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Problem definition, political innovation, and school reform

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Problem definition, political innovation, and school reform the Texas statewide systemic initiative
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Texas statewide systemic initiative
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Apodaca, Mary Thomas
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English
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xiv, 235 leaves : ; 29 cm

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Educational change -- Texas ( lcsh )
Education -- Political aspects -- Texas ( lcsh )
Public schools -- Texas ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 222-235).
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Doctor of Philosophy, Public Administration.
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School of Public Affairs
Statement of Responsibility:
by Mary Thomas Apodaca.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Full Text
PROBLEM DEFINITION, POLITICAL INNOVATION,
AND SCHOOL REFORM:
THE TEXAS STATEWIDE SYSTEMIC INITIATIVE
BY
MARY THOMAS APODACA
B.A., UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER, 1964
M.A., UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER, 1970
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Public Administration
1996


1996 by Mary Thomas Apodaca
All rights reserved.


This Thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Mary Apodaca
has been approved for the
Graduate School of Public Affairs


Apodaca, Mary Thomas (Ph.D., Public Administration)
Problem Definition, Political Innovation, and School Reform:
The Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative
Thesis directed by Professor Peter deLeon
ABSTRACT
A Nation at Risk (1983) initiated the current era of school
reform and provoked much policy making. The goals of school
reformers has not been reached. Further, the efforts have not
garnered significant public engagement because of their
fragmented nature. This dissertation turned on the idea that
problem definition, a postmodern policy theory strand, would
provide insight. Problem definition delimits a workable concept
from an amorphous problematic situation.
The research was driven by the following questions: Was
the group that created the problem definition or the group
directing the project an outside-the-bureaucracy group or a
bureaucracy? Did the group take a problem-centered approach,
engaging in frame reflection and/or lay probing? Did it exhibit
other postmodern tendencies? Was a policy entrepreneur
involved? What part did politics play?
m


A case study of the Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative, a
National Science Foundation-funded project relied on
documents from Texas, Colorado, and the NSF. Interviews with
staff, plus an outside monitor, and other public officials filled in
gaps in the narration. Interviews were conducted during one
site visit and by telephone and electronic mail.
The initial Texas proposal-writing group was inside the
bureaucracy and did not use a problem-centered approach.
Funding was suspended due to inadequate progress. Politics
kept the process going until a policy entrepreneur emerged to
write a new proposal. The project is currently directed by a
third-party agency and has been called the "central systemic
initiative in the state." Problem-centeredness and frame
reflection are extremely difficult approaches for policy makers.
However, there was some of evidence of these approaches and
there were definitely other postmodern tendencies at work
during the evolution of the project. A policy entrepreneur was
integral and politics was intertwined throughout.
The implications fall along two dimensions:
1. Broad-scale policy innovation is not on the horizon;
furthermore it would not effect epic-change school reform; and
IV


2. Third-party agencies working at the state level, in
concert with federal and state agencies, and with equal power
in their particular area, can effect changes that government
agencies alone cannot.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication!.
Signed [
Peter deLeon
v


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I had the distinct advantage of living policy making
during the life of this dissertation and first wish to thank the
workers behind-the-scenes, my fellow school reformers at the
Colorado Department of Education, across the state of
Colorado, and across the nation. Thanks also go to Arvin Blome,
Richard Laughlin, and Brian McNulty, Associate, Deputy, and
Assistant Colorado Commissioners of Education. Their ability
for empowering middle level people is exemplary.
Without the assistance of members of the Texas
Statewide Systemic Initiative, there would have been no case
study and no dissertation. They easily and freely shared the
documentation of the project, and even more importantly, they
spoke openly about obstacles they had encountered. They lived
Uri Treisman's assertion that "the only good dissertation is a
completed one."
Rose Acera, Karen Eikner, David Hill, and Cathy Seeley,
and Uri Treisman, among many Texas SSI staff, gave
generously of their time and thoughtful insights. I am also
vi


grateful to Janice Earle and Peirce Hammond, among others at
the National Science Foundation, who understood the value of
different perspectives on this major effort. Wayne Welch, the
Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative's outside monitor, was
invaluable to the research through written reports, interviews,
and comments on drafts.
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
where I began working at the final stages of the study, provided
not only time and financial resources, but emotional and
intellectual support and encouragement. Thanks go to Dale
Koepp and Nancy Mohr who commented on final drafts. Each
member of my dissertation committee at the University of
Colorado at Denver provided valuable insights at the
colloquium and defense. They helped me be more emphatic in
my conclusions and the dissertation would be much less
without any one of them. Linda deLeon was especially
generous of her time.
Lastly, this dissertation would not have been
accomplished without the guidance and assistance not to
mention insistence of the committee Chair, Peter deLeon. His
thorough understanding of the writing process, his writing and
vu


editing skills, his kindness and sense of humor, his commitment
to learning and graduate students all of these alone and
together are inspiring. How do we replicate the access Peter
provides? This dissertation attempts to interest its readers in
this kind of learning for all students, not just the lucky few who
end up doctoral candidates.


This dissertation is dedicated to my daughter,
Kristen Dogan,
who began teaching in September 1996.


CONTENTS
ABSTRACT............................................hi
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.....................................vi
TABLE OF CONTENTS....................................X
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION...................................1
School Reform on the National Scene............1
The Concept of Problem Definition..............5
The Power of Problem Definition................7
Educational Reform............................11
A Plethora of Solutions.................13
Schooling Overwhelms Reformers..........16
The Current Era of Education Reform.....18
Bureaucracy and Education.....................22
Summary.......................................25
Thesis Outline..........................29
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE......................30
Introduction..................................30
Defining Problem Definition.............31
Postmodernism...........................33
x


Bureaucracy................................38
Related Policy Strands.....................41
Scaffolding......................................44
Changing the Equation......................46
Policy Innovation..........................50
The Policy Entrepreneur....................54
Polsby and Schattschneider as Prologue....59
Current Perceptions of Problem Definition........61
Lay Probing................................61
Preferences................................64
The Christening............................67
Conversation...............................70
Framework, Weapon, and Outcome.............73
Stories....................................78
Problem Setting............................81
Instrumental versus Expressive.............85
Regime-Level Policy........................90
Summary..........................................95
A Conceptual Framework...........................99
Observation...............................102
xi


Questions.
102
3. RESEARCH DESIGN.................................104
Introduction....................................104
The Study.......................................104
Rationale for the Case Study Method.......105
Integrity of a Case Study.................106
The Texas Site..................................109
Specific Procedures.......................112
Unsolicited Confirmation........................114
4. CASE STUDY......................................116
Introduction....................................116
The National Science Foundation...........116
The Dana Center...........................117
The Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative..120
The National Science Foundation
Statewide Systemic Initiatives.....121
Stages of Evolution.............................125
Systemic Change...........................127
Stage One: The 1991 Plan..................129
Stage Two: A New Plan and
New Rejection......................138
xii


Stage Three: The Addendum................142
The Policy Entrepreneur..................147
Stage Four: Implementation (1994-1996)___151
Early Implementation.....................152
The Texas SSI Inside the Dana Center...........158
Election Year Politics.................... ...162
Summary........................................167
5. CONCLUSION.......................................169
Introduction...................................169
Characteristics of the Texas Groups............170
Are Non-Bureaucratic Tendencies Apparent?......171
The Policy Entrepreneur as Liaison........... 175
How Was Problem-Centeredness Evident?..........185
Frame Reflection.........................185
Experts versus the Public?...............191
The Role of Policy and Politics................195
Summary........................................197
Implications for Policy Research...............199
Even Goals Are Not Givens 203
Lessons Relearned..............................208
xiii


APPENDIX
A. QUESTIONS FOR INFORMANTS................211
B. TEN ELEMENTS FOR SYSTEMIC CHANGE........220
BIBLIOGRAPHY
222


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
School Reform on the National Scene
On July 23,1995, Sesno and Morton of CNN's "Late
Edition" wrapped up an hour of political give and take on
affirmative action with a short discussion of how education
figured into the debate. Any educational reformer would have
listened with enthusiasm as Morton briefly explained the
findings of the 1983 A Nation at Risk, a blistering indictment of
the education system. When he had finished talking about the
report, Sesno asked, "Has anything changed [in the past dozen
years]?" Morton's terse reply was "I don't think so."
A national political commentator knows nothing about
education reform? Clearly, current education reform efforts
to alleviate the condition characterized in A Nation at Risk
have not succeeded in becoming a national, visible innovation.
Sesno and Morton made their "awareness that things are not as
they should be" explicit (Majone 1989,57) but, contrary to
Morton's glib assessment, the 1980s through early 1990s were
1


characterized by an extremely high volume of educational
policy changes at all governmental levels (Fuhrman, Clime, &
Elmore 1987,1991; Fuhrman & Massell 1992; Mawhinney 1993).
As Odden (1991,301) has observed, for example, "44 states
required student testing for minimum academic competencies,
and 38 states required new teachers to pass a state standardized
test before entering a teacher education program and/ or before
becoming certified to teach."
All this, and yet a recent report on the future of
education in Colorado states "two in three Coloradans think the
public schools aren't adequately preparing students for
tomorrow's jobs and careers" (Setting the Standard, 1994,1).
And an October 1995 (Bradley 1995) report claims almost 50% of
parents surveyed nationally did not believe that a diploma from
their local high school would guarantee that a student had
"mastered the basics."
While these statistics clearly indicate a lack of public
support for the educational status quo, few schools display a
sense of urgency for reform that includes a "number of
departures from conventional practice that fundamentally
change the roles of teachers, administrators, students and
parents working with schools" (Newmann & Clune 1992,10).
2


Thus, despite dozens of federal, state, and local initiatives,
hundreds of articles and books, and millions of private and
public dollars, the latest round of American school reform
touched off by A Nation at Risk has not become what I will
call, after Polsby (1984), a "political innovation," let alone is it
classified a success (Cuban 1995; Daggett 1995; Fuhrman &
Massell 1992; Newmann & Clune 1992; Rothman 1993). As
Richard Elmore (1991,6) says, there is little proof that "policy
innovations, no matter how well-intentioned, necessarily
improve the performance of public organizations." Education
policy making, although often frenzied, has failed to change
schools enough to catch the public's attention.
This may be more understandable if we heed Peterson
(1983,3-11), who lambastes studies conducted by task forces
and commissions like A Nation at Risk. He says such reports
have a function, but "fact-finding, rigorous analysis, and policy
development are usually not among them." He continues, they
are "certain to exaggerate the problem...state only broad,
general objectives... [and] recommend changes that are beyond
current technology and resources." Peterson points out that
such commissions have no authority and, more importantly, no
responsibility. This compels us to ask, How can school reform
3


evolve "from elite quarrel to mass movement?" (Mitchell 1981).
This question leads to the subject of this dissertation.
This dissertation is intended for researchers, students,
and practitioners of generic public policy in general, and
education policy. In particular, I propose to shed light on the
near past and future of school reform as a policy agenda issue in
its predecision stage. Students of public policy have several
excellent sources (as documented in the literature review) for
the study of problem definition; however, I have not found any
explicit histories of the development of problem definition
before a significant policy change. This dissertation helps fill
that gap.
Policy researchers have called for more stories,
narratives, and case studies of the process, especially those of
protracted policy issues (e.g., Schon & Rein 1994), and political
innovation even political innovations that do not occur
(Polsby 1984). Meanwhile, educational reformers continue to
struggle with "scaling" reform efforts, that is, moving from
fragmented projects to nationally (or state) recognized,
sustained progress towards fundamental and lasting reform.
Reformers need a broad and long-term view of the possibilities

4


of success of their efforts from a policy standpoint. This
dissertation attempts to respond to these needs and requests.
The Concept of Problem Definition
Imagine a puzzle with a thousand pieces all black.
Even though fiendishly difficult, our make-believe puzzle could
be solved. If you set out to solve it, you would know that your
goal was to fit the pieces together using all of them. What is
more, once it was solved, you would know it had been solved
and you could demonstrate that the solution had been reached
before someone knocked over the card table.1 The failure of
our schools, on the other hand, is not a puzzle or a problem; it
remains what is called in public policy theory, a "problematic
situation or difficulty." According to social constructivist public
policy theory, a problematic situation or difficulty is a very
different beast from even a fiendishly difficult but
conceivably solvable puzzle.
1 A billion-piece all-black puzzle was used as a metaphor for
breaking the Soviet code, a feat almost miraculously accomplished by
American cryptographers during World War II (Weiner 1995, A10).
5


A "problematic situation" or "difficulty" is a conception
of, for instance, the way the education world is for the present
and foreseeable future. It is overwhelmingly (or vaguely and
naggingly) not as it should be. "That's just the way it is...
nothing can be done about it." As long as failing schools simply
exist as a part of life there can be no policy solution.
A "problem," once defined, is something else. A problem
is a contradiction, something we can get our minds around.
Social problems lend themselves to solutions, but, as Aaron
Wildavsky said, we never solve a problem "once and for all."
We tackle one problem and then move on to the next set of
problems mostly caused by our earlier attempts at resolution.
Wildavsky adds,
instead of thinking of permanent solutions we
should think of permanent problems in the
sense that one problem always succeeds and
replaces another...the capacity of policies to
generate more interesting successors and our
ability better to learn from them what we
ought to prefer, may be their most important
quality (Wildavsky 1989,5).
6


