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Open Access Publications from the University of California


CREDE is a federally funded research and development program focused on improving the education of students whose ability to reach their potential is challenged by language or cultural barriers, race, geographic location, or poverty. More than 30 CREDE-funded research projects around the country have gathered data and tested curriculum models in wide-ranging settings and with diverse student populations-from classrooms with predominantly Zuni-speaking students in New Mexico to inner city schools in Florida to California elementary schools with large populations of native Spanish-speaking students. The findings from these projects are available here and on the CREDE web site.

Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence

There are 94 publications in this collection, published between 1991 and 2005.
Educational Practice Reports (9)

Personalizing Culture Through Anthropological and Educational Perspectives

This report is written primarily for teachers and teacher educators who, in their teaching, curricula, and relationships with students, are struggling with fundamental cultural questions: Who are my students? What kinds of cultural influences shape their lives? How do they — and I, as their teacher — shape and construct this culture on an ongoing basis? What are my own cultural assumptions and how do they influence my teaching?

Much has been written about how schools should respond to the needs of diverse learners and how teachers should alter curricula and teaching practices to accommodate them. We do not intend to reiterate what has already been accomplished in this area. Rather, this report covers ground that we think has been less well covered — namely, the personalization of culture and how it can enhance teaching and learning. These pages represent a distillation of ideas and strategies shared in 1996 at a two-day institute for teachers and anthropologists.1

Many teachers realize that a key to creating a successful learning environment for all students is to tap into the prior knowledge and skills that students bring to school and to make connections between their prior knowledge and new knowledge. Norma González (1996) confirmed this:

"Our experience indicates that when the children's background is recognized and incorporated into the classroom, children's motivation and engagement in the learning process increases dramatically. This is a necessary condition for improving students' achievement across all areas of the curriculum, including language arts, critical thinking skills, mathematics, and scientific inquiry."

When teachers and students share similar cultural and linguistic backgrounds, making these connections is easier, because teachers already have some fairly well-grounded information about the child's culture. For example, they might already know what kinds of activities families participate in on weekends, what kinds of work parents do, and how discipline tends to be handled in the home. Gaps in the teacher's knowledge can readily be filled in by asking parents, who speak the same language as the teacher. On, the other hand, when teachers do not have a background similar to their students', they may lack cultural information that is relevant to teaching these children. Worse yet, they may rely on stereotypes and generalizations to inform curricular and pedagogical decisions. Information and strategies for acquiring accurate information may not be readily apparent, and "even if it were possible for teachers to learn enough about the cultural background of each student, this can lead to the trap of essentialism" (Spindler, 1996), in which we expect all children of a particular cultural background to act in a certain way. Many teachers wonder where they can turn for strategies and ideas that make meaningful use of culture in the classroom.

The purpose of this report is to provide suggestions that will assist teachers in personalizing culture – that is, in moving away from broad generalizations about cultures toward specific knowledge about individual students and families, and toward awareness of the teacher's own culture. Through this personalization of culture, students' prior knowledge and skills can become a rich resource for teaching and learning. We view this as part of the larger effort to create culturally responsive schools. In the following paragraphs, we foreshadow five themes and related assumptions that frame our suggestions for personalizing culture.

Successful Transition into Mainstream English: Effective Strategies for Studying Literature

This is one of a series of reports on various aspects of a multi-year Spanish-to-English language arts transition curriculum that seeks to promote first and second language acquisition and academic achievement in the early grades. After providing an overview of the multi-year transition program, this report focuses on how an 8-week literature unit—the intensive study of a carefully chosen literature text—is conducted.

The following four fundamental theoretical premises that undergird the project are described: (1) challenge, (2) comprehensiveness, (3) continuity, and (4) connections between students' existing knowledge and the academic content to be learned.

Four strategies found to be effective and the corresponding tools used are as follows:

(1) Build students' background knowledge. Background-building lessons and activities support the literature unit and provide a means to integrate language arts and social studies. Students complete supplemental reading through assigned independent readings, teacher read-alouds, and books available for pleasure reading.

(2) Draw on students' personal experiences. Individual "literature logs" are students' written answers to specific questions about themes in the story being studied. The questions elicit students' personal experiences relevant to the story.

