What we learned about research on school reform: Considerations for practice and policy

Thomas L. Good, Mary Mccaslin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background/Context: The U. S. federal government has been interested in improving the performance of students who come from low-income homes since the time of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" initiatives in the 1960s. The current administration strongly supports the belief that good schools can be created and has funded the Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) program to support these beliefs. This article provides information about recent school reform research and conditions of schooling. The article then reviews our research findings (drawing on all the preceding articles in the special issue) and considers implications for policy makers, principals, teachers, teacher educators, and researchers. Purpose: The basic intent of this study was to inform working theories of learning, motivation, and social/emotional development in school contexts in Grades 3-5. We hoped that an emphasis on theory, contextual enactment, and participant mediation would yield a richer picture of classroom practices and motivational dynamics that might underlie student achievement and CSR effectiveness. This study focused in particular on perspectives (principals and students) and classroom practices associated with CSR programs in elementary schools in the state of Arizona. Research Design: The research program includes interview (with principals), observation (of classroom practices), and survey measures, and an adaptation of Thematic Apperception Test procedures (with students). Conclusion/Recommendations: School reform initiatives can profit from more research on participant perceptions, actual classroom practices, and student mediation of those practices. These understandings can better link program design and student achievement to enhance the effectiveness of CSR initiatives. We believe that it is now possible to conduct field experiments for improving normative (typical) practice in elementary school classrooms. We offer considerations for doing this research and suggest the need for attention to students, both as social beings and learners, while altering classroom practices in small measured steps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2475-2495
Number of pages21
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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