I
1
I
I
j
I
i
From this perspective, problematic situations and even
i
I the more manageable defined problems have always been
I
j and always will be with us. These less-than-ideal conditions
in our best-of-all-possible worlds include such national
dilemmas as substance abuse, societal and family violence,
| teenage pregnancy, environmental degradation, unequal access
to health care, homelessness, poverty, declining cities,
t
uncontrolled and perhaps uncontrollable trade and fiscal
| deficits, a low savings rate, a questionable military strategy, a
I
! crisis in public support for democratic institutions, and most
I critical for this dissertation what is often called "the worst
j system of primary and secondary education in the First World"
j (Lind, 1995).
|
!
| The Power of Problem Definition
j
I
| In this dissertation, I look at a situation vast numbers
! of students not performing at high enough levels to thrive in, let
I
| alone contribute to, our society through the conceptual lens
| of the "flourishing subfield within policy studies," called
j "problem definition" (Bosso 1994,188). In Baumgartner and
I
J Jones' (1993,54) description, problem definition exists partially
7


because "policymakers seeking particular policy outcomes
attempt to redefine issues to suit their needs, taking advantage
of circumstances as they can."
Problem definition is a relatively new, and postmodern
theoretical strand. As Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, 7) spell out,
postmodernism is "an intellectual style concerned with
examining the unquestioned value assumptions embodied in
culture and society."2 Fischer (1990,216) adds that
postmodernism (he refers to it as postpositivism) thus
"confronts positivism's most fundamental principle, namely,
the strict separation of facts and values" and thus provides "a
more comprehensive concept of rationality."
A concerted effort at school reform has persisted since
1983 and A Nation at Risk, and yet has failed to become a
national innovation schools that are somehow failing remain
a problematic situation for most citizens. That is why most are
not engaged in the educational reformers' struggle for reform.
2 Up until a few years ago, the term "postmodern" has been used
more in the arts, literature, and philosophy, while the term "postpositivism"
has been used in the social sciences. "Postmodern" is now "sweeping the
social sciences" (Rosenau 1993,1, [quoted in Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 7]).
8


In this dissertation, I assert that educators are reluctant to focus
on the question "What is happening? (Dery 1984)" rather than
the more common "What should we do?" This proclivity
impedes progress towards a general agreement on how public
education could best serve its actual clients: the students (who
attend, in theory, to learn), their parents (as schools assist in
socialization), and the public (who benefit from public
education as a result of a public goods arena). I argue that the
apparent lack of significant energy and vigor of this effort can
be attributed to the nature of the reform effort itself, the failure
of education reformers to engage the public in formulating a
compelling problem definition.
Such a definition could ignite the public imagination
not to mention the imagination of other reformers and the
educational bureaucracy. It could then lead to a nationally
recognized effort understood by educators and the public alike.
Instead, educational reformers continue to head off with great
energy but in all directions at once, competing with each other,
denigrating, and sometimes even nullifying other efforts. And,
most important, they are still lacking a clear idea of a problem
that could engage the public. The research in problem definition
9


in this dissertation is intended to help clarify why this is so
(Majone 1989; Rothman 1993).
A more interesting problem definition has the potential
of focusing public energy. It is my assertion that more powerful
definitions at once engaging to the public and yet appealing
to school people and policy makers of all political persuasions
are key to the ultimate success of fundamental and lasting
education reform. Or, at least as Wildavsky says "a better
class of problem." Optimal definitions are necessary, if not
sufficient, for a large scale, highly visible break with current
educational practice and institutions in order to accomplish
significant, continual improvement in the level of learning for
vast numbers of currently underserved students.
The basic argument is that what stands in the way of
dynamic, compelling definitions is the approach to problem
definition by the educational bureaucracy. I will argue here for
a "problem-centered" rather than the more typical "solution-
minded" or "methods-driven" approach. A problem-centered
approach is one in which the participants focus on the
problematic situation rather than jumping to a solution (Dery
1984; cf. Cohen, March, & Olsen 1972). They then move toward
a problem definition, ideally involving the public in the
10


problem situation (Lindblom 1990). They frame the problem in
a way that reflects the aspirations and fears of all interested
parties (Schon & Rein 1994).
I will also propose that a problem-centered approach is
most likely to emerge through the efforts of a group outside the
educational bureaucracy. The literature review will demonstrate
that institutions, bureaucracies and thus the larger
educational community and its bureaucracies were
themselves once solutions to a problem or problems. Their
members tend to depend on ready-made (as opposed to
broader, innovative or not-yet-conceived-of) solutions, the ones
that worked in the past or that they have always believed
would work but were thwarted in attempting or truly
implementing. It is necessary, I contend, to find an organization
that has the capability of centering its work on the problem
rather than on its own continued existence.
Educational Reform
What schools look like and how they function are
considered the public's privilege to decide. Schooling, especially
secondary schooling, has been a political issue since its
11


inception in the nineteenth century. This politicization can be
seen throughout the twentieth century as school reformers have
taken several cuts at the definition of "failing schools." In the
1920s, schools were not "efficient" enough to please the
Progressives; that is, they were not organized like a business. In
the 1930s, teachers were unpaid. In the 1950s, scientific and
engineering training did not measure up once Sputnik was
launched. In the 1960s, "over-bureaucratization, under-
involvement by parents, and racial segregation were considered
the major problems" (Peterson 1983,29-30).
Moreover, education goals have frequently changed. In
the first decades of the twentieth century, good schooling meant
the rapid and total assimilation of waves of immigrant children.
The Progressives' goal was to use scientific management
techniques for organizing the educational system for efficiency
along with the rest of America according to the factory
model (Tyack & Cuban 1995,8).3
3 The typical American high school follows the factory model in that
students are classified according to age and ability and march in cohorts
from one classroom and subject to the next every set number of minutes,
regardless of interest or need. Individual students are allowed to slip
through the cracks as long as the administrative order remains intact.
12


Following the civil rights movement of the 1960s, good
schooling meant universal access to all schools for all students
(Graham 1995,43). Conversely, the mid-1970s version of school
failure identified whatever gains in equity were accomplished
in the 1960s as the source of the lack of student achievement
(Tyack & Cuban 1995,29). It seems that keeping all students in
school led to changes in schools and their curricula that were
resented by middle class families whose children once were the
only ones in the public schools (Tyack & Cuban 1995,14). For at
least the American middle class, there once was a Golden Age
of Schooling, lost when schooling became the legitimate right of
students of all social classes.
The changing political climate and world events have as
much or more to do with a specific call for reform as does the
true condition of schooling (Cremin 1989). Consensus-building
definitions and focused efforts are lacking, however, leading to
an overabundance of solutions.
A Plethora of Solutions
The end of the twentieth century has seen a call for
fundamental reform in many parts of American society.
13


"Restructuring" is one of the more recent code words. In
education, this translates into a concept that includes
decentralization, shared decision-making,
school choice, schools within schools, flexible
scheduling with longer classes, teacher
teaming, common academic curriculum
required for all students, reduction of tracking
and ability grouping, external standards for
school accountability, and new forms of
assessment such as portfolios (Newmann &
Wehlage 1995,2).
There is more,
site based management...empowered]
teachers ...roles and responsibilities
...personnel structures ...shared
missions.. .transforming physical space of
schools.. .flexible group learning environments
...moving away from superficially covering
facts toward substantive understanding,
problem solving, and analytical thinking
(Berends & King 1994,30).
14


In short, there is a long list of possible school reforms.
This list derives from a predilection of the educational
community a major assumption of this dissertation to leap
to solutions rather than to center on a problematic situation. The
predilection for quick solutions is a national trait, not simply a
failing of school people. Even educational researchers decry
"the high volume of education policy production at all
levels...and a tendency to address each problem with a distinct
special program" (Fuhrman & Massell 1992,1). These critics call
for "systemic change," that is, more coherence through national
standards and subsequent consistent changes in testing,
curriculum, and instruction. They would add more flexibility
and yet stricter accountability for individual schools.
The intent of this dissertation is to look at the whole of
school reform as a national policy issue rather than as the
property of one or another reformer or as a project. I propose a
broader longer-term and policy-oriented lens for looking at the
problematic situation of failing schools.
15


Schooling Overwhelms Reformers
Both insiders and outsiders have tried to change
schooling. Insiders were successful in nurturing the growth of
the common school during the nineteenth century through
"networks of professionals, centered in teachers' colleges,
cutting across states and localities" (Elmore 1984,126). Later,
insiders tried to humanize schooling with the installation of the
kindergarten and the junior high school. However, "through a
process of institutional assimilation, the kindergarten and the
junior high school ended up resembling the primary and high
school grades above them," (Tyack & Cuban 1995, 75-76). The
intended changes were trivialized and marginalized.
Outsiders have a long history of working inside schools.
Private companies provide for transportation and food services,
as well as services for special education and incarcerated youth.
They sell class rings and sports equipment, and rent graduation
gowns. When outsiders have moved to change schooling,
however, their success has proven more fleeting. In the
Texarkana scandal of 1969, teachers were required to take part
in "performance contracting," a technique in which they would
be compensated by the number of students who performed
16


successfully on standardized tests. The first test results seemed
to show improved student achievement. However, it was
shown that faced with this high stakes "teacher-proof"
technology, teachers had employed actual test items to prepare
students for the tests. A subsequent 1971 study by RAND
showed no significant overall difference between the
experimental and control groups (Tyack & Cuban 1995, 117-
120).
In the early 1990s, Education Alternatives, Inc. (EAI), ran
nine Baltimore public schools on a profit-making basis. In late
1995, the school district terminated its five-year contract with
EAI after three and one-half years. Prolonged negotiations
failed to convince EAI to accept a $7 million cut to help the
school district meet a shortfall. Data showed that "although
students in EAI schools posted modest gains, the company
spent about 11 percent more per student than the rest of the
city's public schools" and, as has been the case elsewhere, "EAI
suffers from overselling in the first place" (Walsh 1995). While
there have been numerous attempts at institutional school
reform by outsiders, the results have not been any more
fundamental or long-lived than those by insiders.
17


The Current Era of Education Reform
As noted above, in 1983, "a report to the Nation and the
Secretary of Education and an open letter to the American
people" from the National Commission on Excellence in
Education, the before-mentioned, A Nation at Risk, trumpeted
"a rising tide of mediocrity," and the first problem definition of
this generation of school reform. It stated the fundamental
mission of public education was to prepare young people for
democratic citizenship and to promote individual and national
prosperity. It also made it clear that mediocre student
achievement and poor teachers were the reasons reform was
needed. A Nation at Risk stated its solution: state level policy
requiring a core curriculum, increased high school graduation
requirements, expanded student testing, and toughening
requirements for entering the teaching profession (Odden 1991,
301; Ravitch 1995,135).
This characterization of the problem and solutions was
accepted by policy makers who produced a flood of laws and
policies of control to be carried out by bureaucrats (Fuhrman &
Massell 1992). A Nation at Risk clearly stated a simple problem
and its solution, but subsequent reformers have concluded that
18


it was wrong on both counts (Harris 1994,6). "Critics dubbed
this the 'more-longer-harder' strategy of education reform."
Policy as translated by the bureaucracy decreed that students
and teachers would take more courses, put in longer hours, and
work harder. "Like most command-and-control strategies, it
failed" (Osborne & Gaebler 1992,315).
Partially as a reaction to the "deskilling" of teachers and
the top-down nature of the first wave of reform plus its
failure to effect the desired improvement the second
definition of reform opposed the notion that those who educate
our children are no more than early nineteenth-century factory
workers who must be subjected to direction. The underlying
problem now was redefined as the first definition of reform,
that is, suffocating state and local education agency
bureaucracies and their stultifying effects on schools, teachers,
and students. The solution lay in granting more autonomy to
school-level practitioners (teachers and building
administrators).
One branch of reformers called for the privatization of
schooling (Chubb & Moe 1988; Chubb & Moe 1990; O'Neil
1995). Another branch of reformers emphasized public school
change with heavy involvement of staff, parents, and the
19


community around individual school buildings. These grass-
roots efforts were supported by educational policy
entrepreneurs through projects such as James Comer's School
Development Project (Yale), John Goodlad's National Network
for Educational Renewal (University of California at Los
Angeles and University of Washington), Henry Lewin's
Accelerated Schools (Stanford), Deborah Meier's Center for
Collaborative Education (New York City), Philip Schlecty's
Center for Leadership in School Reform (Louisville, Kentucky),
Theodore Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools (Brown
University), and William Spady's Outcome-Based Education
(Vale, Colorado). These efforts have spawned their own
considerable literature (e.g., Ascher, 1993; Comer, 1986;
Goodlad 1984; Meier 1995; Sizer, 1984;; Spady 1977).
The first and second problem definitions continue even
though their effort has already been called a failure, (Looking
Back, 1994). Privatization has also so far failed to occur. A third
definition that uses economic arguments has emerged. The new
story admits that Americans have always been a bit wary of
everyone learning. It asserts that the factory model of the
education system, adequate up through the 1970s, will not meet
the world class competition of the 1990s.
20


