strong communities worked out some form ofnegotiated alignment with the district mandates. Strong, but closed communities werepredisposed to reject the district curriculumchoices if they were in conflict with their current ideas about practice. They tended to work out acompliant alignment. Strong, but open communities reviewed andworked with the new materials before they integrated them into their practice in anegotiated and thoughtful way. Weak communities were compliant and reliedon the district-mandated curricula. All teachers across all communities of practicewere responding to the high-stakes assessmentpolicies. These policies cut across the variationpatterns among the communities of practice. Teachers’ Response to Reform Policies: A Summary of the FindingsThe purpose of this article is to discuss the usefu lness of communities of practice as a construct for analyzing teachers’ res ponses to reform policies. Therefore, in briefly illustrating the key findings of the study, I focus on the teachers’ most immediate community of practice—that group of teachers with whom they work out the most pressing demands of the ir daily work (Wenger, 1998). The communities of practice in which the tea chers participated varied along two important dimensions. First, some of the teachers in the study worked in what I characterize as strong communities of practice, in which teachers


9 of 30 worked together in designing instruction and had a strong influence on each other’s practice. Other teachers worked in weak communities of practice, in which teachers had much less influence over each ot her’s practice. (Note 4) Second, the stronger communities varied along a dim ension that could be characterized as relative openness to new ideas versus insularity or being closed to outside ideas. In other words, a communit y of practice can have a strong influence on the practice of a group of teac hers and that community may be strong in its unwillingness to entertain new or reforming ideas. (Note 5) Table 3 illustrates these dimensions.Table 3 Key Dimensions of Difference Among the Communities of Practice Openness Insularity Strong Teachers work together to design curriculum, planlessons, and assess studentwork. Teachers negotiateactively with new policies. Teachers work together, makingcurricular decisions and sharing responsibilities. They are set intheir ways and oppose new policies. Weak Individual teachers design curriculum. They accept newpolicies, but lack communitywith which to create strong responses. Teachers work alone and teach using methods that are familiar tothem. They respond superficiallyto new policies, or tend to ignore them. Communities of teaching practice are conceptualized as the locus of (a) engagement in the actions of teaching, (b) interper sonal relations, (c) shared knowledge, and (d) negotiation of meanings about th e work (Wenger, 1998). Wenger characterizes communities of practice as hav ing sustained relations (either harmonious or conflictual), shared ways of doing things, agreement concerning who are members, and shared stories, ins ide jokes, and other forms of shared discourse. For several teachers in this s tudy, some or most of these characteristics were identifiable traits of their c ommunities of practice. In the following section, I introduce one of the teachers from Rice Elementary who participated in this study. I describe the ways in which her work as a teacher is embedded in a set of overlapping communities of pra ctice.Illustrating Communities of Teaching PracticeTeachers at Rice Elementary School are not as isola ted in their work as teachers have traditionally been portrayed (Lortie, 1975). Their rooms are clustered in three different pods—grouped roughly b y grade level. The adults in the clusters form various kinds of working partners hips and friendships with each other. In that way, they form communities of p ractice with some of the members of their cluster and/or other educators in the building.


10 of 30 Sandra partners closely with the reading specialist who works with grades three through five at Rice, and who has an office near Sa ndra’s classroom. They plan reading and language arts instruction for Sandra’s class, co-coordinate the Washington Reading Corps (WRC) volunteer tutoring p rogram, and plan special instructional units that they co-teach during vacat ion periods. She and the other third grade teachers also plan together with the re ading specialist to coordinate reading curriculum across third grade. “We plan with the reading specialist and we have set our whole schedule for third grade that way. There are four of us and we get together to plan our homework. We all se nd home the same things so we have some continuity.” Sandra works especially closely with the third-grade teacher next door. Over the years, they have developed several curricular units (for example, a unit of Northwest Native American tribes; a rain forest unit). “We plan for the basal reading in our classrooms. W e’ve planned the whole year out for that. And then, of course, w e plan for science. We also meet with the math specialist who comes into our cl assrooms.” Sandra’s community of practice extends to the other teachers in her cluster, although in a slightly different way. The whole clu ster might be considered a different, but closely related, community of practi ce. In our cluster, we like going to dinner once a mont h and celebrating birthdays or whatever. We enjoy it. We like each ot her’s company; we are supportive of each other. We do things toget her. And say nice things to each other. We might bring a student over to another classroom for a while. And not that we are long las ting friends, but just that we make a point of getting together with the families and the spouses and just letting down. To laugh. It just ma kes everything so much better. While it is not true of all the clusters in the bui lding, in Sandra’s cluster, “We have a pact that if any of us are going to leave or if anyone has any tension, we have to tell the others.”There are other people who participate in the work of teaching in and around Sandra’s classroom. Those include parent volunteers the coordinators of the WRC program, the special education teacher, the ELL teacher, the media teacher, and various teaching assistants. Her stude nts, the building principal, the rest of the staff at Rice are also people with whom Sandra moves in and out of mutual engagement and joint work. It might be sa id that Sandra’s working life is situated in a nested set of communities of practice (e.g., the individu al classroom community, the third-grade team, the clus ter, and the larger school community). For the purposes of this paper (that is to describe their teaching practice in light of standards-based reform policie s), I refer to the teachers’ communities of practice as those in which they work out the most pressing demands of their work. For Sandra, that is her grad e-level team and the reading and math specialists.In the following paragraphs, I provide examples of the kinds of variation that were found among the case study teachers and their communities of practice. This summary highlights the key findings of the stu dy and sets the stage for the