(3) Promote extended discourse through writing and discussion. "Working the text"— reading it, re-reading it, discussing it, writing about it, and listening to what others have written about it—gives students opportunities to develop new ways to interpret and articulate ideas. A final writing project shows how students' understanding of the literature text has expanded and how their ability to write about it has been enhanced.

(4) Assist students in re-reading pivotal portions of the text. In preparation for the unit, the teacher "chunks" the book into manageable portions of reading that begin and end at meaningful junctures. In one or more chunks, the content is complex and critical to the larger understanding of the story and its theme(s). Such chunks require more time and intensive discussion and may be further divided into parts. Using background knowledge that students gained during study of the story and through further exploration of students' personal experiences, the teacher guides students through each step of a pivotal portion.

Evaluation studies of the benefit of such literacy instruction suggest that the program is providing students with a demonstrably successful transition experience. Mean national percentiles scores for project students increased from the 44th to 72nd percentile in reading and from the 40th to the 78th percentile in language. In comparison, percentile scores for nonproject students showed smaller gains. Project students also scored significantly higher than nonproject students on project-developed performance- based measures of English reading and writing.

Educating Hispanic Students: Obstacles and Avenues to Improved Academic Achievement

This report synthesizes the research on the education of Hispanic students, summarizing these problems and suggesting possible solutions for approaching them.

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Final Reports (1)

A National Study of School Effectiveness for Language Minority Students' Long-Term Academic Achievement

Our research from 1985 to 2001 has focused on analyzing the great variety of education services provided for language minority (LM) students in U.S. public schools and the resulting long-term academic achievement of these students. This five-year research study (1996-2001) is our most recent overview of the types of U.S. school programs provided for these linguistically and culturally diverse students, especially focusing on English language learners’ (ELLs/LEPs) academic achievement in Grades K-12. This study includes qualitative and quantitative research findings from five urban and rural research sites in the northeast, northwest, south-central, and southeast U.S. It is designed to answer urgent policy questions of interest to the federal and state governments of the United States, since this demographic group is projected to be 40 percent of the school-age population by the 2030s and most U.S. schools are currently under-educating this student group. Overall, this research provides whole school district views of policy decision-making that is data-driven regarding designing, implementing, evaluating, and reforming the education of LM students.

NCRCDSLL Educational Practice Reports (17)

Creating a Community of Scholarship with Instructional Conversations in a Transitional Bilingual Classroom

This report explores the ways in which instructional conversations between a teacher and her students contributed to building an academic community in a transitional bilingual fourth-grade classroom. Through an analysis of reading lesson transcripts, classroom events, and student essays and journal assignments, this report shows how classroom experiences fostered the development of students' understanding of the concepts of sacrifice and responsibility. This report describes how, at both the individual and classroom community level, instructional conversations deepened student understandings of the texts they read in class by encouraging students to make connections between particular textual concepts and their own experiences. In addition to tracking student gains in understanding, this report shows how the conversations helped build a classroom community that incorporated the cultural beliefs and concerns of the students.

Instructional Conversations in Special Education Settings: Issues and Accommodations

Traditional approaches to special education instruction tend to be individualized and focus on skill building. In contrast, an interactive instructional approach, instructional conversations (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988), seems to capitalize on what the child brings to the learning situation rather than focusing solely on remediation of deficit areas. While an instructional conversational approach does not replace teaching that emphasizes the acquisition of skills and knowledge, it does appear to provide additional learning opportunities within a meaningful context. However, accommodations particular to students with learning disabilities may be necessary when implementing such an approach in a special education setting.

Effective Instructional Conversation in Native American Classrooms

Instructional conversation (IC) is a dialog between teacher and learner in which prior knowledge and experiences are woven together with new material to build higher understanding. IC contrasts with the "recitation script" of traditional western schooling, which is highly routinized and dominated by the teacher. IC varies in form in different cultures, as do other discourse forms. Analysis of the research on the formal and informal learning of American Indians lends insight into possible ways in which instructional conversations in classrooms with these children can be modified to promote learning. Effective instructional conversations for Native Americans are influenced by four basic psychocultural factors identified by Tharp (1989): a) sociolinguistics; b) motivation; c) cognition; and d) social organization. These factors are implicated in activity settings that are more likely to produce effective ICs in Native American classrooms. "Ideal" activity settings--those most likely to produce and maintain ICs for Native American students are proposed and illustrated.