This refrain is different from A Nation at Risk's
argument because it says that student performance has not
declined, but continues to rise, only too slowly. That student
performance has not risen dramatically would not be surprising
given today's societal problems; however, even this too gradual
rise constitutes a grave problem for the United States, because
the real reason for distress is that today's world of work
requires a new kind of schooling for all students. As Linda
Darling-Hammond said, "we now have to educate every
student for a kind of 'thinking work' rather than for assembly-
line or semi-skilled work, as we did years ago" (Harris 1994,6).
We want higher achievement for all students, "much more
thoughtful, adventurous, and demanding teaching and
learning, and...new instructional guidance to produce it"
(Cohen & Spillane 1993,37).
The new definition resists blame and blaming; it makes a
call to the nation as a whole. It is most often couched in terms of
systemic change, "increasing coherence in the system through
centralized coordination and increasing professional discretion
at the school site" (Fuhrman & Massell 1992,1). This reform is
called "standards-based education." It is an attempt to "develop
structures and practices at the top of the system that promote
21


and support bottom-up reform .. .neither 'top-down' or
'bottom-up' efforts are sufficient ...success in these efforts
requires 'meeting in the middle'" (Lusi 1995,1-2). However, it is
important to note that the top and bottom distrust each other.
The new definition of meshing top and bottom is seen by many
at the bottom as top-down all over again. Whether it is a new
way of tackling the problem or not, for the third time in this
latest era of school reform, by this paper's counting, we are
presented with a solution-minded problem definition.
Bureaucracy and Education
This generation and its waves of school reform have been
around for more than a decade without noticeable large scale
visibility or effect (Newmann & Wehlage 1995). Public policy
literature has highlighted a central reason this is so. The
bureaucracy is ill-equipped to take an approach to problem
definition that engages the public. Osborne and Gaebler (1992,
314) characterize public education as "a classic example of the
bureaucratic model... centralized, top-down, and rule-
driven...a system that guarantees stability, not change."
22


E.E. Schattschneider's (1960) insights into the value of the
scope of the conflict and the power of the audience emerge as
especially germane when related to Iannaccone's (1967,19)
observation that the politics of the educational bureaucracy
"tends to strengthen the boundaries of its social systems,
resulting in a narrow base of support, and to perpetuate itself
and its internal power elite despite the needs of society."
Majone (1989,95) warns that the "entire machinery of
government" limits strategic thinking. Janet Weiss (1989,117)
showed that the problem definition that triumphed in the long
debate over government paperwork was analytically superior
to the old definition, but, "the losers were agency officials. Their
credibility in decisions about what information they needed
was leached away." Since public perception and support of the
government have deteriorated, it is hard to imagine that state-
level bureaucrats would be heavily invested in anything other
than what Lynn and Kowalczyk (1995,5) call "the professional
control model" of school governance, where "the interests of the
providers of educational services were weighed more heavily"
than those of parents and other citizens. "No one wants to
innovate themselves [sic] out of a job" (Osborne and Gaebler
1992,265).
23


Reformers have their critics, too, of course. The call for
"systemic change," to enlist more than just the educational
community in the problems schools face, has been called a
strategy to "avoid blame and the burdens of reform" (cf. Stone
1988,292). And there are many within the educational
establishment who argue publicly that education does not need
to change fundamentally (Berliner & Biddle 1995; Bracey 1991a;
Bracey 1991b; Bracey 1991c; Bracey 1991d; Bracey 1992; Bracey
1994; Bracey 1995; Bradley 1995; Durden 1995; Schrag 1995;
Viadero 1995). Some even blame A Nation at Risk and its call
for wholesale reforms on a right-wing plot to privatize
American education (Applebome 1995). Others are very much
against top-down systemic changes because they would rob
children and communities of what is significant to them (Apple
1990; McNeil 1995).
It is important to note that the problematic situation
could fail to be defined or be defined in such a way as to leave
schools out of the definition, or...the possibilities are endless.
24


i Suffice it to say that there is not agreement that there is a
problem (Shanker 1996).4
Since 1983 and A Nation at Risk, educators and policy
i
I
i makers have "tried all the conventional medicine" (Osborne
j
j and Gaebler 1992,315-316), while many if not most school-level
| practitioners deny there is a problem in their school. If we
| cannot look to the responsible bureaucracy for problem
j definitions for reform, where do we look? "The real question
i today is who is putting together some new understanding of the
problems, and some new ideas for action..." (Osborne &
Gaebler 1992,324). It is with this question that this dissertation
begins.
i
i
i
i
i
Summary
A problem definition and the solutions that flowed from
| A Nation at Risk although generating a flood of new policies
I
| have not yet solved the problematic situation of discomfort
j with student achievement nor have they engendered a national
4 Critiques and rebuttals are on the website of the American
Federation of Teachers as of September 1996: http: / /seamon key.ed.asu.edu.
epaa/
25


innovation for educational reform. Consider the changing
and ever-growing list of solutions. Our argument is that the
educational reform community could profit from a problem
definition conceived without immediate recourse to ready-
made solutions, that is, a "problem-centered" rather than a
"solution-based" or "methods-defined" approach. New ways to
approach problematic situations can be found, but perhaps in
places other than traditional bureaucratic institutions.
Most of the research on problem definition to date is
composed of theory-building case studies that (a) demonstrate
the instrumentality of problem definition in the success or
failure of a policy issue; (b) relate how various actors in the
policy scene strategize to reach a definition and maneuver their
definition onto the public agenda (although success seems often
to have been achieved serendipitously); and (c) define
characteristics and outcomes (both intended and unintended) of
successful problem definitions (e.g., Rochefort & Cobb 1994;
1994a; Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith 1993; Weiss 1989).
I will focus on a relatively small event with a definite
goal and a short timespan (four to five years) and relatively few
players (not including the broader public). I understand that I
may be studying a situation where a successful problem
26


definition will not occur. I will be cognizant of closely related
strands of public policy theory including the areas of political
innovation, agenda setting, and punctuated equilibria.
In 1990, the National Science Foundation (Foundation)
proposed an innovative concept, called the Statewide Systemic
Initiative. The Foundation asked Governors and the state
agencies for higher education and for kindergarten-through-
twelfth-grade education to envision a new, improved state
system for higher quality student learning in mathematics,
science, and technology for aU students, especially the
traditionally underserved. The Foundation called the solution
"systemic change," but no one knew (or perhaps even today
knows) what true, lasting systemic change looks like. Thus, the
Foundation was open to state interpretation of the problematic
situation.
Twenty-five states (as of September 1996) have received
these ten-million-dollar, five-year awards. In only three states,
Connecticut, Montana, and Texas, is the project directed by
what the Foundation calls a "third-party agency," that is, an
agency that is outside the bureaucracy. States rarely take
advantage of the many reform-minded third-party agencies
27


available in this arena or in other places where they could make
and implement policy (Corcoran, 1996).
The Texas education community is a huge bureaucracy
with a tradition of centralized control over all aspects of
educational policy. That Texas would allow this fairly large
Foundation project to fall under the auspices of a third-party
agency is a significant event. If allotting this kind of power and
authority to an outside-the-bureaucracy group works in Texas,
other states need to take a look at what happened, especially in
this era of unprecedented attacks on government, attacks that
are both internal and external.
I propose to document the progress of the Texas state-
level group commissioned to write a proposal to the National
Science Foundation to leam if it approached the problematic
situation in a problem-centered or solution-minded way and to
leam how the project came to be directed by an outside-the-
bureaucracy group. I will document early implementation of
the grant project by the third-party agency because, as Sabatier
and Jenkins-Smith (1993,2), among others, emphasize, public
policy is decidedly non-linear. Thus, problem definition (cf.
Majone 1989; Weiss 1989) is active not only in the predecision
phase but is at the heart, both substantively and temporally, of
28


the policy making process. The study will contribute to
knowledge about problem definition and how it intertwines
with knowledge in related strands of the predecision phase in
public policy theory, agenda setting and punctuated equilibria.
The research will be especially interesting because it
documents experimentation in state level initiatives and states
are often called laboratories for experimentation. What we learn
may assist in the transformation of the now-fragmented and
isolated examples of school reform into a more coherent
transitional phase. Powerful definitions are necessary, if not
sufficient, for a large scale, highly visible break with current
educational practice and institutions. At the very least, these
new definitions will scatter seeds for generating new education
reform efforts highly visible to the nation's Mortons and Sesnos.
Thesis Outline
Chapter 2 reviews the relevant literature that situates
problem definition as a policy strand with special emphasis on
public administration. Chapter 3 explains the research
methodology. Chapter 4 is the case study of the Texas Statewide
Systemic Initiative, and Chapter 5 presents the conclusions.
29


CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Introduction
The literature search frames and structures the
assumptions of the research. First I define problem definition as
a new strand of public policy research. I next define
postmodernism to demonstrate that problem definition is part
of postmodernism because postmodernism shares with problem
definition research the notion that "policy proposals cry out to
be deconstructed, tom apart from within" (Rosenau 1993,2;
quoted in Rochefort 1994a, 7).
Third, I highlight the salient features of any existing
bureaucracy that, I argue, preclude creative and innovative
approaches to problem definition. Fourth, a definition of
"national innovation" is necessary to clarify what it might look
like if school reform that is, a highly visible, steady progress
of widespread fundamental improvement were pervasive
throughout American society. Fifth, I describe related
predecision-phase public policy strands. Next, I touch on the
30


origins of policy studies in order to highlight the centrality
accorded to problems from its beginnings. Finally, the bulk of
the review will document "the importance of the problem
definition phenomenon" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 4).
Defining Problem Definition
David Dery (1984) and Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, 8)
separate two understandings of problem definition in die policy
sciences. The first understanding refers to the technical, logical
step for diagnosing problems and devising solutions for a
policy making authority in policy analysis as an applied
profession (cf. Brewer & deLeon 1983). In this dissertation,
however, the meaning derives from the second understanding,
that "problem definition can never be purely a technical
exercise ...policy choices are always statements of values, even
if some value positions are so dominant that their influence
goes unexamined or so unrepresented that their neglect goes
unnoticed." It is an intellectual "contest of different
perspectives" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 8).
Government action, agenda setting, institutional
structures, formal and informal institutional procedures, and
31


the partisan balance of power are some of the forces that shape
policy, but problems are central,
public policymaking must also be understood
as a function of the perceived nature of the
problems being dealt with, and the qualities
that define this nature are never incontestable
(even though they may sometimes be taken for
granted) (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 4).
Wildavsky, you recall, tells us, "instead of thinking of
permanent solutions we should think of permanent problems in
the sense that one problem always succeeds and replaces
another" (1989,5). A problem definition implies that a certain
problem exists; it also contains the optimum solution to the
perceived problem and, thus, suggests how the implementation
of this solution flows from the definition (Baumgartner 1989,
75). An example is provided by Thomas R. Dye (1975,331) who
said, "public education never faced a 'dropout' problem until
the 1960s, when, for the first time, a majority of boys and girls
were graduating from high school.
Let Janet Weiss explain, "problem definition is a package
of ideas that includes, at least implicitly, an account of the
32


causes and consequences of undesirable circumstances and a
theory about how to improve them" (1989,97).
Postmodernism
Social constructionist problem defining (and setting)
began in fields such as sociology and social psychology (e.g.,
Best 1987,1989; Hilgartner & Bosk 1988; Seidman 1986; Seidman
& Rappaport 1986a; 1986b). These works add to the
understanding of the concept of problem definition in public
policy and thus to policy research, but this review will narrow
its perspective to policy studies per se, those precursors who
lead the way to problem definition, a "flourishing subfield
within policy studies" (Bosso 1994,188).
A short detour into a clarification of postmodernism
situates the dissertation and illuminates the postmodern
tendencies of the policy sciences since their origin. As Charles
Lindblom and David Cohen (1979,50) say, "we do not discover
a problem 'out there;' we make a choice about how we want to
formulate a problem." This is consistent with the social
constructionist school of thought. It reveals "public policy
making as a representation of disputable definitions over the
33


existence and character of social conditions" (Rochefort & Cobb
1994a, 7-8).
Best defines social constructionism,
our sense of what is or is not a social problem
is a product, something that has been
produced or constructed through social
activities. When activists hold a demonstration
to attract attention to some social condition,
when investigative reporters publish stories
that expose new aspects of the condition, or
when legislators introduce bills to do
something about the condition, they are
constructing a social problem (1989,6).
While researchers do not always comment explicitly on
their use of a certain intellectual style, some do call problem
definition "constructionist" or even postmodern. Self-admitted
social constructionist policy researchers include Stone (1988,
307), who argues, for instance, "nature doesn't have categories;
people do...categories are human mental constructs in a world
that has only continua." In Dery's Problem Definition ]n Policy
Analysis the first book to use "problem definition" in its title
Aaron Wildavsky's preface clearly places problem definition
34