11 of 30 theoretical discussion to follow. [For a complete e xplication of the findings of this study refer to Gallucci (2002).] The section i s organized according to four important assertions regarding the mediating effect s of communities of practice on teachers’ responses to standards-based reform.Assertion 1: Qualitative features of teachers’ comm unities of practice affect teachers’ interpretations of standards-based reform policies. The ways that teachers made sense of the policy env ironment could be seen as they engaged in the work of teaching. For example, all of the teachers in this study were using district-mandated curricula. Howev er, teachers who worked in weaker communities of practice, which included the newest teachers, were following the new reading curriculum verbatim often teaching with the curriculum guides in their laps. Within the same schools, the teachers who were working in strong and open communities of practice were integr ating the newly mandated curriculum into their practice in a thoughtfully ne gotiated form of alignment with the policy. For example, one third-grade teacher an d her grade-level teammates had developed a series of genre studies that had fo rmed the content of their third-grade reading curriculum for several years. D uring the first year of the district reading adoption, these teachers used the adopted materials, but had “opted out of the series for [our regular] reading rotations.” The teachers made their decision after using the new series, testing it out, and later negotiating their use of it based on their own knowledge and ideas ab out reading instruction. “The stories in the reading series skip around. The re may be a ‘tall tale’ here or there and maybe a historical fiction in the same th eme. They fit the theme, but it’s not really studying the genre in a chunk. And I feel, we all feel, that our kids learn better (I think we all learn better) when we can identify what we are studying.”Noting the high-poverty settings in which they work ed, the teachers in this study described themselves as caregivers for their students. The multi-level nature of the study provided evidence that the teachers’ iden tity as caregiver was affected by school-level variables. In the school that had a strong programmatic vision—Rice Elementary had a Title 1 inclusion mode l—teachers took collaborative responsibility for developing a stron g instructional program to support student learning. They added many school-wi de supplemental supports to their instructional program such as an Accelerat ed Reader program, a volunteer tutoring program, and the Title 1 inclusi on model. Maple View lacked a cohesive building-level vision and there, individ ual teachers tended to focus on the social conditions of their students’ lives, in some cases, complaining that “it’s hard to keep a positive attitude when you are dealing with these kinds of kids all the time and you never get parent support and you have kids coming in tardy everyday” (the reader is referred to Appendix A for brief de scriptions of both schools).In regard to this finding, the effects of the commu nities of practice were also observable. The teacher in a strong, open community at Rice Elementary was focused on developing a variety of instructional pr ograms to meet the needs of her diverse students. However, a teacher in a stron g but insular community of practice at Maple View Elementary was focused on th e characteristics of her students that she felt made them unable to perform certain tasks or understand


12 of 30 particular curricula. One teacher changed curricula to meet student needs; the other teacher expected the students to change in or der to understand the curriculum. Differences in their communities of pra ctice affected the ways that the teachers made sense of the social conditions of their students’ lives and the associated implications for their work. These varia tions also affected the ways the teachers took up opportunities for learning.Assertion 2: Characteristics of teachers’ communiti es of practice affect their engagement with opportunities for learning.Viewed at the level of policy design, Washington St ate and the Pinehurst School District had placed strong sets of ideas abo ut curricula, in the form of content standards and assessments, into the environ ments in which these teachers worked. From the perspective of district o fficials, all of the teachers in the district had received “training” on their new a doptions and on the new forms of assessment. From the vantage point of the teache rs, much of their opportunity for new learning consisted of a dispara te array of inservice courses. School-level organization and professional communit y influenced how opportunities for learning were taken up by teacher s within their communities of practice. By virtue of particular policies such as school design, teacher assignment, and scheduling, schools influenced thin gs like membership in teacher communities and time for communities to mee t. At Rice Elementary, the strong school mission affected the teachers’ genera lly educative stance toward their students; they believed that their Title 1 in clusion model worked, and that was evidenced in the high scores the students recei ved on the state performance-based assessments. However, in both sch ools, there were examples of communities of practice being overlooke d as potential sites for collaborative, sustained, or embedded professional development. Even in cases in which teachers were strongly influencing each ot her’s practice, there was no evidence that anyone outside that community had pur posely sought to design learning opportunities with the potential strength of that arrangement in mind. The characteristics of the stronger communities of practice mediated the ways that the opportunities for learning were taken up b y the teachers in this study. Because the communities could be either open to new ideas or closed off and insular, they affected how the teachers interpreted new ideas. Predictably, for example, a teacher in a strong but insular communit y of practice was suspicious of the district’s new adoptions, as well as their c urricular frameworks. She tended to reject them as a source of new learning. She commented, “I guess a lot of language in the Essential Learnings [district content standards] is in the state curriculum. It is very general and very broad Instead of starting from the basics and working out [like we believe you should for first graders], they are starting out broad and coming back.” In contrast, a teacher working in a strong and open community of practice had spent the summer working with fellow teachers to organize the 3rd grade curriculum to address the district’s Essenti al Learning outcomes.Assertion 3: Characteristics of teachers’ communiti es of practice influence the kinds of changes that teachers make i n their instructional practice in response to reform policies.


13 of 30 The teachers at both schools expressed overwhelm re garding the newly adopted curricula. Their focus on becoming familiar with these new texts and materials overrode any potential focus on content s tandards. However, veteran teachers who were members of strong communities of practice talked about the curriculum adoptions and worked together to develop negotiated alignment with the district mandates. Those communities that were typically open to new ideas interacted with the new materials and engaged their own knowledge to make decisions about their use (such as the teachers who decided to use their own genre studies for reading instruction). Teachers who worked in strong communities that were more insular tended to respond superficially to the district mandates. The y used the new materials enough to appear that they were conforming with pol icy, but they were actually doing what they had always done. For example, the f irst grade teacher at Maple View Elementary and her community of practice did n ot like the district’s adopted reading series, but they did use it. “Usually, I will introduce the leveled reader to the whole class as part of my morning rou tine. I haven’t been overly fond of this series. If you did everything the seri es requires, it would take all day. I usually send copies of the leveled readers home w ith the kids.” This group of teachers was given waivers nine years ago to use an other program. “It’s separate from the series, but we’ve been allowed to continue to use the Write to Read program. I hope they don’t take it away becaus e it’s such a good program.” They use the “Write to Read” program three days a week for reading and writing instruction. When asked, these teachers described themselves as using the district’s adoption.Newer teachers, who in this study worked in weaker professional communities, were also compliant with district mandates. They re lied on the district’s choices as the primary source of curriculum materials and i deas. Their experience is an example of the effects of weak community among teac hers. One can assume that the newer teachers wanted curricular guidance. The fact that it came in the form of textbook guides represents a lost opportuni ty for collaborative or sustained learning and engagement.Assertion 4: Some reform policies overpower the cha racteristics of the teachers’ communities of practice.Teachers perceived the new assessment policies as h aving particularly high stakes for their work and as demanding their immedi ate response (McNeil, 2000; Whitford & Jones, 2000). Some aspects of thes e teachers’ practice were broadened by their attempts to align their teaching with what they perceived to be the requirements of the new tests. For example, I observed teachers asking students to explain their answers to mathematical p roblems and using the six traits writing process methods that were promoted b y the district. However, all of the teachers commented that the assessment policies were driving their practice toward test-related content. Thirdand fo urth-grade teachers especially expressed dismay at the amount of time that they we re spending on test preparation activities.The fourth-grade teacher at Rice Elementary said th at she was teaching only


