Sunday, March 20, 2011

McCallister (2001): From ideal to real: Unlocking the doors of school reform.

McCallister, C. (2001). From ideal to real: Unlocking the doors of school reform. In Frances O’Connell Rust & Helen Freidus (Eds.), Guiding School Change: The Role and Work of Change Agents (pp. 37-56). New York: Teachers College Press.

McCallister is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at NYU. Around 1996, she received a 5-year foundation grant to work as a staff developer at a NYC public school for an innovative and student centered literacy and language program. Initially, teachers were excited by the program and expressed committment. But only a few teachers actually stuck to the program. A few experienced teachers learned to become "experts" on advanced methods of literacy instruction and became "exemplars." But other teachers at the school were not able to tap into their expertise.


  • uneven commitment of teachers
  • no incentive structure to support the expectation that every teacher use the program
  • school culture was one where teachers had a lot of personal autonomy - administration didn't want to "force" teachers to implement the program; tension between accountability and autonomy
  • principal did not fully support the program during implementation; replaced by an interim principal who was liked by parents by disliked by the superintendent; there was conflict between parents & the superintendent.
  • school had many inexperienced teachers who were struggling with other issues like classroom management
  • lack of district support; they gave this school 75% less money for books for the reading program because they were not using the approved literacy program's basal reader
  • instability caused by faculty turnover

"In most schools and classrooms, core practices don't change on a large scale because reform efforts don't sufficiently account for the complexity of how institutions are organized, and what incentive structures govern practice (Darling-Hammond, 1997; Elmore, 1996)." (p55)

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