in the constructionist camp. He says, "the very notion of
problem definition suggests a constructivist (rather than an
objectivist) view; that is, problems do not exist 'out there'; they
are not objective entities in their own right" (Dery 1984, ix).
I not only argue that problem definition is constructivist,
but I stretch that understanding to an acknowledgment of its
postmodern qualities. My goal is not to pigeonhole problem
definition, but to demonstrate its postmodern tendencies in
order to move past current thinking. Furthermore, Guba and
Lincoln (1995,116) say, "no inquirer, we maintain, ought to go
about the business of inquiry without being clear about just
what paradigm informs and guides his or her approach."
Frank Fischer (1990,226) says that postpositivism
(postmodernism in our terms) rejects "the concept of a value
neutral science." He adds, "a postpositivist orientation
emphasizes the presence of competing interests struggling to
interpret reality" (1990,266). Donmoyer (1995,19) agrees and
says that current policy making in education "displays a diverse
array of voices speaking from different, often contradictory
perspectives and value commitments."
Pangle (1991,245) attributes four features to the
postmodern attitude, "openness to the other; preference for
35


diversity, opposition to metanarratives, and opposition to the
established order." Farmer (1995) calls postmodernism "anti-
administration," a facet of Pangle's "opposition to the
established order." Kanpol (1992,37) says that postmodemity is
opposed to grand theories (metanarratives): "contrasted to the
positivistic elements of modernism, postmodernism negates a
world that is held together by absolute and universal truth and
universal reason." Farmer (1995,244) adds that postmodernism
"deterrritorializes knowledge," and regards science "as one
discourse among many." How are these tendencies reflected in
problem definition research? Can we identify problem
definition as an example of the postmodern attitude?
Links will be seen throughout this review; I mention a
few here. Deborah Stone (1988, viii) predicts that her views on
the political nature of all human actions, including policy
analysis, will cause some to put her in the "postmodern
intellectual camp." Torgerson (1986) says that postmodern
policy theory embraces creativity, eschews precise solutions,
and incorporates conflict balanced with cooperation, achieved
through reasoned discussion among all interested parties a
democratic inclusiveness (cf. Donmoyer 1995). Lindblom (1990,
270) argues that true policy analysis has always conflicted with
36


the "dominant style" (read modem or positivist or purely
scientific) in policy research because it is neither rational nor
value free. Schon and Rein (1994) say that their policy research
goes against the tide because it rejects the rational paradigm.
Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, 4) tell us "contemporary policy
analysis is multidisciplinary in its techniques and orientation,
and perhaps nowhere more so than in the burgeoning study of
problem definition." Elaine B. Sharp (1994,155-156) adds that
"different cultural conceptions of how a problem is formulated
provide alternative world views for participants in the policy
process."
Janet Weiss (1989) complains that the outcome of the
battle for the definition of the problem of government
paperwork made government workers the losers and so was a
decidedly anti-bureaucratic outcome (cf. Farmer 1995). The anti-
administration tendency of postmodernism leads us to ask if the
quality of or approach to a given problem's definition
might be related to its identification with or its situation within
an organization or a bureaucracy and for the specific
purposes of this dissertation, within the educational
bureaucracy.
37


Bureaucracy
Studies of governmental bureaucratic organizations
come principally from public administration research, but
political and policy researchers have also had much to say on
the subject. These include Schattschneider (1960,71) who called
organization "the mobilization of bias." Thus, an organization
may not be the optimum place for finding an innovative
problem definition. "The irony is that the analyst starts off
expecting to influence the bureaucracy, but it is the bureaucracy
that influences him," says Nagel (1980,12). As Dye (1975,21)
adds, "governmental institutions are really structured patterns
of behavior of individuals and groups... institutions may be so
structured as to facilitate certain policy outcomes and to
obstruct other policy outcomes" (1975,21).
Dery clarifies why an organization, itself the result of
creative endeavors, resists creativity:
An organization is itself a solution to a
predefined problem. The scope of "relevant"
inquiry is therefore severely restricted so as to
accommodate available resources and policy
instruments, interests, constraints, prevailing
38


values, and other commitments the
previous definitions of problems (1984, xii).
Thus, an organization naturally provides an environment
where policy analyses "involve taking goals as givens and
determining what policies will maximize those goals" (Nagel
1980,13). Donald Schon and Martin Rein (1994,34-35) say that
what they call "metacultural frames" shape policy. Frames are
the mindsets of "institutional actors." Frames are powerful, but
tacit, and this tacit quality makes them difficult to overcome.
Wildavksy relates this phenomenon to the recalcitrance of
organizations toward moving to new ways of thinking:
Displacement of goals becomes the norm as an
organization seeks to make the variables it can
control its own efforts and processes the
objectives against which it is measured. This is
how organizations come to justify error
instead of creating knowledge (1989,35).
Illustrating how termination is sometimes necessary in
order to break free from a given organization's constraints,
deLeon (1988,193-194) makes it clear that only determined,
even relentless, efforts will succeed in ending entrenched
policies and organizations. MacRae and Wilde concur,
39


the definition of a problem situation often
implies that certain goals or values are to be
sought. Thus, if the existence of an
organization is threatened, persons in the
organization may take its survival to be the
goal of analysis (1979,19).
Public administration research backs up this policy
research and theory. According to Michael Barzelay (1992,118),
bureaucratic thinking values (a) efficiency over quality and
value; (b) control over winning adherence to norms; and
(c) following rules and procedures over identifying and solving
problems. Perrow (1986,4) says the bureaucracy eliminates "all
unwanted extraorganizational influences on the behavior of
members. Ideally members should act only in the organization's
interest." Add to these ideas Michel Crozier's (1964) elements of
a bureaucracy: ambiguous objectives, unclear norms (cf. Schon
& Rein's 1994 tacit frames), and sparse power. A bureaucracy
will tend to turn to its traditional solutions because these offer
efficiency, control, and procedural validity. An innovative
problem definition demands vigorous, sustained study of a
policy issue and the issues in which it is embedded. Change is
inherent in this kind of analysis, but insiders are compelled to
40


stay with the tried-and-true and lack the freedom time,
resources, imperatives for new thinking.
Related Policy Strands
Problem definition has emerged as a topic of
considerable interest from among interwoven strands of policy
research whose thrust is "how public issues are identified and
conceptualized" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 27). This is the
predecision phase of public policy research (Kingdon 1984,2).
These theoretical strands, I argue, like problem definition, rely
on the "social construction of reality, and so reflect the
constructionist and postmodern style, both of which hold that
the "definition of a social problem is dependent on time, place,
and society" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 5). I will limit our
discussion of related strands to agenda setting (Kingdon 1984),
and the punctuated equilibria theory of Baumgartner and Jones
(1993), which explores how new institutions emerge. I look to
Baumgartner and Jones principally because of the protracted
nature of education reform.
The agenda, as John W. Kingdon (1984,2) uses the term
in his study of national agenda setting, is "the list of subjects to
41


which government officials, and people, outside of government
closely associated with those officials, are paying serious
attention at any given time." How these topics "came to be
issues in the first place" is the question. Kingdon asks, "Why
does an idea's time come when it does? (1984, vii).
Polsby (1984) found two processes inherent in political
innovation: the creation of policy options and the utilization of
these options. Kingdon found three: problems, policies, and
politics. He observed that "people recognize problems; they
generate proposals for public policy changes; and they engage
in such political activities as election campaigns and pressure
group lobbying" (206). Kingdon refers to the problem stream as
"problem recognition," (1984 206). As his choice of the word,
"recognition" demonstrates, Kingdon acknowledges the
existence of a problem rather than focusing on how a problem is
socially constructed. This differs markedly from the core of
problem definition research in that Kingdon perceives problems
as realities "out there." Problem definition research stresses the
fact (e.g. Weiss 1989) that problem definition is found in all
parts of any policy process rather than being confined to the
opening stages. This also conflicts with Kingdon's placing it
42


firmly in the predecision phase. In spite of these differences,
Kingdon's findings provide a context for problem definition.
Baumgartner and Jones (1993) synthesize
implementation and agenda-setting research, arguing that
although the agenda-setting model underlies the American
political system and shows consistency in the way it processes
issues, the system also naturally exhibits periods of volatile
change. This is an evolutionary view of policy change, an
alternative model paleontologists developed to account for
evolution. It is not a cycle-model that exhibits regular spurts of
energy interspersed with regular periods of calm. Instead,
political change can be described as unpredictably episodic. The
American government can best be understood, Baumgartner
and Jones (1993,251) say, as a series of institutionally enforced
stabilities (equilibria), periodically punctuated by dramatic
change. Effective issue redefinition and the resulting
institutional instability create new institutions. These new
institutions then provide another era of stability.
Punctuated equilibria research shares with problem
definition theory a respect for the power of redefinition: large-
scale change and the resulting tendency to enforce the new
order of things, (cf. Dery 1984; Dye 1975; Majone 1989; Schon &
43


Rein 1994; Wildavsky 1989). That these punctuations of volatile
change happen unpredictably is also in concert with problem
definition revealing the messiness and non-linearity of policy
making (Kingdon 1984; Polsby 1984; Weiss 1989; Bosso 1994). It
is important to keep in mind that what seems evolutionary to
those involved may seem revolutionary to later observers.
Scaffolding
The policy sciences have always had three principal
attributes that call to mind social constructionism and
postmodern ideas. Lasswell explains it this way,
the first [principle] is contextualitv: decisions
are part of a larger process. The second is
problem orientation: policy scientists are at
home with the intellectual activities involved
in clarifying goals, trends, conditions,
projection, and alternatives. The third is
diversity: the methods employed are not
limited to a narrow range (Lasswell 1971,4;
emphases added).
44


Charles Lindblom (1968,13; emphasis original) says
"policy makers are not faced with a given problem.. .they have
to identify and formulate their problem." He provides an
example from the 1960s:
Rioting breaks out in dozens of American
cities. What is the problem? Maintaining law
and order? Racial discrimination? Impatience
... with the pace of reform now that reform has
gone far enough to give them hope? Incipient
revolution? Black power? Low income?
Lawlessness at the fringe of an otherwise
relatively peaceful reform movement? Urban
disorganization? Alienation (1968,13)?
Yehezkel Dror (1968,170) stresses the importance of
context and values rather than the rational approach to policy
analysis. Dye offers a different perspective on why we have to
pluck problems out of the kaleidoscope of reality,
most of society's problems are shaped by so
many variables that a simple explanation of
them, or remedy for them, is rarely possible...a
detailed understanding of such a complex
45


system as human society is beyond our present
capabilities (1975,16).
This brief foray into its history shows that problems and
the values that form them have been central to the study of
policy analysis since its beginnings. Early theories and research
like that of Schattschneider and Nelson Polsby provide a base
on which to build problem definition theory.
Changing the Equation
E.E. Schattschneider says in his ground-breaking book,
The Semi-Sovereign People, "it cannot really be said that we
have seen a subject until we have seen its outer limit and thus
are able to draw a line between one subject and another"(1960,
22). He adds, "the definition of the alternatives is the supreme
instrument of power" (1960,68). Schattschneider further
counsels, "in political conflict every change in scope changes the
equation" (1960,5), that is, every fight consists of two parts:
"the few individuals who are actively engaged... and...the
audience.. .as likely as not, the audience determines the
outcome" (1960,2; emphasis original). Schattschneider says
definition is key because it sets the boundaries. How a problem
46


is conceived can enlist support or make enemies (cf. Rochefort
& Cobb 1994). Along with Stone (1988,309), he stresses the idea
that we constantly deal with unstable boundaries "in a world of
continua." Delimiting the scope of the conflict and the power of
the audience emerge as germane to problem definition in
general, and especially in educational reform, when compared
to Iannaccone's observation that the politics of the educational
community "tends to strengthen the boundaries of its social
systems" (Iannaccone 1967,19). Another major theme of
problem definition research is found in Schattschneider's (1960,
71) insight that organization is "the mobilization of bias."
Problem definitions create organizations that embody the
solution implied in the definition. The institutions then carry on
the bias of the definition. Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, 27) agree
with other researchers that Schattschneider (1960) was the first
to offer "a systematic way to unveil interrelationships and their
significance," the interdependence of actions and words.
Schattschneider points out (with irony), "somewhere
along the line the owners of the government decided to read the
constitution as if it were a democratic document" (1960,116). As
Cass R. Sunstein (1996,29) in a review of Jurgen Habermas'
Between Facts and Norms." puts it, "the first [United States]
47


Congress rejected "the right on the part of constituents 'to
instruct' their representatives how to vote," favoring instead "a
deliberative democracy in which representatives would be
accountable to the people but also operate as part of a process
that prized discussion and reflection about potential courses of
action." Many people in the twentieth century, according to
Schattschneider, would, in contrast with the Founding Fathers,
prefer to "instruct." As early as 1960, Schattschneider provided
great insight into the difficulties the bureaucracy would
encounter in the last decades of the twentieth century.
Along the same train of thought, Schattschneider (1960,
138) asks how "leadership, organization, alternatives, and a
system of responsibility and confidence" can be organized to
remain sensitive to the needs of a political community of
hundreds of millions of ordinary people. The idea that such a
large democracy as today's United States may not be
democratically governable challenges the reality, the power,
and even the value of the modem conception of the nation-state.
These insights become important as we study a possible
national educational innovation. Even in the Constitution, the
control of education is given to the states.
48