14 of 30 things that were required on the new state assessme nt. “It has taken a lot of freedom from us to teach the kinds of lessons we wo uld like to teach. I don’t consider many lessons that absorb any time at all u nless I see that there is a very clear connection [to the new tests] .” She claimed that “clearly 80% of the day” was in some way connected to test preparation. At Maple View, the fourth/fifth-grade teacher added, “It’s definitely narrowing the curriculum. It’s all focused on three subjects [reading, writing, math] and I think it’s focused on specific types of skill.”These powerful assessment policies cut across the d ifferences in the communities of practice The perception of the tests’ high stakes for both teachers and students seemed to stun the teachers a nd they did little to achieve a negotiated alignment with the assessment (or the looming school accountability) policies. All of the teachers expre ssed deep concern about these negative effects. One teacher commented, “ We were always taught in school not to teach to the assessment but have your assess ments reflect what you’ve been teaching. Our curriculum had not been addresse d in a long time. Now they are addressing it, but they are focusing it so that it teaches to the assessment.” Summarizing, as I studied the practice of these six teachers, I observed them working together in professional groups that I have described as communities of practice. Their interaction and identification with these communities—whether weak, strong, open or closed—mediated the teachers’ individual responses to policy. In the following section, I discuss the rel evance of sociocultural learning theory and the construct of communities of practice for policy implementation research.Policy Implementation as a Learning Problem: A Theoretical DiscussionI began this research with a set of policy to practice questions that queried the response of elementary school teachers to state and district-level standards-based reform. I framed the interaction be tween standards-based policies and teacher practice as a problem of learn ing. I questioned the ways in which elementary school teachers, especially those who worked in high-poverty settings, were either supported or constrained by t he intensity of the policy environment. Sociocultural learning theory provided a useful lens through which to pursue these questions.Usefulness of Wenger’s TheoryAlthough sociocultural perspectives on learning for med the theoretical framework for this study, I did not set out to stud y professional communities or communities of practice among teachers. As I observ ed the six teachers in this study and questioned them about their work in the c ontext of standards-based reform, I noticed, however, that their explanations were often framed in collaborative terms. They talked about the ways tha t “they”—that is, themselves and the teachers with whom they worked—were develop ing responses to the social conditions of their students’ lives and to t he very present instructional policies associated with standards-based reform. I theorized that these teacher


15 of 30 work groups were communities of practice and that t hey were mediating individual teacher learning and response to policy. Given this orientation, I turned to the work of Wenger (1998) as a tool for t he analysis of my data. Wenger’s (1998) theory of learning falls among a br oad set of social and psychological traditions that aim to keep the individual in play with the social and action in a dialectic with structure (Giddens, 1984; Wertsch, 1985; Bruner, 1990; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Rogoff, 1995; Cole, 1996 ). These traditions view action and structure as mutually constitutive of ea ch other, and as existing in transactional relation to one another. These socioc ultural views of human phenomena lend themselves well to the study of stru ctural conditions such as policy and their connections with individual action s such as teaching. As noted earlier, Wenger (1998) addresses sociocult ural learning theory within an organizational context. He notes “learning is an issue of sustaining the interconnected communities of practice through whic h an organization knows what it knows and thus becomes effective and valuab le as an organization” (p. 8). This move to apply sociocultural learning theor y to organizational contexts provides a particularly salient and useful framewor k for the study of the connections between education policy and classroom practice because teachers’ work takes place in complex social and or ganizational contexts (districts, schools, and their communities).There are other sociocultural theories of learning (and related constructs) that might provide useful tools for understanding the ph enomena that I studied. Each of these orientations suggests a particular wa y to understand the problem of teacher response to policy. In large part, the c hoice of theory comes down to the relevance of what is foregrounded by a particul ar theoretical perspective in the context of the questions of interest.Why This Sociocultural Theory?An example of another sociocultural orientation is activity theory and the associated concept of appropriation (Herrenkohl & W ertsch, 1999). (Note 6) Herrenkohl and Wertsch distinguish between the mast ery of a cultural tool (learning of the skills involved), and the appropri ation of that tool as one’s own. They apply the distinction between mastery and appropriation to the study of how children learn critical thinking skills through elementary science lessons. One can make a connection here between teachers’ co mpliant use of curriculum materials, for instance, and a more thou ghtfully worked out negotiated alignment with those instructional tools. In the first case, one could assume some level of mastery of the materials; in t he second case, the teachers have appropriated the material as their ow n, modifying their use of them within the context of their particular practic e. The concept of appropriation applied in this manner is quite useful in understanding the individual teacher’s response to a particular instructional policy. This lens foregrounds the cognitive develop ment of the individual teacher, but is not as well suited to analyzing the ways that teachers learn in professional communities. The activity setting itse lf is context for individual appropriation; however, the focus of this study was on social organization at a