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NCRCDSLL Research Reports (13)

Teachers' Beliefs About Reading Assessment with Latino Language Minority Students

Because of the psychometric bias in much of the work on assessment, much attention has been focused on the technical aspects of assessment to the exclusion of other aspects of the overall literacy context. In particular, little attention has been paid to test users, especially in classroom settings. To date, little is known about teachers' beliefs and everyday practices regarding assessment. There is even less known about how various factors such as professional background might influence these beliefs and practices. This information is important, especially in light of the changing paradigms impacting educational practice and the increasing linguistic and cultural diversity in many classrooms.

Given this knowledge gap, the present study investigated teachers' belief systems or mental models and everyday practices regarding the nature, function, and uses of assessment with a special focus on reading with Latino language minority students. These mental models can be seen as integrated systems of concepts, scripts, and scenes which function to lend meaning to the action systems of classrooms.

Three groups of teachers (special education pull-out, bilingual credentialed, and bilingual waivered) of Latino language minority students were included in the study (n = 18 per group). Multiple methods were used in the investigation, including semi-structured interviews, a written questionnaire, classroom observation, and analysis of documents and classroom products related to assessment.

It was found that there were clear differences among the groups with the special education teachers most unlike the other two groups. In addition, there was a general discrepancy between the belief systems of a significant proportion of the teachers studied and the more constructivist and socioculturally-based principles underlying many recent theoretical and reform-based initiatives. The results are discussed in the context of both educational reform and teacher training efforts.

Mathematics and Middle School Students of Mexican Descent: The Effects of Thematically Intergrated Instruction

This paper reports the effects of thematically integrated mathematics instruction on achievement, attitudes, and motivation in mathematics among middle school students of Mexican descent. A school-university collaborative effort led to the development and testing of a thematic approach undertaken as a means of contextualizing instruction for students considered to be at risk for school failure. Instruction relied heavily on small collaborative learning groups and on hands-on activities designed to help students make real-world sense of mathematical concepts. As hypothesized, experimental and control students made equivalent gains in computational skills, but experimental students (who received thematic instruction) surpassed controls in achievement on mathematical concepts and applications. The two programs did not have a differential effect on students' attitudes toward mathematics or self-perceptions of motivation in mathematics, but motivational variables did predict achievement outcomes for both groups. Issues related to the opportunity to learn the full range of mathematics content of the curriculum within a thematic approach are examined.

Verbal Comprehension and Reasoning Skills of Latino High School Students

This report examines the readiness of Latino high school students for college-level academic work based on their reading comprehension and verbal reasoning skills. We first review pertinent college admissions test data and educational survey data. Next, we go on to discuss findings from a variety of research fields that sharpen our understanding of factors that can promote or inhibit the development of verbal comprehension and reasoning skills among Latino students. Our analysis of research covers contextual factors, discourse processing, and word recognition factors related to reading comprehension and verbal reasoning performance. We conclude with a discussion of some important questions that need to be pursued in devising effective instruction and interventions based on what research has revealed.

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Occasional Reports (11)

From At-Risk to Excellence: Principles for Practice

Innovative programs of school reform and research for diverse students have tended to concentrate on specific cultural, linguistic, or ethnic populations and on specific local communities. Research has been conducted on a variety of at-risk populations, including Native Americans; Korean, Chinese, and South-east Asian Americans; Haitian Americans; Native Hawaiians; economically disadvantaged and geographically isolated European Americans; rural and inner city African Americans; and Latinos of many national origins. Continued energy has also been devoted to the study and development of model school programs for a variety of mixed racial, linguistic, and cultural groups.

For many years, researchers have attempted to integrate studies of these groups into literature reviews encompassing thousands of studies conducted worldwide. These reviews have un-covered a core list of "generic" findings that transcend specific groups, localities, and risk factors (see, e.g., Collier, 1995).

