Policy Cycles
and
Institutional Trends

Education reform has conventionally been viewed in two contradictory ways:

  • A steady educational evolution or progress
  • A cyclical repetitious process

Implementing technology in the classrooms, such the use of computers, projectors, or online courses, can be viewed as an example of progress. An example of cyclical reform would be the new Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) that are replacing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).

Tyack & Cuban (1997) argue that policy talk is cyclical, often following the political cycles of the dominant classes as a function of this post modern era, but implementation has a momentum and schedule of its own. Long term trends follow their own different timetables.

Education reform occurs in phases:

But reforms have three particular features that "complicate tracking how policy talk becomes translated into institutional trends" (Tyack & Cuban,1997, p.55):

  1. The time lag between advocacy and implementation.
  2. Uneven penetration of reform in different sectors of public education.
  3. The different impact of reforms on various social groups.

Education reform is challenging because our personal experience determines the weight we place on the different purposes of education.  In addition, we have wanted schools to serve different and often opposing purposes for our children.

There are many educators, particularly in South Florida that advocate for bilingual education. The Extended Foreign Language (EFL) Program in Miami-Dade County is a great example of the challenges in education. Although it is a great initiative that provides bilingual education, it is not offered at all school or for multiple languages.

Policy talk seems to cycle but the institutional and social contexts are different in each case.  We can see below how there are recurring themes over the years and how the historical context shapes these themes.

Do you think it would ever be possible to define one, or a few, constant and non-contradictory main purposes for our schools?  


Thank you!

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