16 of 30 broader level, including the interaction between in dividual actions, communal interactions, and the larger social structure.Rogoff (1995) proposed a somewhat different unit of analysis for the study of learning and development. She suggested that learni ng takes place within activity systems that include three interdependent planes of analysis: participatory appropriation, guided participation, and apprenticeship. She described appropriation as participation (by the in dividual) in social activities and the process of that participation as “the subst ance of cognitive development” (p. 151). She saw guided participation as the interpersonal involvement of individuals and their social partner s in social activity. She connected participation in smaller social groups to the accomplishment of larger institutional or cultural goals through a process o f apprenticeship. Through apprenticeship, a novice learner is guided into inc reasingly more expert involvement in a broader social activity. (Note 7) The development of the individual learner within the sociocultural activit y is the primary unit of analysis. Each of these theoretical frames provides a potenti ally useful lens for the study of teacher learning and teacher response to educati onal policy environments. The application of Wenger’s theory to this analysis however, foregrounds a midlevel unit of analysis (communities of practice) His analysis of learning as it occurs within communities of practice (through enga gement in joint work, exposure to new ideas, and efforts to make shifts i n practice) adds much needed contextual information to what has previousl y been understood about teachers and their response to a standards-based re form environment. This orientation broadens our attention from the cogniti ve development and knowledge of the individual teacher, such as a teac her’s knowledge about mathematics, to include the characteristics of the most local community context mediating that learning. It adds clarification to t he phenomenon of within-school variation among teachers’ responses to policy.Subject-matter contexts have often been sites for t he study of individual teachers’ response to policy, especially to content -specific standards (EEPA, 1990; Jennings, 1996; Spillane, 2000). Previous stu dies, such as “The Case of Mrs. Oublier,” were focused on how the individual t eacher had understood and realized—or failed to understand and realize—reform intent in her teaching (Cohen, 1990). That study did not systematically ex amine the contexts of Mrs. O’s work or her relation to them. There was an unde rlying expectation for enculturation in that case description—Mrs. O was e xpected to take up the mathematics reform in a particular way. The explana tion for her implied failures did not explore the texture of her response as part of a broader picture of her teaching practice in relation to the various mediat ing contexts for her work. However, elementary school teachers face content st andards across multiple subject matters that accumulate into intense demand s for new learning (Gallucci, 1998; Spillane, 2000). In order to furth er our understanding of teachers’ responses to standards-based policies, I studied the work of teaching across these multiple contextual demands. The use h ere of a particular sociocultural framework afforded a means to: (a) si multaneously study the policy environment, the contexts of teachers’ work, and teachers’ efforts to make meaning of the multiple dimensions of their te aching practice; and (b) to foreground teacher learning within communities of p ractice.


17 of 30 Previous work has clarified the transactional relat ionship between policy and the complex conditions of teaching practice, as well as the embedded nature of teaching practice (that is, teaching as embedded in multiple layers of organizational, social, and political contexts). Ho wever, the nature of these transactional relations, including those between ch ange processes operating at the individual and organizational levels is not wel l understood. Sociocultural learning theory addresses exactly these kinds of tr ansactional processes, and Wenger’s framework focuses specifically on the ways that changes in practice (learning) are mediated by organizational structure and process. The findings of the present study suggest that this theoretical ori entation to the problem of policy implementation has considerable heuristic va lue for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.Communities of Teaching Practice: Implications for Research, Policy, and PracticeBy design, this research focused on a limited numbe r of teachers in order to develop a deeper contextual understanding of their response to a particular set of instructional policies. This, of course, raises important questions about generalizability. The promise of this approach for understanding problems of policy implementation is supported, however, by the results of other case studies and survey research. Recent findings demons trate the effects of social and organizational factors on teachers’ responses t o dynamic educational policies and the changing social conditions of thei r students’ lives (see McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001; McNeil, 2000; Whitford & Jones, 2000; Coburn, 2001, for example).The findings reported here clarify the need for fur ther research regarding the use of this sociocultural construct for understandi ng teachers’ responses to policies. I document that communities of practice a mong teachers vary along two important dimensions: (1) the relative strength or weakness of the community and (2) the relative openness of the comm unity to engagement with new ideas about instructional practice. I hypothesi ze that these differences among the communities of practice affect teachers’ interpretations of standards-based reform policies, their engagement w ith learning opportunities, and, subsequently, the kinds of changes that they m ake in classroom practice. These findings would be strengthened by research th at further probes individual teachers’ participation in communities of practice as well as across multiple communities of practice documenting evidence of lea rning from one professional setting to another (such as from one c ommunity of practice to another, or from a community of practice to a class room). A primary concern for educators and policymakers is the strengthening of existing and latent communities of practice. These findings suggest that strong and open-minded communities of practice represent learning communities. Further research is necessary to understand the con ditions that enhance and sustain these kinds of collaborative structures amo ng teachers.Strengthening Communities of Practice