There is broad enough consensus to make these findings, or principles, an organizing structure, both for continuing research and for immediate implementation into programs for at-risk children. These principles provide the basis for research being conducted by the Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE). CREDE studies focus on the principles by studying their enactment in a variety of settings. CREDE's mission is to help the nation's population of diverse students, including those at risk of educational failure, to achieve high standards. CREDE's research operates under six strands: (1) language learning; (2) professional development; (3) family, peers, school, and community; (4) instruction in context; (5) integrated school reform; and (6) assessment.

Examining Latino Paraeducators' Interactions With Latino Students

Sociocultural theory emphasizes the social nature of learning and the cultural–historical contexts in which interactions take place. Thus, teacher-student interactions and the relationships that are fostered through these interactions play a vital role in student learning. This digest discusses a study that examined the impact of sociocultural factors on the interactions between Latino language minority students and Latino paraeducators and the relationships that result from these interactions. The study explored whether a knowledge of students' culture and communities, primary language, and interaction styles helps paraeducators and their cooperating teachers meet the students' academic and social needs.

Promoting Successful Transition to the Mainstream: Effective Instructional Strategies for Bilingual Students

This Digest describes a research and development program being carried out in transitional bilingual education (TBE) programs at five elementary schools in the Los Angeles area. The majority of the students in these schools are Latino, and more than 80% are classified as limited English proficient (LEP) at the time of enrollment. Since the early 1990s, researchers have been collaborating with teachers and project advisors to develop, implement, and describe instructional strategies that significantly improve the chances of these students to make a successful transition to mainstream English instruction. The transition program they have developed optimally spans Grades 3 through 5. Grade 3 is considered a pre-transition year, Grade 4 is Transition I, and Grade 5 is Transition II. The pre-transition component is designed to emphasize the importance of developing literacy skills in Spanish and oral language skills in English. The goal is to have all students performing at grade level in Spanish reading and writing and at the speech emergence level in oral English by the end of Grade 3, at which time they qualify for transition and begin English reading and writing while they continue receiving Spanish language arts.

It should be noted that the passage of California's Proposition 227 in 1998 essentially eliminated many bilingual programs throughout the state, including the ones with which the researchers have been working. Nevertheless, they are still investigating the effects of the transition program and its many components on the language arts achievement of English learners.

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Practitioner Briefs (5)

Educating Hispanic Students: Effective Instructional Practices

Effective instructional practices are crucial to addressing the educational crisis facing many Hispanic students in the United States. The number of Hispanic students attending public schools has increased dramatically in recent decades, yet Hispanic students as a group have the lowest levels of education and the highest dropout rate of any student group. Conditions of poverty and health, as well as other social problems have made it difficult for some Hispanics living in the U.S. to improve their educational status. Cultural and historical practices have also placed numbers of Hispanic children at risk for educational failure. Research-based instructional practices are thus vital to improving the academic success of Hispanic students. CREDE researchers have synthesized the research on strategies that have been significant in advancing the achievement of these students. This brief presents these identified teaching practices, which can be applied in any classroom and are beneficial for all students, as well.

Development and Maintenance of Two-Way Immersion Programs: Advice from Practitioners

As an effective and increasingly popular educational approach, two-way immersion (TWI) programs have grown remarkably in the past 15 years. CREDE's "Two-Way Immersion" project, conducted at the Center for Applied Linguistics, has kept track of TWI growth and determined effective program implementation practices. Information on TWI programs is published online in the Directory of Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs in the United States (2000) at

The Directory provides detailed program and demographic information for 250+ programs that a) provide content and literacy in English and a minority language, b) integrate students from the two language groups for at least half of the school day, and c) have a roughly equal balance of language majority and language minority students. To collect this information, CREDE researchers sent out questionnaires to the primary contacts for these TWI programs (principals, bilingual coordinators, or teachers), which included open-ended issues, such as:

1. What are the most important factors in the success of your program? 2. What challenges have you faced while establishing your program? How have you dealt with them? 3. What advice can you offer new two-way programs that are starting up?

This brief will summarize the responses given to these questions and provide recommendations supported by CREDE's research and technical assistance.