Schattschneider's insights also bring to mind Habermas'
conception of majority rule,
not as a mere statistical affair, an effort to tally
up votes, but instead as large social process by
which people discuss matters, try to persuade
each other and modify their views to meet
counter-arguments. In this way we form our
beliefs and even our desires (Sunstein 1996,
29).
From Schattschneider we leam that to be viable, what I
now call problem definition must (a) limit the scope of an
otherwise borderless situation; (b) yield an explanation that
engages those not specifically engaged in a way that supports
those who seek to define the problem; (c) expand regular
Americans' awareness of their power and promote the concept
of discursive democracy, not only among the elite of the House
or Senate, but among citizens; and (d) overcome the difficulty of
reaching vast numbers of citizens.
49


Policy Innovation
In Political Innovation in America (1984), Nelson Polsby
studies conspicuous national policies to learn about the pre-
decision-making process. The characteristics of the innovations
he considers assist in defining "political innovation." In this
dissertation, I will use the related term "policy innovation" to
spell out what significant change and improvement in
education would look like and to contrast that notion with what
has been achieved up to the present.
I contrast the terms "policy innovation" and "political
innovation." For instance, the privatization of schooling would
be a purely political innovation, one that would change the
locus of authority, but that would not necessarily improve
learning for currently underserved students. If schooling were
to change suddenly and dramatically, the change would most
probably be the privatization of public schooling. However,
privatization (currently defined as educational vouchers) would
not be the same as fundamentally different schooling that uses
cognitive research-based theories of teaching and learning to
ensure that all children reach ever higher levels of thinking and
50


learning. This is policy innovation, an innovation that brings a
"new thing" rather than merely a new' seat of authority.
While privatization would exhibit Polsby's three criteria
for political innovation, it would not be the type of innovation
investigated here. It could, however, be the prelude to more
fundamental change. On the other hand, such a huge political
innovation might satisfy the public's desire for change in
education while obfuscating the fact that all that changed was
the politics of schooling and funding, not the philosophy of
learning.
Polsby (1984,100) says, "to the extent that a common
definition of a 'need' can be created among decision-makers,
innovation is possible." According to Polsby (1984,8), political
innovations: "(a) are relatively large scale phenomena, highly
visible to political actors and observers; (b) embody from at
least one point of view a break with preceding governmental
responses to the range of problems to which they are addressed;
and (c) unlike major crises, with which they share the preceding
traits, have institutional or societal effects that are in sense
lasting." Polsby deals with national policies while this study
embraces the possibility that educational reform may not be
effected through national policy alone.
51


I incorporate the ideas of Mary Sanger and Martin Levin
(1992) of a more evolutionary, emergent or grassroots
(postmodern) innovation with Polsby's purposefully top-
down approach. Polsby's observations are insightful and
relevant to our study because national cognizance, in our
definition, would bring with it support both by government
institutions and the public.
Although Polsby warns that his findings are preliminary,
the seven dimensions he teased out from the "extraordinarily
messy" facts of his case studies assist us in understanding the
intransigence of the school reform problem. The most important
for us can be summarized as follows. When a problem is
protracted, (a) specialists have little influence; (b) there is great
political conflict, and (c) possible solutions are widely
publicized (Polsby 1984,148-149). These are all attributes of the
protracted struggle for education reform. Polsby adds that
innovations arise from the interworkings of (a) interest groups,
(b) "the intellectual convictions of experts and policy makers,"
and (c) solutions, along with the "certain knowledge that in
some form or another they could work" (1984,166; cf. Kingdon
1984).
52


Polsby (1984,173) notes that the study of political
innovation must adopt "very generous time perspectives." He
(1984,11) adds that his study looks only at policy initiations that
occurred, and "takes no account, even as a control, of those
dozens or hundreds of nonevents which might have happened,
but did not." This dissertation might well be a study of one such
nonevent, as we shall see in subsequent chapters.
Quiet, persistent workers are the backbone of the
innovative nature of American society, according to Polsby.
They invent and subsequently sustain policy options. Important
for this dissertation is Polsby's contention that among their
ranks are what he calls "policy entrepreneurs.. .whose careers
and ambitions are focused on the employment of their expertise
and on the elaboration and adaptation of knowledge to
problems" (1984,173). He contrasts these entrepreneurs with
nonspecialist politicians in the sense that the entrepreneurs "are
focused upon the substance of policy and on the consequences
of different arrangements for outcomes in the policy area..."
(1984,55). Who are these entrepreneurs that Polsby finds so
vital to policy innovation?
53


The Policy Entrepreneur
Polsby identifies policy entrepreneurs as "persons with
special interests, competence, or expertise, who have a great
deal to do with the alternatives considered and debated by
more prominent figures" (1984,55). Polsby's conception of the
policy entrepreneur involved in the initiation or problem-
definition phase of policy contrasts with Kingdon's (1984)
entrepreneur who can play a role in any part of the innovation
process. Kingdon also provides a definition of policy
entrepreneurs:
They could be in or out of government, in
elected or appointed positions, in interest
groups or research organizations. But their
defining characteristic, much as in the case of a
business entrepreneur, is their willingness to
invest their resources time, energy,
reputation, and sometimes money in the
hope of a future return (1984,129).
Kingdon (1984,188) also tells us where to find a policy
entrepreneur. He or she might be a cabinet secretary, a senator
or member of the House, a lobbyist, an academic, a lawyer, or
54


career bureaucrat. He describes the qualities of an entrepreneur,
saying he or she must
have some claim to a hearing. ...expertise, an
ability to speak for others...or an authoritative
decision-making position ...[be] known for his
political connections or negotiating skill...and
probably most important, successful
entrepreneurs are persistent (1984,190).
Kingdon insists on the entrepreneur's persistence rather
than his or her technical skill in policy analysis (cf. Cohen &
March, 1972). Policy entrepreneurs "lie in wait" for a window of
opportunity to open:
Some portion of the time.. .problem solving
does take place, but people in and around
government ...do not solve problems. Instead,
they become advocates for solutions and look
for current problems to which to attach their
pet solution (1984,190).
Polsby's emphasis on the entrepreneurs' quiet, persistent
work contrasts with Kingdon's depiction of their more
influential status (they have to have some "claim of to a
hearing" and their hope of a future return) and his assertion
55


that their success is often a result of "dumb luck" (1984,188,
192). Polsby stresses the interdependence of policy
entrepreneurs and elected and appointed officials: officeholders
and candidates need policy entrepreneurs, who "specialize in
identifying problems and finding solutions." He quotes an
election analyst, who says "entrepreneurs need politicians, too"
(1984,171). Polsby has faith in technocrats and in ready-made
solutions. This confidence contrasts with a major theme of this
dissertation that ideal policy making starts with the problem
not a ready-made solution.
This high regard for government workers and ready-
made solutions places Polsby with Sanger and Levin (1992,88)
who say that innovation depends on "evolutionary tinkering."
Polsby (1984,171) calls this "dusting off old ideas." Sanger and
Levin also argue that "innovation does not spring from
systematic policy analysis." Polsby (1984,171) says real-life
policy making is a process of opening a drawer, finding a
previous analysis, revising it and presenting it again.
Alternatives to rational, systematic policy analysis are another
recurring theme in problem definition theory and research
(Wildavsky 1989; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994).
56


David Price (1971) finds policy entrepreneurs on Senate
committees while Michael Duffy (1992) describes the rise of a
member of President Clinton's 1992-1993 transition team who
co-created the Progressive Policy Institute as an example of the
entrepreneur. Paul Krugman (1994,10) holds what he calls
(largely economic) policy entrepreneurs, in low esteem. They
are part of "a new class, neither professors nor politicians, that
has come to play a key role in the interplay between ideas and
policies." Krugman's complaint is "they offer unambiguous
diagnoses, even where the professors are uncertain; they offer
easy answers, even where the professors doubt that any easy
answer can be found" (1994,11). Krugman names such high-
profile types as President Clinton, Labor Secretary Robert Reich,
and MIT professor Lester Thurow as policy entrepreneurs.
Sanger and Levin (1992,109-111) disagree with
Krugman. They argue that public sector entrepreneur-
executives are not only indispensable, but socially desirable.
According to their findings, these entrepreneurs (a) created
"new and personal missions for their agencies"; (b) took
advantage of opportunities, making "virtue out of necessity";
(c) were risk-takers, especially in the area of "taking on too
57


much"; (d) "had a bias towards action"; and (e) consciously
underestimated "bureaucratic and political obstacles."
Educational entrepreneurs are an important presence in
the current reform era. They would probably disagree, but, in
the large view, each began his or her work focused on a school-
based solution rather than thorough research into a broader
problem. They are not as cautious as the bulk of their colleagues
(Krugman 1994), and they are ambitious and persistent
(Kingdon 1984). However, the best-known educational policy
entrepreneurs have worked in and with schools and thus are
not approaching the problem from the superficial stance that
Krugman criticizes (1994). Although they might have entered
the policy arena with a naive view about the possibility of
change, the difficulty schools faced in implementing their
original ideas has made it clear to them that there are no easy
answers (Stringfield, 1994).
Drawing on all of these policy research sources Price,
Polsby, Kingdon, Duffy, Krugman, and Sanger and Levin the
ideal policy entrepreneur for the purpose of political innovation
in the name of fundamental school reform would have the ear
of policy makers and be steeped in the complexities of school
reform. In general, theory says the policy entrepreneur has his
58


or her pet solutions, has at least a modicum of self-interest, is
grounded through work "in the trenches," can conceptualize
grand schemes, is often, but not always, a leader, and
understands policy making.
Polsbv and Schattschneider as Prologue
Schattschneider outlined the basic tenets of problem
definition theory without giving it a name decades before it
became a policy theory strand. Defining a problem provides the
ability to get things done. It provides an advantage to those
who share the definition by giving the problem a name,
stabilizing, crystallizing, delineating it from the shifting
kaleidoscope of the problematic situation, rendering it
understandable and workable. The more manageable segment
can engage the audience, enlisting its assistance. In other words,
problem definition organizes, and organization is the
"mobilization of bias" (Schattschneider, 1960). A dilemma is
how to include the vast public of today's United States.
Polsby's research brings out several important ideas for
this foray into problem definition theory. For instance, there is
general agreement that policy making is much messier than
59


theory has heretofore depicted and thus more difficult to
analyze (cf. Weiss 1989; Bosso 1994 et al.)- For Polsby, political
innovation is the interaction of a process of invention with
another "that senses and responds to problems, that harvests
policy options" (1984,173). He does not subscribe to an
approach that focuses on the problem.
Polsby shows that a new problem definition redefines
not only an issue but also the government. Innovation in most
of his cases amounted to new governmental organizations as
the solution to the problem (cf. Dery 1984; Majone 1989; Weiss
1989; Bosso 1994). The events Polsby calls political innovations
have an imposing quality while Sanger and Levin (1992, 88)
consider innovation a process of "evolutionary tinkering with
existing practices." Polsby also accords a great deal of respect
for this kind of change. He considers quiet, slow change the
rule, but quiet slow change sometimes bursts onto the national
scene with a major innovation what Baumgartner and Jones
(1993) call punctuated equilibrium.
60


Current Perceptions of Problem Definition
We now enter into a discussion of policy research
focused on the concept of problem definition, although not all
the researchers use the term.
Lay Probing
Lindblom (1990,223) contrasts two models of social
problem solving, carrying his conception of "muddling
through" to the whole of society, beyond policy analysis. His
two models are the science-guided society and the self-guiding
society. Lindblom finds that democracy came loose from its
close association with science very early in modem thought,
largely due to the outrages of the Terror of the French
Revolution. He provides the example of moving from the divine
right of kings to the rotation of leaders through elections to
demonstrate that great changes can occur, even those
antithetical to the current regime (Bosso 1994; Kuhn 1962;
Polsby 1984).
Lindblom looks to lay people rather than professional
analysts, the technicians to probe issues because it is
important to him that the exploration of policy issues be
61


grounded in a certain time and place, and thus, certain values. It
is also essential that probing be action-oriented (1990,216,224).
Lindblom's ideal society does not include a search for a grand
conceptualization since it holds little faith in pure reason
divorced from action to solve social problems (cf. Dery 1984;
deLeon 1992; Fischer 1990; Schon & Rein 1994; Torgerson 1986;
Wildavsky 1989).
Lindblom (1990,36), who does not use the term, explains
why problem definition is more than a technical exercise,
"formulating a problem calls for inquiry no less than does
formulating a solution to a formulated problem. The origin of a
social problem lies in the probes that declare it to be a problem."
It is naive, he says, to think that one has found the best solution;
it is significant that an issue has been well-probed (cf. Rochefort
& Cobb 1994a; Wildavsky 1989). I call this probing problem-
centeredness (cf. Dery 1984; Weiss 1989; and Wildavsky 1989; cf.
Schon & Rein 1994).
Lindblom (1990,270) maintains that policy analysts
engage not in the rational model, as the dominant theory
dictates, but in "trial and error, Simon's satisficing, disjointed
incrementalism, Etzioni's mixed scanning, and the like." He
62


questions the ability of policy analysts to engage in the rational
exercise policy analysis is conceived to be:
The do-it-all model assumes a single problem
to be defined, then solved, a task with a well-
marked beginning and end. In fact, problems,
year after year, require reexamination and
redefinition (1990,266,274; cf. Dye 1975;
Wildavsky 1989).
Problem definition research not only consciously rejects
the idea of value-free policy making, but one of its main
purposes is to investigate the role values play in policy making
(Wildavsky 1989; Dery 1984; Fischer 1990; Weiss 1989; Schon
and Rein 1994). Stone (1988, viii) wants "a kind of analysis that
recognizes analytical concepts themselves as political claims
instead of granting them privileged status as universal truths."
Wildavsky (1989,124) argues there has to be a balance between
the purely intellectual and the purely interactive, and good
policy analysis provides this "hybrid," using "intellect to help
guide rather than replace social interaction."
Lindblom says that often in the self-guiding society there
is no practical solution to huge predicaments, until, he adds,
society is ready to "bear the costs of the remedy," that is,
63