18 of 30 Educational leaders need information about how to recognize communities of practice among teachers. This theoretical approach to the problem of reform implementation suggests that learning is occurring in practice —whether we recognize it to be or not. The ability to see commu nities of practice and how they serve to mediate teacher learning and teachers ’ responses to policies is a natural first step toward harnessing that energy in a direction that supports positive instructional change (that is, change that leads to the improvement of student learning outcomes).I distinguish here between communities of practice and more formal and time-limited entities such as task forces or teams. Teams of teachers, or other educators, may exist to accomplish a particular, pr edefined task (such as reviewing a particular curriculum or developing a s trategic plan); they may or may not become communities of practice—entities in which teachers negotiate the meaning of their everyday work through their le arning and identification with a community of other teachers. Communities of pract ice—unlike informal networks that may also pass information among frien ds or co-workers—create, expand, and exchange knowledge about their practice as well as develop individual capabilities (Wenger, McDermott, & Synde r, 2002). Among the biggest barriers to harnessing communitie s of practice are time and other institutional structures. Nonetheless, there is much that could be done at the district and school levels in terms of design a nd planning to ensure that communities of practice develop among teachers. Man y school buildings have structures that encourage such arrangements, such a s pods, clusters, and grade-level teams. Schools that acknowledge and enc ourage vision setting, ongoing professional learning, and collaboration am ong teachers will enhance the probability that communities of practice exist as strong sites of professional growth. Schools that are organized in ways that enc ourage these activities (for example, schedules that provide collaborative plann ing time, and activities that require collaboration among the members of communit ies of practice) enhance the probability that communities of practice will f lourish. Without such organizational support and conscious planning, comm unities of practice may languish, depending on the volunteer or spare time efforts of particularly energetic teachers.These recommendations echo earlier calls for school -level organizational features that support and reward various forms of teacher collaboration (Darling-Hammond, 1996; Little, 1999). Darling-Hamm ond identified a number of activities that local groups of teachers might u sefully engage in such as shared curriculum development, setting high standar ds for student work, and collective assessments of student learning. As note d by Little and affirmed by the work of McLaughlin and Talbert (2001), strong t eacher learning communities question and challenge curricula, pedag ogies, and outcomes for students. The findings reported here add to earlier suggestions that policymakers prioritize and support collaborative p rofessional structures and search for ways to focus the work of teaching commu nities on positive educational outcomes.Boundary crossings are opportunities for new learni ng for communities of


19 of 30 teaching practice (Wenger, 1998). Classroom teacher s might travel to curriculum committees that include members from var ious school sites. Returning to their home-school community of practic e, these travelers bring new ideas. Another example of boundary crossing is foun d in the practice of intervisitation in Community School District #2 in New York City ( Elmore & Burney, 1997). In that school district, teachers tr avel to lab sites where mentor teachers model exemplary teaching practices. Likewi se, professionals who work as on-site staff developers travel between communit ies of practice, such as district offices to school sites, and they also hav e the opportunity to infuse local communities of practice with new information about their work. Teacher leaders working from within communities of practice might also be the travelers or boundary crossers who bring new knowle dge back to their community of practice. Support and encouragement of ‘teachers as reformers’ or ‘teachers as curriculum developers’ takes on add ed importance when viewed in this light. Teachers who are empowered to partic ipate in reform-minded activities might infuse their community of practice with such spirit and activity (especially if they are given support in terms of t ime and learning experiences). Practitioners working together toward reform goals have been described as “apprenticing [themselves] to one another” in their efforts (Dutro, Fisk, Koch, Roop, & Wixson, 2002). These kinds of practice-base d efforts to respond to reform lead to a certain accountability of practice that is essential given the kinds of expectations that standards-based reforms have placed upon classroom teachers.Dimensions of Learning and Policy DesignPolicymakers face some distinct limitations on what they can accomplish regarding professional communities. Previous resear ch suggests that policies cannot, for instance, mandate what or how teachers learn (McLaughlin, 1987). They cannot mandate that teachers all work together in strong communities of practice or that they develop openness to new ideas They likely cannot expect that systems or people will change in particular wa ys because of policy demands. They can, however, provide incentives and support for teachers to work together in communities of practice. They can focus attention and resources such as money and time on activities that engage teacher knowledge and that infuse communities of local practice with new ideas for their work. A good example of this type of activity, supported by government resources, were the local and state-level committees that engaged m any classroom teachers in developing content standards and curricular framewo rks during the early years of standards-based reform efforts (Gallucci, 1998; Dutro, et al, 2002). As policies are designed and as they are taken up i n local settings, there are some dimensions of learning in practice that bear a ttention on the part of educators and policy designers (Wenger, 1998). Firs t, learning is enhanced when meaning making is balanced between reified per spectives (such as those enacted through legislative policy) on the one hand and participation on the part of local practitioners, on the other hand. Of cours e, some ideas are realized in policy and some are not, and those contribute to wh at gets learned. But, the big ideas of policy exist in concert with participation in practice. Wenger suggests that it is through this duality (reification and pa rticipation) that the process of


20 of 30 negotiating meaning or learning, takes place. If, for instance, policy is mandated (reified) at s tate or national levels of the system, leaving little opportunity for negotiation, then there may be little chance to develop relevant meaning through participation. Although actions at the local-level, or street-level, might change the orig inal intent of such policies, those actions consist too often of localized reacti ons to policy demands (Weatherly & Lipsky, 1977). The same participation on the part of practitioners might have broad application to the field if local response was a supported and expected outcome of education policies. For example state policy makers could “give permission” to local districts, schools, and teachers to use any of a variety of strategies to develop locally sensible responses to broad visions for reform (Dutro, et al, 2002).The direction of social energy is best balanced, then, with the generation of social energy. Policies that are generative and tha t invite teachers to engage practical knowledge and to negotiate local meaning, give rise to ongoing learning. Using the example provided above, many st ate-level policy makers proposed that content standards be developed, but w hen they left the decisions about the content of those standards to the profess ional community, including classroom teachers, they balanced the direction of social energy with the generation of social energy (Gallucci, 1998; Dutro, et al, 2002). It seems clear from these findings that the teacher s in communities of practice that generated negotiated responses to standards-ba sed reform policies were involved in making good local sense of those polici es for their students. On the other hand, when the balance of power between polic y design and teacher negotiability favored external sources of ideas (su ch as with the new state assessment policies), teachers felt compelled to be compliant with mandates that they disagreed with and even strong communitie s of practice were powerless to make a difference. The teachers were i n danger of becoming disengaged from their own work. In these cases, com munities of practice became an overlooked source of creative energy to p roduce positive learning outcomes for students.Designs for learning require the power to influence the negotiation of meaning at the local level (Wenger, 1998). The process of i dentification gives meaning to our membership in communities, but it does not defi ne the importance of those meanings within larger social configurations. That process involves having the ability and legitimacy to define whose, or which, m eanings count. Local meanings, for instance, may be extremely, even inti mately, important to members of communities of practice. But they may ca rry little or no power within larger professional contexts.This tension came into play in this study when the power and meaning accorded to state-level student assessments carried high stakes, such as media attention and consequences for local schools. In th at situation the local meanings that teachers held existed in tension with the importance of externally developed standards for practice. Teachers were cau ght in the dilemma of reshaping their identity around a new set of ideas or negotiating a local response to those ideas, or both. Here issues of po wer came into play; the


