Implementing New Standards: The Role of Authority

Laura Desimone
Thursday, April 28, 2016


Twenty20

C-SAIL’s approach to studying standards implementation across states is grounded in the policy attributes theory. Developed more than 20 years ago by our Center director Andy Porter and his colleagues, the framework suggests that there are five key components to successful policy implementation: authority, specificity, consistent, power and stability. The higher a policy is on one or all of the attributes, the greater the chance it will work. In a recent post Andy Porter talked about the interaction of power and authority.

Over the next few months, we’ll discuss each of these attributes, and how each relates to the implementation of standards in the classroom.

First, let’s start with authority. Authority operates through persuasion and stakeholder participation and buy-in.  A policy can have authority through multiple mechanisms, including law, social norms, support from experts, or promotion by charismatic leaders. Support and leadership can come in the form of positive messaging, and, perhaps most importantly, through providing resources to help districts, schools, and classrooms implement the standards.

IF EDUCATORS BELIEVE THE CHANGE IS GOOD FOR STUDENTS, THEY ARE MORE LIKELY TO IMPLEMENT IT IN MEANINGFUL WAYS, AND IT IS MORE LIKELY TO LAST THROUGH LEADERSHIP AND PRIORITY CHANGES.

For standards-based reform to have authority, it would mean that educators support and buy-into them. With standards, as with other areas of educational innovation such as new school reform models or a new curriculum, educator buy-in seems necessary for change to be truly integrated and sustained. If educators believe the change is good for students, they are more likely to implement it in meaningful ways, and it is more likely to last through leadership and priority changes.

C-SAIL will explore several different types of authority: (1) Institutional authority, established through setting priorities and providing appropriate time and resources for implementation. (2) Leadership authority, which works through the backing and support of state, district and school leaders, and (3) Practitioner authority, which is the belief and buy-in by teachers who are using the new standards in the classroom.

 Our implementation study will measure how much authority new standards have. Through interviews and surveys, we are asking:

  • Do district administrators, principals and teachers believe the standards are a good idea and that they will improve student learning?
  • How are state, district and school leaders showing support for or criticizing the standards?
  • Are they providing resources, like professional development and aligned curricula, to help teachers use the standards in their classrooms? What is the nature and quality of these supports?

We will see how states vary in their approaches to establishing the authority of the standards, and how educators buy-in and support for the standards vary – by such factors as high school versus elementary school, ELA versus math, and for teachers of ELL and special needs students. We will be able to see whether implementation is better, and student achievement is higher in places where standards have more authority.