Final Report on the Study of the Impact of the Statewide Systemic Initiatives. Volume 1

WCER Working Paper No. 2003-12, Volume 1

Norman L. Webb and Iris R. Weiss

September 2003, 270 pp.

ABSTRACT: In an effort to evaluate the impact of the Statewide Systemic Initiatives (SSIs) on student achievement and the lessons that could be learned from the National Science Foundation’s effort to reform mathematics and science education on a statewide basis, research studies identified the technical strategies, the political strategies, and the interactions with funders that were critical factors in the attempt to effect significant change in student learning over large populations. Documents were received on 21 of the 26 SSIs. More intensive data were collected via telephone interviews of key personnel in seven of these states and during site visits in six other states. Among a number of lessons learned were the following: It was vital to incorporate enough flexibility within the design so that information produced by research, evaluation, and monitoring could be effectively used (technical lesson); the creation of partnerships with policy organizations significantly advanced policy work (political lesson); and, SSI leaders and funders needed to develop a shared, in-depth understanding of the reform strategies as these fit the local context (interaction with funders). In addition, an analysis of the NSF’s systemic initiatives compared student mathematics test data for Grades 4 and 8 in SSI states and non-SSI states with data from State NAEP assessments for three testing years, 1992, 1996, and 2000. Comparisons were made of 14 SSI states and 13 non-SSI states that participated in the State NAEP in each of these three testing years. The close fit found between improved performance and SSI funding suggests that a relationship exists between such initiatives and student achievement. Of equal importance is the finding that change is most effective when multiple components are addressed in concert: i.e., when the SSIs served as catalysts for other reform efforts that states had initiated, they achieved optimum impact. When state policies are aligned with the goals of a systemic initiative and when state infrastructure supports teachers and schools as they change their practices, reform can result in substantial achievement gains in a relatively short time.

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keywords: Statewide Systemic Initiatives; Systemic Reform; Strategic Planning for Reform; Mathematics; National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)