Some Program Alternatives for English Language Learners

With the increasing number of linguistically and culturally diverse students in K-12 classrooms, it is imperative that practitioners determine educational approaches that best serve these students. English language learners (ELLs) in particular face the dual challenge of mastering English and acquiring the academic skills and knowledge deemed essential for a sound and productive education. Researchers at CREDE have studied four programs that meet the diverse and complex needs of ELLs: (1) newcomer programs, (2) transitional bilingual education, (3) developmental bilingual education, and (4) two-way immersion. This brief will summarize these programs by highlighting specific features and conditions that will help practitioners determine which programs meet their needs, fulfill their goals, and match their resources.

When starting a new program or assessing the effectiveness of an existing one, it is important to consider common characteristics of all programs. Successful programs maintain ongoing and guided parental involvement and professional development for specialized and mainstream teachers. They promote proficiency in both first and second languages for academic purposes, and they use assessment methods linked to instructional objectives to inform instructional planning and delivery. Effective programs also encompass developmentally appropriate curriculum and high standards for language acquisition and academic achievement, as well as strong leadership among classroom, school, and district personnel. All programs implement sheltered instruction (SI), an approach that integrates language and content instruction. SI serves as a means for making grade-level academic content more accessible to ELLs while at the same time promoting their English language development. Academic subjects are taught using English as the medium of instruction. SI highlights key language features and incorporates special strategies to make the content meaningful and comprehensible to ELLs. In some cases, SI is used as a program option for educating ELLs. When looking at the unique characteristics of the following alternatives, educators should remember that there is no one best program. Rather, these different approaches are all successful if implemented well.

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Research Briefs (9)

Teaching Secondary Language Minority Students

CREDE's Five Standards for Effective Teaching and Learning express the principles of effective pedagogy for all students. For mainstream students, the Standards describe the ideal; for at-risk students, the Standards are vital (Dalton, 1998). While the work contributing to the standards articulated in CREDE's projects comes from several theoretical systems, CREDE's Standards are stated in the language of sociocultural theory.

I. Teacher and Students Producing Together (Joint Productive Activity)

II. Developing Language Across the Curriculum (Language Development)

III. Making Meaning: Connecting School to Students' Lives (Contextualization)

IV. Teaching Complex Thinking (Cognitive Challenge)

V. Teaching Through Interactive Discussions (Instructional Conversation)

In this research brief, we focus on language development as well as academic development for English language learners. Teachers are concerned about covering content and curriculum, and they often ignore students' language development, which is critical for academic success. For secondary school learners, regardless of program (e.g., early exit primary language, sheltered instruction), there are some features necessary for language development. Teachers should

• understand the language needs of students,

• explicitly plan to meet those needs,

• deliver instruction, and

• assess students' comprehension.

We discuss each feature, using a case study to illustrate what the teachers need to know, consider, and do.

Tracking Untracking: Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Educational Innovation

Tracking contributes significantly to the achievement gap between low-income, minority students and their more affluent peers. Ethnic and linguistic minority students from low-income backgrounds frequently remain in general and vocational education classes. As a result, they do not become eligible for college enrollment. Achievement Via Individual Determination (AVID), an educational reform program based in San Diego, "untracks" low-achieving ethnic and language minority students by placing both low- and high-achieving students in the same rigorous academic program. The program gives students explicit instruction in the hidden curriculum of the school–the implicit educational rules and expectations, such as knowledge about what courses to take for the college-bound, what teachers to take or avoid, the importance of tests, and how to study– and helps the students make the transition to college. The AVID program has successfully prepared under-represented students for college: from 1988 to 1992, 94% of AVID students enrolled in college, compared to 56% of all high school graduates (AVID Center, 1999). African Americans and Latinos enrolled in college in numbers that exceeded local and national averages (Mehan, Villanueva, Hubbard, & Lintz, 1996; Mehan, Hubbard, Lintz, & Villanueva, 1994).

As AVID is being adopted by school districts through-out the country, researchers at the Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE) are examining the process by which a "design team," in this case AVID Center, exports its prototype of educational reform to new settings–three schools in California, two in Kentucky and two in Virginia. This "scaling up" study focuses on a) the interrelationship between multiple contexts of implementation, b) the degree of variation in the implementations of AVID guidelines at the new sites, and c) the contribution of institutional processes that facilitate or inhibit academic success.