"reconsider the institutions, social processes, or behavioral
patterns up to that moment regarded as parameters" (1990,217;
cf. Schattschneider 1960; Wildavsky 1989). Large changes are
difficult if not impossible; redefinitions must struggle against
the recalcitrance of institutions the outcomes of previous
solutions. Ideal problem solvers understand that they are just
taking a step toward betterment, not reaching a solution, what
Wildavsky calls "problem succession."
Preferences
Aaron Wildavsky (1989,8) is also skeptical about the
possibility of the rational paradigm ("order objectives, compare
alternatives, choose the highest ranking") and argues, instead,
that "problems are man-made" (1989,57). Wildavsky does not
use the term, "problem definition," but in his writing, he
constantly skirts the concept. Policy analysts, he claimed, ought
to work backwards. Instead of beginning with a problem, they
should "formulate a problem at the very end" (1989,3).
Wildavsky's backwards framework calls to mind Elmore's
(1982) "backward mapping." In backward mapping, one first
decides what the preferred outcome looks like and then plans
64


backwards to the present. This contrasts with starting with the
present situation (however defined) and taking steps to reach a
future desired point.
Wildavsky opposes the rational model of policy analysis
because it "accepts as immutable the very order of preferences it
is our purpose to change, and it regards as perfectly plastic the
recalcitrant resources that always limit their realization" (1989,
404; cf. Peterson 1983 on task forces). He says that policy
analysis is linked to culture because solutions to problems are
first limited by "values and beliefs that support the social
structure" (1989,396; cf. Bosso 1994; Stone 1988). The solutions
to policy problems change those very values and beliefs what
Wildavsky calls the modification of public preferences. He
considers improving preferences the highest calling of policy
analysis (cf. Stone 1988; Majone 1989; Lindblom 1990; Bosso
1994).
Wildavsky warns that a powerful definition must
involve the public in its formulation and definition (cf.
Schattschneider 1960; Lindblom 1990). According to Wildavsky
(1989,13) "through interaction, common understandings
(though not necessarily, common positions) grow." He sees the
"purely intellectual mode" of policy analysis as divorced from
65


reality and thus reaching trivial conclusions. In this way,
"thought," says Wildavsky, "is made supreme at the expense of
having anything worth thinking about" (1989,125). Because of
his desire for a change in preferences, Wildavsky (1989,404)
says he values error in the policy process: "Error must be the
engine of change. Without error there would be one best way to
achieve our objectives which would themselves remain
unaltered and unalterable." Here, Wildavsky seems to
contradict himself because elsewhere he states that it is
imperative to relate "resources to objectives so that the promise
of public policy can be kept" (1989,397). If error is essential to
change, how can keeping promises also be paramount?
He says "problem-finding is analogous to inventing or
theorizing" (1989,3). Unlike Dery (1984), Majone (1989), and
Schon and Rein (1994), Wildavsky claims that if there is no
solution, there is no problem. A solution, a goal (but not
necessarily a method for reaching that goal) must be at hand
before a problem can be conceptualized or defined. Again this
seems contradictory because elsewhere (1989,397) he says that
changing our preferences is the finest quality of policy analysis.
Dery, Wildavsky's student, has different views on the subject.
66


The Christening
In Problem Definition in Polio/ Analysis. David Dery
(1984,4-5) says problems as defined in social research are "the
product of imposing certain frames of reference on reality...a
framework within which certain interventions are considered
and indeed defined as solutions." Rather than emphasizing
the solution, Dery maintains that dissatisfaction coupled with
aspiration for better conditions leads us to define problems
(1984,17). "The task is to outline an approach to problems in
general rather than to presume an 'ownership' of solutions to
each particular problem" (1984,113).
Dery insists we cannot resolve all dissatisfaction,
alluding to Wildavsky's problem succession. Contrary to
Wildavsky's insistence on the necessity of solution before there
can be a problem, Dery emphasizes the central character of the
problem with a definite slant toward the innovation that can
result from a focus on the problem. "The definition of a problem
as a discrepancy between a given and a desired state implies
that the latter is to be treated as constant. In fact, only present,
undesirable conditions call for manipulation and change" (Dery
1984,17).
67


Problems should not be seen as the gap "between 'what
is' and a fixed 'what ought to be'" (1984,7). The desired state is
neither a given nor fixed. The facile "Does it work?" is replaced
with the more complex and open "What does it do?" (1984,42).
Dery does not deny that thinking about possible solutions is
part of the process of examining the problem, but he maintains
that problems are "better treated as opportunities for
improvement" (1984,5). This leads to constant problem
redefinition or Wildavsky's problem succession.
Dery suggests "problem-mindedness" (which I join with
other theories, especially Lindblom's [1990] lay probing and
Schon and Rein's [1994] problem setting and call "problem-
centeredness"). By this he means exploring the nature of the
problematic situation rather than simply choosing among given
solutions. Choosing among givens preserves or at least can
favor the status quo. If we choose among the easy givens,
"the scope of 'relevant' inquiry is therefore severely restricted
so as to accommodate available resources and policy
instruments, interests, constraints, prevailing values, and other
commitments the previous definitions of problems" (1984,
xii). Wildavsky argued that our preferences would change even
though he insisted that a solution was necessary.
68


Dery says that the world is a complex system because
nothing can be changed without winners and losers. He calls
this a restatement of the Pareto optimum in objective terms
(1984,64). This is a resurgence of values, that constant theme in
problem definition research. Values render objectivity and place
the rational paradigm out of the reach of even positivist policy
practitioners (cf. Stone 1988; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein
1994). Dery stresses the inventiveness of problem definition, the
constant search for a better way or the imaginative end of what
we are now doing. He provides further insight into the
obstacles to defining a problem situation while supporting and
enhancing Wildavsky's earlier contentions about the necessity
and desirability of creativity and the ability to learn. Unlike
Wildavsky, he does not believe that a possible solution is a
necessary prerequisite. Yet, like Wildavsky (e.g., 1989,60), Dery
wants us to move beyond today's mindset to "opportunities for
improvement" (1984,116). Majone concurs.
Conversation
Majone (1989,1) views policy analysis as conversation,
that is, persuasive arguments that rely upon data, models,
69


metaphors, and stories. He agrees that analysis begins with a
problem situation,
an awareness that things are not as they
should be, but without a clear idea of how they
might be corrected. Problem setting is the
process of translating a problem situation into
an actual policy problem stating the goals to be
achieved and a strategy for accomplishing
them (1989,57).
Majone (1989,5) sees institutions as the "entire
machinery of government... laws, regulations, norms,
organizations, decision-making procedures." These constitute
the outcome of previously successful problem definitions (cf.
Dery 1984; Polsby 1984; Weiss 1989). Majone agrees with
Wildavsky (1989), Lindblom (1990), and Schon and Rein (1994),
among others, that policy analysis cannot be purely intellectual
(1989,146). He calls the belief that it can, the "rationalist
fallacy," and adds, "imagination, judgment, and analogical and
associative thinking play a bigger role in problem setting than
rigor and technical skills" (1989,57). Here, Majone seems to
stress different kinds of thinking rather than a grounding in
70


action, the importance of values, and involving the public (cf.
Wildavsky 1989; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994).
According to Majone, the aim in problem definition
should be neither to mask assumptions nor to attack the
opposition, so much as it should be explicit about our
assumptions and values so that we can find a basis for
education and common understanding among people with
different values. Schon and Rein (1994) call a process similar to
this "frame reflection." At one point, Majone (1989,71) puts a
mathematical spin on approaching a problem's definition. In
mathematics, he says, it is often productive to ask what cannot
be done and why in order to find what does not "fit into
current conceptions ... to open the door to radically new
configurations of policy."
Majone later backs up the importance of values. In
organizations with transparent principles, proposals are judged
by "how they contribute to the ongoing debate" (1989,152).
Thus, sharply defined core principles "may facilitate...
adaptation to new situations by providing clear criteria...."
Conversely, selection of goals and activities will not be effective
"where the community is too open.. .if each and every proposal
were taken seriously, the burden for the selection mechanisms
71


would soon become unbearable, leading to a breakdown of
evaluative criteria" (1989,163). Majone is not arguing for
restriction; he favors openness in discussing conflicting values.
In an earlier work, Majone (1981/2,12; quoted in Browne
& Wildavsky 1983,246-8) discusses the relationship between the
structure of an organization (whether it is a bureaucracy or not)
and its task environment (whether it has well-understood or
ambiguous goals [ends] and ways to meet the goals [means]). If
ambiguity is present in ends and means, a bureaucracy tends to
control inputs through budgets and accountability. The non-
bureaucratic professional organization, on the other hand,
promotes collegial control, "mutual adjustment...learning and
effective cooperation...peer review" without recourse to explicit
rules of behavior because it is based on its members having a
clear and common understanding of their values (cf. Schon &
Rein 1994).
Majone calls for a grounding philosophy for a group, an
idea that resonates when we think about a bureaucracy's
difficulty in engaging in the work of change due to ambiguous
objectives and unclear norms (Crozier 1964). Focus and
persistence allow for successful advocacy as we see in Janet
Weiss' (1989,99) analysis of the redefinition of federal
72


paperwork, the conflict between "the government's need for
information and the resistance to collecting it."
Framework. Weapon, and Outcome
Janet Weiss finds great power in problem definition. It
creates language for talking about problems
and non-problems that draws attention to
some features of social life at the expense of
others; locates responsibility for problems,
putting some groups on the defensive and
others on the offensive; widens and deepens
public or elite interest in particular social
phenomena; and mobilizes political
participation around issues or symbols
highlighted by the problem definition (1989,
115).
Problem definition lies at "the heart of the action"
according to Weiss (1989,98) and "heart" in this instance
implies importance and power but also the center, conceptually
and temporally. In this interpretation, problem definition is a
73


tool found inside a given policy's history as well as in the theme
for both its initiation and outcome.
She calls problem definition elusive because it is
embedded in both the decision ("an intellectual framework for
further action") and the implementation ("a weapon of
advocacy and consensus") phases of the policy cycle. It can also
be a new institutional mindset, that is, an outcome of the cycle.
It can change language and responsibilities. Weiss says "much
policy making is preoccupied with whose definitions shall
prevail" because the intellectual framework brings with it the
power to shape what happens by justifying only some solutions
and actors as well as focusing attention on only certain
outcomes, certain ways of evaluating success or failure (1989,
98-99; cf. Schattschneider 1960; Stone 1988). Weiss
deconstructed the paperwork policy process, exemplifying the
postmodern approach.
Like others (e.g., Majone 1989; Dery 1984; Rein & Schon,
1994), Weiss says a policy sets up new structures that reflect the
problem's definition, "problem definitions must accommodate
political realities, but they also help to create those realities...
problem definitions carve new channels in institutional
arrangements" (1989,114). Skocpol (1992,58; quoted in Bosso
74


1994,200) agrees, "as politics creates policies, policies also
remake politics." Although case studies shed light on certain
processes that make redefinition more probable, they cannot
predict what will happen, she adds (1989,103). One must
always be open to unintended consequences. There is an
interplay, "a dynamic process in which intellectual
understanding and institutional behavior guide one another
over time" (113). Like Kingdon (1984; cf. Polsby 1984), Weiss
sees at least three influences, "the objective features of the
problem, the emergence of policy entrepreneurs, and
fluctuations in the appeal of political symbols and language"
(1989,108).
Problem definition can never be locked in and often
remains an open and messy question, leaving room not only for
"multiple options for addressing a given problem, but multiple
definitions each implying its own family of solutions" (1989,
98). Furthermore, political events can reinforce or thwart the
power of the symbols invoked in the definition or the coalitions
gathered. These political events can be, but do not have to be,
crises. Her study, for instance, shows that the collection of
information by the federal government "had probably been a
problem of about the same magnitude for many years" (1989,
75


109). Conversely, Kingdon (1984) places emphasis on the
severity of a problem, as do Rochefort and Cobb (1994). Far
from merely setting the process in motion, problem definition
and redefinition follow the process all the way through (cf.
Brewer & deLeon, 1983). Creativity is valuable because it
attracts like-minded thinkers and assists in reaching common
ground among diverse coalitions. A process gathers momentum
as it reaches a critical mass. Consensus is usually too much to
ask, but "modest interdependence" creates new channels for
shared political realities.
Policy entrepreneurs play a pivotal role (cf. Polsby 1984;
Kingdon 1984). At the auspicious moment, they move quickly
toward "concrete legislative and administrative proposals" says
Weiss (1989, 111). In turn, recalcitrant organizations and
bureaucracies that generally constrain innovative definitions of
problems finally respond to new ways of thinking when the
pressure is strong enough. Problem definition can then be seen
as an outcome, that is, newly configured governmental
institutions. Weiss sees a policy as setting up new structures
that reflect the new problem definition, in Schattschneider's
words, the "mobilization of bias" (cf. Baumgartner & Jones
76


