How we think about scale raises the question of where we believe solutions reside, as well as which solutions we seek. If we believe that solutions reside outside the school district and the work of reform is to replicate externally developed programs or drive reform through state and federal policy, we naturally look to “spread” as the primary metric of scale.
If we believe that solutions reside inside the school district and the work of reform is to build the system’s capacity to adapt and respond to meet the needs of students, we are drawn to metrics that assess growth in the core education practice described by Elmore (1996).
While both views look to spread as a measure of change, capacity-building approaches call for evidence of deeper changes in education practice and the conditions surrounding teaching and learning.
How school district leaders think about what it means to take change to scale affects their goals for change, their action to foster change, and how they gauge the success of change efforts.
Elmore, R. F. (1996). Getting to scale with successful educational practice. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 1–26.
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Michael Palmisano's Taking Inquiry to Scale: An Alternative to Traditional Approaches to Education Reform (NCLE & NCTE, 2013).
Related Exchange Resources
- Read a comparison of traditional and capacity-building approaches.
- Read a summary of the literature on the impact teacher collaboration has on student learning.
- Watch the video clip Capacity Building and Accountability to hear how Catherine Nelson, author of Building Capacity to Transform Literacy Learning, and Wendy Gudalewicz, Chief Academic Officer of the New Haven Unified School District, view the relationship between building capacity within a school system and being accountable for student learning.