This research builds upon work in the sociocultural tradition, especially Rogoff (1995) and Tharp (1997), who identify personal, interpersonal, and community levels or "planes" of interaction, and McLaughlin & Talbert (1993), who depict organizations in concentric circles, where the classroom is in the center, surrounded by the school, the district, and the community. It extends this work by explicitly calling attention to political and economic conditions that enable possibilities and impose constraints on education in general and school reform in particular.

Improving Classroom Instruction and Student Learning for Resilient and Non-resilient English Language Learners

Some English language learners (ELLs) do well in school despite coming from school and home environments that present many obstacles for learning. It is important to know why these students, who are at risk of academic failure, are resilient and successful in school while other ELLs from equally stressful environments are unsuccessful or non-resilient. This educational resiliency perspective is meaningful because it focuses on the predictors of academic success rather than on academic failure. It enables us to specifically identify those "alterable" factors that distinguish successful and less successful students. The thrust in this area of research is to extend previous studies that merely identified and categorized students at risk of failure and shift to studies that focus on identifying potential individual and school processes that lead to and foster success (Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1994; Winfield, 1991).

During the past 4 years of the CREDE project, "Improving Classroom Instruction and Student Learning for Resilient and Non-Resilient English Language Learners," we conducted research with approximately 1,000 fourth and fifth-grade students from 21 classrooms in three elementary schools identified as having large proportions of ELLs (i.e., more than 80%) as well as having students from high-poverty families (about 90% received free or reduced-cost lunches). Classroom teachers were asked to identify their population of students at risk (e.g., students from families of low socioeconomic status, living with a single parent, relative, or guardian). Students identified as "gifted or talented" or "special education" were excluded from the population in order to avoid potential effects related to ability differences. From the final pool of students at risk of failure, teachers selected up to three "resilient" and three "non-resilient" students in their class. "Resilient" students were high achieving on both standardized achievement tests and daily school work, were very motivated, and had excellent attendance. "Non-resilient" students were low achieving on both standardized achievement tests and daily school work, were not motivated, and had poor attendance. The following sections briefly summarize some of the key findings from our work as we focused on the concept of resiliency. 10% of the time. Both resilient and non-resilient students were observed interacting with their teacher only about 10% of the time and with other students only about 8% of the time. Resilient students were observed being "on-task" about 83% of the time, whereas non-resilient students were observed being "on-task" only 63% of the time.

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Research Reports (13)

Sociological Foundations Supporting the Study of Cultural diversity

In order to understand thee barriers to educational equality faced by lw-income cultural and linguistic minority youth, we need to undertand the ways in which social class an dethnicity interact with language and culture. This paper examines various aspects of te relationship between students' cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgound and thier unequal access to educational opportunities.

Cultural capitial. Familiets that occupy differen places in society deploy different resources in school. The school rewards the language and socialization practices of upper- and middle-income families while systematically devaluing those of low-income families.

Classroom discourse. Students who enter school from linguistic and ethnic minority families often have had no experience at home with the special features of classroom discourse. This presents them with a special challenge; thier academic success depends on thier acquiring this special code.

School sorting practices. Students from low-income and linguistic minority backgrounds are often placed in low-ability groups and slow (general or vocational education) academic tracks, where they do not receive the same quantity or quality of instruction as students in high-ability groups or college bound tracks.

Educatiors and researchers are calling for change. Any attempts at cuuricular innovation, however, mut take into account the "culture of the school." The history of educational reform shows that attempts to change schools from the top down have met with resistance form educaitonal practitioners. To be successful, innovations must take the everyday working life of teachers into consideration. This means relationship between old practices and new ideas.

Educational Reform Implementation: A Co-Constructed Process

We seek to understand the process by which a school incorporates or enacts an externally developed reform design. An externally developed school reform design is a model for school improvement that is developed by an outside design team. This team generally conceives the reform design; develops the principles, implementation strategy, and materials that accompany the reform; and sometimes provides training and supports that enable local schools to prepare educators to implement the reform. When implementation of a tested prototype program or design expands to many schools, the process is known as replication or, in the current educational reform literature, scaling up (Elmore, 1996; Stringfield & Datnow, 1998). Scaling up has proven to be a vexing and seldom successful endeavor (Elmore, 1996). We argue that this is due to a lack of understanding of the co-constructed nature of the implementation process.