21 of 30 ability of teachers working within communities of p ractice to negotiate meaning made a difference in terms of their response to sta ndards-based reform. The privileging of a global set of ideas over local mea ning led, in some cases for example, to a non-participatory or compliant respon se on the part of teachers. The ideal would be to balance perspectives and allo w for negotiability of meaning at the local level.This study provides evidence that communities of pr actice among elementary school teachers are sites for professional learning and negotiation with reform policies. The challenge for those concerned with th e improvement of educational outcomes, especially for students who a ttend high poverty schools, is to develop further awareness of the effects of l ocal professional communities on teachers’ practice. Future research is needed to provide educators and policy makers with guidelines for recognizing and s trengthening existing communities of practice and for designing organizat ional structures that support their development.Notes 1. Standards-based, or systemic, reform was conceived as an attempt to achieve policy coherence by aligning three areas of education policy: (a) high curricular standards and aligned assessments of stu dent progress; (b) standards for teacher education, licensure, continu ed professional development, and evaluation; and (c) support for sc hools to structure the time and conditions for student and teacher learning (Sm ith & O’Day, 1991; Knapp, 1997). State governments have taken an unprecedente d lead over the decade of the 1990s in establishing curricular frameworks, related statewide student assessments, and systems for holding schools and te achers accountable for raising student outcomes. 2. Traditionally, the idea underlying “embedded contex ts” is that individuals act within a set of nested environments that give meani ng to, provide resources for, and shape that action. See Bronfenbrenner, 1978 or, more recently, McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001. 3. Wenger (1998) argues, “our actions do not achieve t heir meanings in and of themselves, but rather in the context of a broader process of negotiation. By starting with practice as a context for the negotia tion of meaning, I do not assume that activities carry their own meanings” (p .286). Therefore, discrete activities, or systems of activities, are not the u nit of analysis here. 4. Weak professional communities may be a misuse of the co nstruct, communities of practice, however I use the term (weak) here to distinguish the characteristics of the professional affiliations th at I observed among the teachers that I studied. This is an example of an a rea that requires further research. 5. These findings map closely onto the findings that M cLaughlin & Talbert (2001) report regarding high school teachers and pr ofessional communities. We have converged upon a similar set of ideas about th e nature of communities of practice across teachers who work in both high scho ol settings and elementary


22 of 30 schools. 6. I am using the term activity theory rather loosely here to encompass a wide range of post-Vygotskian theorists who proposed act ivity as the appropriate psychological unit of analysis for the study of lea rning. Herrenkohl & Wertsch (1996) were specifically concerned here with “media tional means” or the use of cultural tools in human action. 7. Rogoff (1995) applied this theory to the study of G irl Scout cookie sales and the study of young children’s cognitive development in learning how to participate in that activity.ReferencesBall, D. (1990). Reflections and deflections of pol icy: The case of Carol Turner. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 12, 327-345. Borko, H., & Putnum, R. T. (1995). Expanding a teac her’s knowledge base: A cognitive psychological perspective on professional development. In T. R. G uskey & M. Huberman (Eds.). Professional development in education: New paradigms and practic es ( pp. 35-36). New York: Teachers College Press. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental e cology of human development. American Psychologist, 513-531. Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Coburn, C. E. (2001). Collective sensemaking about reading: How teachers mediate reading policy in their professional communities. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 23, 145-170. Cohen, D. K. (1990). A revolution in one classroom: The case of Mrs. Oublier. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 12, 327-345. Cohen, D., & Ball, D. (1990). Relations between pol icy and practice: A commentary. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 12, 347-353. Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Darling-Hammond, L., & McLaughlin, M. W. (1999). In vesting in teaching as a learning profession: Policy problems and prospects. In L. Darling-Hammon d & G. Sykes (Eds.), Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practic e (pp. 376-411). San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Denzin, N. K. (1978). Sociological methods: A source book (2nd ed). New York: McGraw-Hill. Dutro, E., Fisk, M.C., Koch, R., Roop, L.J., & Wixs on, K. (2002). When state policies meet local district contexts: Standards-based professional dev elopment as a means to individual agency and collective ownership. Teachers College Record, 104 787-811 Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA) ( 1990). Entire thematic issue (devoted to the findings of the California study of elementary math ematics). Vol. 12, no. 3 (Fall). Elmore, R. F. (1996). Getting to scale with good ed ucational practice. Harvard Educational Review, 66, (1) 1-26. Elmore, R. F. (April, 1999). Learning in classrooms, schools, and school systems : The problem of large-scale educational improvement. The Dewitt Wallace Lecture presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Associ ation, Montreal. Elmore, R. F. (2000). Building a new structure for school leadership. Washington, DC: Albert Shanker Institute.