1993; Dery 1984; Polsby 1984; Schon & Rein 1994; Bosso 1994;
Skoqpol 1992).
Weiss' (1989,99) history of the government paperwork
question demonstrates how "policy actors struggle over
problem definition throughout the policy process, how political
context shapes problem definition, and how consensus on
problem definition influences successive rounds of policy
making." As mentioned in Chapter 1, Weiss points out that
agency officials were the losers in the paperwork story, "their
credibility in decisions about what information they needed
was leached away.... Their participation in information policy
was reduced by the assumptions and theories of the new
regime" (1989,117). The redefinition of the problem was anti-
administration, a postmodern attitude (Farmer 1995).
Weiss stresses problem definition's power. She makes it
clear that advocates need a rationale behind a definition, a
creative interpretation of a problematic situation a new story
in order to be successful.
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Stories
Deborah A. Stone (1988,282) takes a "social
constructionist view of policy problems...our understanding of
real situations is always mediated by ideas; those ideas in turn
are created, changed and fought over in politics." Stone
describes what she calls "causal stories." Stories are analogous
to a problem's definition. Like problem definition, these stories,
challenge or protect an existing order.. .assign
responsibility to particular political actors so
that someone will have to stop an activity, do
it differently, compensate its victims, or
possibly face punishment...[ they] can create
new political alliances (1988,160-161).
Adamant about the purposeful intent in problem
definition, like Weiss (1989) and others, Stone says problem
definition is a strategy "created in the minds of citizens by other
citizens, leaders, organizations, and government agencies, as an
essential part of political maneuvering" (1988,122). She argues
that there is "a systemic process with fairly clear rules of the
game by which political actors struggle to control
interpretations and images of difficulties" (1988,282).
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Stone places great value on what she calls political
reasoning the strategic use of stories. She sees political
reasoning as an outlet and impetus for human imagination. In
her respect for this process and her refusal to rely on traditional
problem solving and the rational approach, she agrees with
other problem definition scholars (cf. Polsby 1984; Dery 1984;
Wildavsky 1989; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994), and
expresses her ideas in the postmodern style.
Like Weiss, Stone sees problem definition or political
metaphors as a strategic part of "a contest over
policy...addressed to a hostile audience" (1988,309). However,
for Stone (1988,306), contrary to Lindblom (1968; 1990), there is
no middle ground nor is there a dichotomy between analysis
and politics: "reasoned analysis is necessarily political. It always
involves choices to view the world in a particular way when
other visions are possible. Policy analysis is political argument
and vice versa." Stone clarifies how large societal myths help
determine how a society defines problems (cf. Bosso 1994;
Rochefort & Cobb 1994a). Stone says
assertions of a causal theory are more likely to
be successful if its proponents have visibility,
access to media, and prominent positions; if it
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accords with widespread and deeply held
cultural values; if it somehow captures or
responds to a "national mood"; and if its
implicit prescription entails no radical
redistribution of power or wealth (1988,159-
160).
Stone's comments about rules, games, and political
maneuvering call to mind Bosso's (1994,200) ideas on "a polity-
centered approach to problem definition," the convergence of
"existing structural and political conditions to create the
contexts within which political actors jockey to promote
competing problem definitions and formulate public policy."
On the other hand, Stone says, our aspirations for equity,
efficiency, liberty, security, democracy, and justice unite us even
as contradictory interpretations divide us. The pressure to
communicate our preferences and visions makes us a
community. She sees debates over a problem's boundaries as a
privilege; it encourages the use of our imaginations (1988,310).
She holds in high esteem the acts of arguing for one's values
and convincing others or changing one's mind. Changing
minds is what the democratic life is all about. Like Stone (cf.
Wildavsky 1989), Schon and Rein (1994,20) say that "change in
80


the way participants look at and understand the world" is a
desirable consequence of reaching a problem definition.
Problem Setting
As they consider and critique the policy world, Rein and
Schon5 (1977,238-9) use the term "problem setting" to describe
a process that can develop "new purposes and interpretations."
They say, "the questions we ask shape the answers we get....
Whatever is said of a thing, denies something else of it." They
agree with Schattschneider's idea of "boundary-setting."
Frames, they say, (a) highlight some features of the situation;
(b) ignore other features; and (c) bind the remaining features
into a pattern (1990,238-9).
They question working backwards from a desired state
because, instead, they want to ask the unaskable, subject values
to inquiry, and question what is most desired (Rein & Schon
1977,248; cf. Dery 1984; Wildavsky 1989). This brings to mind
Dery's (1984) problem-mindedness and Majone's (1989)
5 Schon changed the spelling of his name from Schon to Schon. We
will use the new spelling in the text, but both spellings in citations and the
Bibliography.
81


mathematical spin. Wildavsky finds a desired outcome
indispensable to policy analysis. Schon and Rein want
organizational players to learn new ways to question their
values and desired outcomes.
Schon insists on problem setting rather than problem
solving,
I have become persuaded that the essential
difficulties in social policy have more to do
with problem setting than with problem
solving, more to do with ways in which we
frame the purposes to be achieved than with
the selection of optimal means for achieving
them (1986, 255; cf. Lindblom 1990; Schon
1988).
Schon says we need to recognize one person or one
organization's description of a problem as that entity's
description rather than reality. In this way we are led to
understand that this description is not everyone's "reality." This
is one of the facets to how we succeed at looking at the same
situation through different organizational lenses. Again, values
and the elusiveness of the problem's definition are brought to
the fore. Schon also suggests that immersing oneself in practice
82
!


rather than remaining cerebral allows us to "capture the
experienced richness of the situation (its phenomenology)
without forcing it into existing formal categories" (1986,279).
Schon (1986,279) adds that through research of practice in this
vein we can "inquire into the processes by which we are able to
construct new category-schemes, new models, from the
information-rich stories we tell."
Like Lindblom (1990), Schon and Rein (1994,10) divide
policy making into three traditions rational actor, politics,
and negotiation all three of which they reject because they all
share the central idea of instrumental
rationality: that policy makers are rational
actors who choose the means policy
positions, strategies of political action or
negotiating ploys that they believe to be
best suited to the achievement of their ends,
which are rooted in their interests (cf. Dryzek
& Torgerson 1993,214; Elder & Cobb 1983,1-
2).
They say their 1994 book "swims against the prevailing
tide." Schon and Rein thus place themselves with problem
definition researchers. However, they say that, unlike
83


Lindblom, they do not see practitioners as "muddling through."
Nor do they see a need to leave policy making or probing to lay
persons (cf. Lindblom 1990). Instead, they see "a kind of
reflective practice, which we call design rationality" (1994, xi).
Schon and Rein also offer the idea that "the parties to
policy controversies see issues, policies, and policy situations in
different and conflicting ways that embody different systems of
belief and related prescriptions for action..." (1994, xvii; cf.
Majone 1989). They continue (1994,29) "frames are not free-
floating but are grounded in the institutions that sponsor them,
and policy controversies are disputes among institutional actors
who sponsor conflicting frames." Again we find the marrying of
a solution and an organization (cf. Dery 1984; Majone 1989;
Schattschneider 1960; Weiss 1989). Schon and Rein assist us in
thinking through how institutions work together. They make it
clear why there are difficulties inherent in collaboration among
agencies. This reinforces the idea of organization as the
"mobilization of bias" (Schattschneider 1960). Rochefort and
Cobb provide a different perspective on the "why" of these
struggles.
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Instrumental versus Expressive
Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, vii) edited a collection of
studies that integrated Rochefort's background as a researcher
in the "social images of problems and their impact on policy
design" with Cobb's earlier studies of agenda building and
symbolic politics. A dominant theme of their book, as expressed
in the final section (Bosso 1994,200), is an approach to problem
definition that focuses on "culture, socioeconomic conditions,
institutions, and history." Like Weiss' (1989) article on
government paperwork, these studies demonstrate that a
successful problem definition is an outcome as well as a
prologue to policy change. New definitions create new
problems, which, in turn, create new structures. The studies also
depict policy making as seen through the lens of problem
definition as disorganized and decidedly non-linear, in fact,
"sloppy and complicated" (Bosso 1994,201).
They subscribe to the "social construction of reality, the
idea that the definition of a social problem is dependent on
time, place, and society (1994,5). As you might recall, they
explicitly attribute problem definition's surge in importance to
postmodernism "an intellectual style concerned with examining
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Full Text

PAGE 1

I I I I I I I I I i I I I PROBLEM DEFINITION, POLITICAL INNOVATION, AND SCHOOL REFORM: THE TEXAS STATEWIDE SYSTEMIC INITIATIVE BY MARY THOMAS APODACA B.A., UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER, 1964 M.A., UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER, 1970 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Public Administration 1996

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. i i I I I i I I 1996 by Mary Thomas Apodaca All rights reserved

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This Thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Mary Apodaca has been approved for the Graduate School of Public Affairs Date

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Apodaca, Mary Thomas (Ph.D., Public Administration) Problem Definition, Political Innovation, and School Reform: The Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative Thesis directed by Professor Peter deLeon ABSTRACT A Nation at Risk (1983) initiated the current era of school reform and provoked much policy making. The goals of school reformers has not been reached. Further, the efforts have not garnered significant public engagement because of their fragmented nature. This dissertation turned on the idea that problem definition, a postmodern policy theory strand, would provide insight. Problem definition delimits a workable concept from an amorphous problematic situation. The research was driven by the following questions: Was the group that created the problem definition or the group directing the project an outside-the-bureaucracy group or a bureaucracy? Did the group take a problem-centered approach, engaging in frame reflection and/ or lay probing? Did it exhibit other postmodem tendencies? Was a policy entrepreneur involved? What part did politics play? iii

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A case study of the Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative, a National Science Foundation-funded project relied on documents from Texas, Colorado, and the NSF. Interviews with staff, plus an outside monitor, and other public officials filled in gaps in the narration. Interviews were conducted during one site visit and by telephone and electronic mail. The initial Texas proposal-writing group was inside the bureaucracy and did not use a problem-centered approach. Funding was suspended due to inadequate progress. Politics kept the process going until a policy entrepreneur emerged to write a new proposal. The project is currently directed a third-party agency and has been called the "central systemic initiative in the state." Problem-centeredness and frame reflection are extremely difficult approaches for policy makers However, there was some of evidence of these approaches and there were definitely other postmodem tendencies at work during the evolution of the project. A policy entrepreneur was integral and politics was intertwined throughout. The implications fall along two dimensions: 1. Broad-scale policy innovation is not on the horizon; furthermore it would not effect epic-change school reform; and iv

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2. Third-party agencies working at the state level, in concert with federal and state agencies, and with equal power in their particular area, can effect changes that government agencies alone cannot. This abstract accurately represents the content of candidate's thesis. I recommend its Peter deLeon v

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I had the distinct advantage of living policy making during the life of this dissertation and first wish to thank the workers behind-the-scenes, my fellow school reformers at the Colorado Department of Education, across the state of Colorado, and across the nation. Thanks also go to Arvin Blome, Richard Laughlin, and Brian McNulty, Associate, Deputy, and Assistant Colorado Commissioners of Education. Their ability for empowering middle level people is exemplary. Without the assistance of members of the Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative, there would have been no case study and no dissertation. They easily and freely shared the documentation of the project, and even more importantly, they spoke openly about obstacles they had encountered. They lived Uri Treisman's assertion that "the only good dissertation is a completed one." Rose Acera, Karen Eikner, David Hill, and Cathy Seeley, and Uri Treisman, among many Texas SSI staff, gave generously of their time and thoughtful insights. I am also vi

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grateful to Janice Earle and Peirce Hammond, among others at the National Science Foundation, who understood the value of different perspectives on this major effort. Wayne Welch, the Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative's outside monitor, was invaluable to the research through written reports, interviews, and comments on drafts. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation where I began working at the final stages of the study, provided not only lli-ne and financial resources, but emotional and intellectual support and encouragement. Thanks go to Dale Koepp and Nancy Mohr who commented on final drafts. Each member of my dissertation committee at the University of Colorado at Denver provided valuable insights at the colloquium and defense. They helped me be more emphatic in my conclusions and the dissertation would be much less without any one of them. Linda deLeon was especially generous of her time. Lastly, this dissertation would not have been accomplished without the guidance and assistance -not to mention insistence-of the committee Chair, Peter de Leon. His thorough understanding of the writing process, his writing and vii

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editing skills, his kindness and sense of humor, his commitment to learning and graduate students -all of these alone and together are inspiring. How do we replicate the access Peter provides? This dissertation attempts to interest its readers in this kind of learning for all students, not just the lucky few who end up doctoral candidates. viii

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This dissertation is dedicated to my daughter, Kristen Dogan, who began teaching in September 1996. ix