Studies that treat the implementation process as uni-directional, technical, mechanical, and rational (Carlson, 1965; Havelock, 1969) do not fully capture how educational innovations play out as social, negotiated features of school life. Organizational models of school improvement that developed in reaction to these technical-rational models also do not suffice for understanding school reform implementation (see, e.g., Fullan, 1991; Louis, 1994). Because their focus is on school-level strategies for self-renewal and improvement, organizational models downplay the actions that initiated the reform and the governmental, community, and district actions that occurred away from the school before it attempted rejuvenation and renewal. Neither technical-rational nor organizational development models help us fully understand educational implementation, which we believe involves a dynamic relationship among structural constraints, the culture of the school, and people's actions in many interlocking sites or settings.

Our research builds upon work in the sociocultural tradition that has helped shape the Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE), especially Rogoff (1995) and Tharp (1997, p. 12), who identify personal, interpersonal, and community "levels" or "planes" of interaction; and McLaughlin and Talbert (1993), who depict organizations as successively contextualized layers. We extend this work by explicitly calling attention to the political and economic conditions that enable possibilities and impose constraints on education in general and on school reform in particular. We also try to avoid privileging any one context in our discussion of educational implementation by showing the reciprocal relations among the social contexts in the policy chain.

We believe that formulating the reform implementation process as a "conditional matrix" coupled with qualitative research is helpful in making sense of the complex and often messy process of school reform. To illustrate our formulation, we report on two CREDE projects: a study of the implementation of six reform efforts in one Sunbelt school district1 and a study of the implementation of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) untracking program nationwide.2 We hope that our formulation will be helpful to others studying the school reform process.

Before we trace the implementation of reform efforts in the schools involved in our two studies, we present the assumptions and premises that guide our research.

The Effects of Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs on the Story Comprehension and Thematic Understanding of English Proficient and Limited English Proficient Students

As part of an ongoing "component building" (Slavin, 1984) program of research designed to estimate the effects of several individual components of a Spanish-to-English language arts transition program (Saunders, O'Brien, Lennon, & McLean, 1998), an experiment tested the effects of two instructional components—literature logs and instructional conversations—on the story comprehension and thematic understanding of upper-elementary-grade students. Five teachers and 116 fourth and fifth graders participated in the study. Slightly more than half the students were English learners completing their first or second year of English language arts. Teachers had completed one year of literature log and instructional conversation training. Students were randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions: literature logs only, instructional conversations only, literature logs plus instructional conversations, and control. Posttests found significant differences among treatment groups. Students in the instructional conversation and the literature log plus instructional conversation groups scored significantly higher than the control group on story comprehension. Moreover, students in all three experimental groups were significantly more likely to demonstrate an understanding of the story themes than students in the control group. The combined effects of literature logs and instructional conversations on students' essays about a story's theme varied by language proficiency: For limited English proficient students, the combined effects of literature logs and instructional conversations were greater than the effects of either treatment condition alone. For fluent English proficient students, however, the combined effects were not significantly greater than the effect of one treatment condition or the other.

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Talking Leaves Newsletter (16)

Talking Leaves, Vol. 4, No. 3

Teaching Alive, Summer 2000, Articles:

Teaching Transformed

National Directory of Teacher Preparation Programs for Teachers of Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students

Dual Language Instruction: A Handbook for Enriched Education

Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners: The SIOP Model

Talking Leaves, Volume 3, No. 1

Talking Leaves, Fall 1998


Rising from Risk

Integrated Reform and System Studies

Scaling up School Restructuring in Multicultural Multilingual Contexts

Reform for Kewntucky's Primary Grade Children

Improving Instruction for Resilient and Non-Resilient ELLs

School Reform in a Native American Community

Schools Serving Native America: A Series of Case Studies

Patterns of Instructional Activity in Diverse Classrooms

Talking Leaves, Vol. 3, No. 3

Talking Leaves, Summer 2000


Teaching Transformed, Book Review

National Directory of Teacher Preparation Programs for teachers of Linguistically and Culturally Diverse students

Dual Language Instruction: A Handbook for Enriched Education

Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners: The SIOP Model

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