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24 of 30 Louis, K. S., Marks, H. M., & Kruse, S. (1996). Tea chers’ professional community in restructuring schools. American Educational Research Journal, 33, 757-798. Marks, H. M., & Louis, K. S. (1999). Teacher empowe rment and the capacity for organizational learning. Educational Administration Quarterly, 35, 707-750. McLaughlin, M.W. (1987). Learning from experience: Lessons from policy implementation. In R. Odden (Ed.), Education policy implementation. New York: SUNY Press. McLaughlin, M.W. & Talbert, J. (2001). Professional communities and the work of high schoo l teaching. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. McNeil, L. M. (2000). Contradictions of school reform: Educational costs of standardized testing. New York: Routledge. Miles, M. B. & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Rogoff, B. (1995). Observing sociocultural activity on three planes: Participatory appropriation, guided participation, and apprenticeship. In J. V. Wertsch, P. Del Rio, & A. Alvarez (Eds.), Sociocultural studies of mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rosenholtz, S. (1989). Teachers’ workplace: The social organization of sch ools. New York: Longman. Smith, M., & O’Day, J. (1991). Systemic school refo rm. In S. H. Fuhrman & B. Malen (Eds.). The politics of curriculum and testing (pp. 233-268). Bristol, PA: The Falmer Press. Spillane, J. P. (1999). External reform initiatives and teachers’ efforts to reconstruct their practic e: The mediating role of teachers’ zones of enactment. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31 143-175. Spillane, J. P. (2000). A fifth-grade teacher’s rec onstruction of mathematics and literacy teaching: Exploring interactions among identity, learning, an d subject matter. Elementary School Journal, 100. Spillane, J. P., & Zeuli, J. S. (1999). Reform and teaching: Exploring patterns of practice in the context of national and state mathematics reforms. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21, 1-28. Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanonich. Thompson, C. L. & Zeuli, J. S. (1999). The frame an d the tapestry: Standards-based reform and professional development In L. Darling-Hammond & G. Sykes (Eds.), Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Weatherly, R., & Lipsky, M. (1977). Street-level bu reaucrats and institutional innovation: Implementing special education reform. Harvard Education Review, 47, 171-197. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and ide ntity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W.M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Wertsch, J. V. (1985). Vygotskyand the social formation of mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to med iated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Whitford, B. L., & Jones, K. (2000). Accountability, assessment, and teacher commitment: Lessons from Kentucky’s reform efforts. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Wiemers, N. J. (1990). Transformation and accommoda tion: A case study of Joe Scott. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 12, 327-345.


25 of 30 Wilson, S. M. (1990). A conflict of interests: The case of Mark Black. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 12, 327-345. Yin, R. K. (2002). Case study research. (3rd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage Publications.About the AuthorChrysan GallucciUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraEmail: Chrysan Gallucci is an Assistant Researcher in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Ba rbara. Her research focuses on educational policy—specifically, the connections between K-12 and Teacher Education reform policies and professional learning ; leadership and learning; and the application of practice-oriented, sociocult ural learning theories to issues of professional learning in organizational contexts She also works with SRI, International on a study of policy issues related t o the teaching profession in the state of California. Her other professional experie nces include classroom teaching (both general and special education) and w ork with K-12 schools and school districts on systems change and professional development projects.Appendix A: Research MethodsI used qualitative case study methods in the design for this study (Yin, 2002). The phenomenon of interest was the way that the dim ensions of the policy environments, the individual teachers, and other so cial and organizational factors interacted with one another. I studied the ways in which teachers responded to policy, but I did not study all aspect s of teachers’ work.Sample Selection and SettingsThe study was conducted in the state of Washington. As legislated in 1993, the state had several components of standards-based ref orm in place, including content standards and performance-based assessments ; policies aligning accountability measures, teacher certification and teacher education with the curricular reforms were under consideration at the time of this study. The investigation took place in Pinehurst School Di strict (PSD), a mid-sized urban and semi-urban school district located along the main western corridor of the state. The district was located in one the fast est growing areas of the state and several of its schools had rapidly increasing n umbers of economically disadvantaged or non-English speaking immigrant stu dents. Pinehurst School District served approximately 21,500 students at th e time of this study (an increase of about 33% over the 1990s). The district -wide freeand reduced-price lunch (FRL) population was about 10% in 1980 and was up to 40% in the 1999-2000 school year; it was over 50% i n the elementary schools. Of the 21 elementary schools in the district, 13 we re school-wide Title 1 eligible. [The Pinehurst community had suffered a severe econ omic downturn over the decade of the 90s due to the closing of several ind ustrial plants.] Approximately


26 of 30 20% of the total students were receiving services f or English Language Learners—the majority of those students were Spanis h or Russian language dominant. In terms of ethnicity, the district had a stable pattern of about 85% White students. The percentage of African American students was stable at about 4%, but the Latino/a student population had r isen from 2.5% to 7% over the decade of the 1990s.Pinehurst had responded quickly and decisively to t he state-level standards-based reform measures. Over a period of f our years, PSD had centralized its curricular policies through three n ew content area adoptions (reading, science, and math). The mandated use of a specific reading series, for example, was considered controversial because p rior to 1997 decisions about reading materials and related pedagogical pra ctices were made at the school level. In addition, the district had develop ed an aggressive response to the new state-level student assessments, adding its own assessments and test-preparation requirements to those of the state Washington State, in conjunction with the Riverside Publishing Company, developed the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). The test was in part a performance-based measure that was intended to test student outcomes on the legislature adopted curriculum standards. The test was administered in grades 4, 7, and 10; most districts, Pinehurst included, b egan administering the test in the spring of 1997 in English Language Arts and Mat hematics. Two schools that were characterized by high levels of poverty were selected for the study. I chose high poverty schools because the social conditions of students’ lives and the generally low scores on sta ndards-based assessments in such schools make them sites of particular inter est for policy implementation research. These two schools were recommended by dis trict personnel for the variance in their instructional approaches to schoo l improvement, school organization, and professional cultures. The studen t populations of the schools were slightly more diverse than the district’s over all student population, however, the students in both schools were predomin ately poor and White (69%-75%).Maple View Elementary reported the following studen t data in 2000: 75% White, 15% Hispanic [district terminology], 5% African Ame rican, 3% Asian, and 1% American Indian students. At Maple View Elementary about 90% of the students received free or reduced price lunch (1999 -2000). The school had high mobility rates such that about 1/3rd of the students turned over in the first three months of school Less than 45% of the students at Maple View met o r exceeded state standards on the new performance-bas ed assessments in reading and mathematics (between 1998 and 2000 read ing scores rose from 36% to 45%; math scores rose from 19% to 31%). Prog ram delivery services at Maple View were organized in relatively traditional models (for example, students who received special services of any kind were pulled out of the general education classroom and moved to other loca tions in the building). Rice Elementary reported in 2000 that 69% of its st udents were White, 14% Hispanic, 10% African American, 4% Asian, and 3% Am erican Indian. At Rice Elementary about 70% of the students received freeor reduced-price lu nch and the school had a mobility rate of about 40% per school year (1999-20 00)


27 of 30 Test scores at Rice Elementary had climbed signific antly over a three-year period (for example reading scores had climbed from 29% to 78% of the students at or above the state standards; math scor es also increased but not as dramatically). This phenomenon was attributed large ly to a redesigned Title 1 delivery model that brought reading and math specia lists into regular classrooms.Three teachers each from Maple View and Rice elemen tary schools agreed to participate in the teacher case studies. I purposel y sampled teachers who were early in their career (2-4 years) and those who wer e experienced teachers (more than 7 years teaching) in order to compare te acher perceptions and experiences across a range of early to late teacher careers. In each school, I selected at least one teacher at the 3rd grade and 4th grade levels (these were the most highly tested grade levels). I selected te achers at both primary and intermediate grades at each school in order to bala nce my findings across grade levels in the schools. I also talked with the principals about my goals for the study (e.g., the study of teacher learning and standards-based reform; the need for teachers willing and able to articulately describe their work) and checked my selections with them before making my fi nal decisions.Data CollectionThis inquiry was conducted using policy-oriented ca se study and ethnographic field methods. Data collection methods focused on b oth the policy environments and classroom practice, with emphasis placed on dis trict, school, and teacher levels of the policy system. I analyzed state docum ents related to K-12 standards-based reform in order to provide state le vel context for the study. I relied on the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy (CTP) case study development in Washington State as a source of addi tional information (I was associated with CTP during the time of the study).I conducted semi-structured interviews with seven d istrict personnel and I interviewed each school principal two times during the study. At the district level, I interviewed the Superintendent, two assist ant Superintendents (Curriculum and Instruction and Learning Support), the Director of Human Resources who was also responsible for professional development, and three curriculum specialists. At each school, I interview ed school-based specialists such as the reading specialists and special educati on teachers. In addition, I collected and reviewed a variety of district docume nts, videotaped professional development materials, and demographic data as well as school mission statements, Student Learning Improvement Plans, sch ool-level student outcome data and other materials appropriate for th e goals of the study. In developing the teacher case studies, I utilized ethnographic field methods including the collection of in-depth field notes an d multiple teacher interviews over time (Spradley, 1979; LeCompte & Preissle, 199 3). I observed each of the six case study teachers as they taught their classe s on a minimum of six different days during the school year (1999-2000). These observations ranged in time from 2 hours to 6.5 hours with the average observation lasting one half of a school day. I also sat in on teacher meetings, individual teacher planning sessions, informal conversations, and lunchtime act ivities. I interviewed each of


28 of 30 the teachers three times over a period that extende d from January of 2000 through June of 2000 using semi-structured, in-dept h interview protocols (Spradley, 1979). The interviews were typically one hour in length. All interviews were tape recorded and professionally transcribed i n verbatim text for later analysis. I collected curricular materials, teacher developed lesson plans, and examples of student work. This use of multiple meth ods of data collection was one form of triangulation, ensuring that multiple d ata sources would balance findings and protect against reliance on a particul ar source (Denzin, 1978).Data AnalysisFollowing ethnographic and interpretive traditions, data analysis for this project was ongoing and iterative. Formal steps in the data analysis process began with (1) a re-reading all of the raw data and (2) jottin g notes and observations in the margins of the interview transcripts, field notes, and documents. My notes were based on the theoretical framework with which the s tudy was initiated and the constructs described by the participants of the stu dy (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993). I used this early scan of the raw data to bu ild an inductive understanding of what was in the data. I developed analytic case summaries for each of the six teacher cases using the coding system that I had developed to organize my f indings (refer to Table 1 for the analytic codes). I also developed descriptive c ase accounts of both schools and the school district. Finally, I analyzed the da ta across the six teacher case accounts and within each major analytic category to develop interpretive understandings that explained the responses of the teachers to standards-based reform (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993). Table 2 presents a summary of the major cross-case themes in each anal ytic category. To ensure that my interpretations of the data match ed the reality of the participants in the study I incorporated the follow ing procedures into the research process. First, during data collection, I provided the teachers with photocopies of the field notes that I collected in their classrooms and asked them if the notes were accurate. Second, during the data analysis process, I provided the teachers with their own case summaries and asked for feedback regarding the accuracy of my descriptions and inter pretations. One of the teachers met with me to discuss her case account an d two teachers sent email feedback regarding their case summaries. I followed up with the remaining three teachers and they confirmed that the case sum maries were representative of their teaching practice. The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is Editor: Gene V Glass, Arizona State UniversityProduction Assistant: Chris Murrell, Arizona State University


29 of 30 General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State Un iversity, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin David C. Berliner Arizona State University Greg Camilli Rutgers University Linda Darling-Hammond Stanford University Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Gustavo E. Fischman Arizona State Univeristy Richard Garlikov Birmingham, Alabama Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Ontario Institute ofTechnology Patricia Fey Jarvis Seattle, Washington Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Les McLean University of Toronto Heinrich Mintrop University of California, Los Angeles Michele Moses Arizona State University Gary Orfield Harvard University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Jay Paredes Scribner University of Missouri Michael Scriven University of Auckland Lorrie A. Shepard University of Colorado, Boulder Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Kevin Welner University of Colorado, Boulder Terrence G. Wiley Arizona State University John Willinsky University of British ColumbiaEPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico


30 of 30 Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico) Universidad Autnoma de Puebla Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil) Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do Javier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma Marcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Angel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de Daniel Schugurensky (Argentina-Canad) OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil) American Institutes forResesarch–Brazil (AIRBrasil) Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain) Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.) University of California, Los EPAA is published by the Education Policy Studies Laboratory, Arizona State University