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CONTENTS ABSTRACT ................................. .... ............. .......................... ...... .... iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .. .......... .... .. ......... .......... ....... ............ ........ vi TABLE OF CONTENTS . .... ................................................... . ... ......... x CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ............. .......... ..... .. ......... ........... . .. .. ...... 1 School Reform on the National Scene .... .............. ........ J The Concept of Problem Definition ... .................. ..... ..... 5 The Power of Problem Definition ...................... ............ 7 Educational Reform ... ...................................................... 11 A Plethora of Solutions ................. ..................... 13 Schooling Overwhelms Reformers ...... ............. 16 The Current Era of Education Reform. ........ ... J8 Bureaucracy and Education ........ .................... ..... . .... .... 22 Summary ....... ............... ............. ............................. ........ 25 Thesis Outline ...... ................ ............... ........ ....... 29 2. REVIEW OF TilE LITERATURE ................... .... ..................... 30 Introduction .............. . ............. . . .............. ..... ................. 30 Defining Problem Definition .......... ................... 31 Postmodernism ............. ...................................... 33 X

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Bureaucracy ............................................... .......... 38 Related Policy Strands . ...................................... 41 Scaffolding .... ............................ .............. ....................... 44 Changing the Equation ....................................... 46 Policy Innovation ...................................... ..... ...... 50 The Policy Entrepreneur .................................... 54 Pols by and Schattschneider as Prologue .......... 59 Current Perceptions of Problem Definition ...... ......... 61 Lay Probing ............................................... ......... 61 Preferences ................................................. .......... 64 The Christenin 67 g ...... ........ .................................... Conversation ........................... ..... ........................ 70 Framework, Weapon, and Outcome ..... ........... 73 Stories ............. ............... ............. ........................ 78 Problem Setting ............. ................... . ...... ........ 81 Instrumental versus Expressive ........................ 85 i Regime-Level Policy ............................................ 90 j Summary .... ............... ............... ............................. ......... 95 I I A Conceptual Framework. .................. .......................... 99 Observation. .................. ..... ......... ............ ..... ...... 102 I xi

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Questions ..... --------------------------------------------102 3. RESEARCH DESIGN. ... .... ........... . ... ............. ........... ........ 104 Introduction ..... ............ ............................ ............ ......... 104 The Study ................................... .................................... 104 Rationale for the Case Study Method ............. 105 Integrity of a Case Study. . ........................ ...... 106 The Texas Site ... ........ ...... ................................................ 109 Specific Procedures ............... ........................... 112 Unsolicited Confirmation ...... . ............................ ....... 114 4. CASE STIJDY. .... ......................... .... .... ...... ...... .................. 116 Introduction ... ......... ........ ........................................ ....... 116 The National Science Foundation ................... 116 The Dana Center ................................................ 117 The Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative ........ 120 The National Science Foundation Statewide Systemic Initiatives ............. 121 Stages of Evolution ........................................................ 125 Systemic Change .................... ................. .... ...... 127 Stage One: The 1991 Plan ................................. 129 Stage Two: A New Plan and New Rejection ........................................ 138 xii

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! I I i : I I I I I I I I I Stage Three: The Addendum ........................... 142 The Policy Entrepreneur ................ ........... . ... l47 Stage Four: Implementation (1994-1996) .... ... .151 Early Implementation .......... .... .......... .............. 152 The Texas SSI Inside the Dana Center ..................... .. 158 Election Year Politics .......... . .............. . ..................... ... 162 Summary ..... ................. ..... ............ ... ..... ...................... 167 5. CONCLUSION. ......................................... .. ................. . .. .. 169 Introduction ........................................................... . ....... 169 Characteristics of the Texas Groups ..................... ...... 170 Are Non-Bureaucratic Tendencies Apparent? .......... 171 The Policy Entrepreneur as Liaison ............................ 175 How Was Problem-Centeredness Evident? .............. .185 Frame Reflection .................................... ........... 185 Experts versus the Public? ......... ..................... .l91 The Role of Policy and Politics ............ .......... ... ....... . 195 Summary ..... ...................................... ..... ................... .... 197 Implications for Policy Research ............................ ..... 199 Even Goals Are Not Givens 203 Lessons Relearned ................................ ...................... .. 208 xiii

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APPENDIX A. QUESTIONS FOR INFORMANIS ....................................... 211 B. TEN ELEMENTS FOR SYSTEMIC CHANGE ........................ 220 BIBU()(;RAPHY ............................................................................. 222 xiv

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CHAPTER 1 lNTRODUCTION School Reform on the National Scene On July 23, 1995, Sesno and Morton of CNN's "Late Edition" wrapped up an hour of political give and take on affirmative action with a short discussion of how education figured into the debate. Any educational reformer would have listened with enthusiasm as Morton briefly explained the findings of the 1983 A Nation at Risk. a blistering indictment of the education system. When he had finished talking about the report, Sesno asked, "Has anything changed [in the past dozen years)?" Morton's terse reply was "I don't think so." A national political commentator knows nothing about education reform? Clearly, current education reform effortsto alleviate the condition characterized in A Nation at Riskhave not succeeded in becoming a national, visible innovation. Sesno and Morton made their "awareness that things are not as they should be" explicit (Majone 1989,57) but, contrary to Morton's glib assessment, the 1980s through early 1990s were 1

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I I I I characterized by an extremely high volume of educational policy changes at all governmental levels (Fuhrman, Clune, & Elmore 1987, 1991; Fuhrman & Massell1992; Mawhinney 1993). As Odden (1991, 301) has observed, for example, "44 states required student testing for minimum academic competencies, and 38 states required new teachers to pass a state standardized test before entering a teacher education program and/ or before becoming certified to teach All this, and yet a recent report on the future of education in Colorado states "two in three Coloradans think the public schools aren't adequately preparing students for tomorrow's jobs and careers" (Setting the Standard, 1994, 1). And an October 1995 (Bradley 1995) report claims almost 50% of parents surveyed nationally did not believe that a diploma from their local high school would guarantee that a student had "mastered the basics." While these statistics clearly ind i cate a lack of public support for the educational status quo, few schools display a sense of urgency for reform that includes a "number of departures from conventional practice that fundamentally change the roles of teachers, administrators, students and parents working with schools" (Newmann & Clune 1992, 10). 2

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i I I I i I I I I i Thus, despite dozens of federal, state, and local initiatives, hundreds of articles and books, and millions of private and public dollars, the latest round of American school reform touched off by A Nation at Risk-has not become what I will call, after Polsby (1984), a "political innovation," let alone is it classified a success (Cuban 1995; Daggett 1995; Fuhrman & Massell1992; Newmann & Clune 1992; Rothman 1993). As Richard Elmore (1991, 6) says, there is little proof that "policy innovations, no matter how well-intentioned, necessarily improve the performance of public organizations." Education policy making, although often frenzied, has failed to change schools enough to catch the public's attention. This may be more understandable if we heed Peterson (1983, 3-11), who lambastes studies conducted by task forces and commissions like A Nation at Risk. He says such reports have a function, but "fact-finding, rigorous analysis, and policy development are usually not among them." He continues, they are "certain to exaggerate the problem ... state only broad, general objectives .. [and] recommend changes that are beyond current technology and resources." Peterson points out that such commissions have no authority and, more importantly, no responsibility. This compels us to ask, How can school reform 3

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evolve "from elite quarrel to mass movement?" (Mitcheil1981). This question leads to the subject of this dissertation. This dissertation is intended for researchers, students, and practitioners of generic public policy in general, and education policy. In particular, I propose to shed light on the near past and future of school reform as a policy agenda issue in its predecision stage. Students of public policy have several excellent sources (as documented in the literature review) for the study of problem definition; however, I have not found any explicit histories of the development of problem definition before a significant policy change. This dissertation helps fill that gap. Policy researchers have called for more stories, narratives, and case studies of the process, especially those of protracted policy issues (e.g., Schon & Rein 1994), and political innovation -even political innovations that do not occur (Polsby 1984). Meanwhile, educational reformers continue to struggle with "scaling" reform efforts, that is, moving from fragmented projects to nationally (or state) recognized, sustained progress towards fundamental and lasting reform. Reformers need a broad and long-term view of the possibilities 4

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of success of their efforts from a policy standpoint. This dissertation attempts to respond to these needs and requests. The Concept of Problem Definition Imagine a puzzle with a thousand pieces -all black. Even though fiendishly difficult, our make-believe puzzle could be solved. If you set out to solve it, you would know that your goal was to fit the pieces together using all of them. What is more, once it was solved, you would know it had been solved and you could demonstrate that the solution had been reached -before someone knocked over the card table. I The failure of our schools, on the other hand, is not a puzzle or a problem; it remains what is called in public policy theory, a "problematic situation or difficulty." According to social constructivist public policy theory, a problematic situation or difficulty is a very different beast from even a fiendishly difficult-but conceivably solvable-puzzle. 1 A billion-piece all-black puzzle was used as a metaphor for breaking the Soviet code, a feat almost miraculously accomplished by American cryptographers during World War II (Weiner 1995, AlO). 5

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A "problematic situation" or "difficulty" is a conception of, for instance, the way the education world is for the present and foreseeable future. It is overwhelmingly (or vaguely and naggingly) not as it should be. "That's just the way it is ... nothing can be done about it." As long as failing schools simply exist as a part of life there can be no policy solution. A "problem," once defined, is something else. A problem is a contradiction, something we can get our minds around. Social problems lend themselves to solutions, but, as Aaron Wildavsky said, we never solve a problem "once and for all." We tackle one problem and then move on to the next set of problems -mostly caused by our earlier attempts at resolution. Wildavsky adds, instead of thinking of permanent solutions we should think of permanent problems in the sense that one problem always succeeds and replaces another ... the capacity of policies to generate more interesting successors and our ability better to learn from them what we ought to prefer, may be their most important quality (Wildavsky 1989, 5). 6

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From this perspective, problematic situations and even the more manageable defined problems have always been and always will be -with us. These less-than-ideal conditions in our best-of-all-possible worlds include such national dilemmas as substance abuse, societal and family violence, teenage pregnancy, environmental degradation, unequal access to health care, homelessness, poverty, declining cities, uncontrolled and perhaps uncontrollable trade and fiscal deficits, a low savings rate, a questionable military strategy, a crisis in public support for democratic institutions, and most critical for this dissertation-what is often called "the worst system of primary and secondary education in the First World" (Lind, 1995). The Power of Problem Definition In this dissertation, I look at a situation-vast numbers of students not performing at high enough levels to thrive in, let alone contribute to, our society-through the conceptual lens of the "flourishing subfield within policy studies," called "problem definition" (Bosso 1994, 188). In Baumgartner and Jones' (1993, 54) description, problem definition exists partially 7

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because "policymakers seeking particular policy outcomes attempt to redefine issues to suit their needs, taking advantage of circumstances as they can." Problem definition is a relatively new, and postmodem theoretical strand. As Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, 7) spell out, postmodernism is "an intellectual style concerned with examining the unquestioned value assumptions embodied in culture and society."2 Fischer (1990, 216) adds that postmodernism (he refers to it as postpositivism) thus "confronts positivism's most fundamental principle, namely, the strict separation of facts and values" and thus provides "a more comprehensive concept of rationality." A concerted effort at school reform has persisted since 1983 and A Nation at Risk. and yet has failed to become a national innovation-schools that are somehow failing remain a problematic situation for most citizens. That is why most are not engaged in the educational reformers' struggle for reform. 2 Up until a few years ago, the term "postmodem" has been used more in the arts, literature, and philosophy, while the term "postpositivism" has been used in the social sciences. "Postmodem" is now "sweeping the social sciences" (Rosenau 1993, 1, [quoted in Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 7]). 8

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In this dissertation, I assert that educators are reluctant to focus on the question "What is happening? (Dery 1984)" rather than the more common "What should we do?" This proclivity impedes progress towards a general agreement on how public education could best serve its actuai clients: the students (who attend, in theory, to learn), their parents (as schools assist in socialization), and the public (who benefit from public education as a result of a public goods arena). I argue that the apparent lack of significant energy and vigor of this effort can be attributed to the nature of the reform effort itself, the failure of education reformers to engage the public in formulating a compelling problem definition. Such a definition could ignite the public imagination -not to mention the imagination of other reformers and the educational bureaucracy. It could then lead to a nationally recognized effort understood by educators and the public alike. Instead, educational reformers continue to head off with great energy but in all directions at once, competing with each other, denigrating, and sometimes even nullifying other efforts. And, most important, they are still lacking a clear idea of a problem that could engage the public. The research in problem definition 9

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in this dissertation is intended to help clarify why this is so (Majone 1989; Rothman 1993). A more interesting problem definition has the potential of focusing public energy. It is my assertion that more powerful definitions at once engaging to the public and yet appealing to school people and policy makers of all political persuasions are key to the ultimate success of fundamental and lasting education reform. Or, at least-as Wildavsky says-"a better class of problem." Optimal definitions are necessary, if not sufficient, for a large scale, highly visible break with current educational practice and institutions in order to accomplish significant, continual improvement in the level of learning for vast numbers of currently underserved students. The basic argument is that what stands in the way of dynamic, compelling definitions is the approach to problem definition by the educational bureaucracy. I will argue here for a "problem-centered" rather than the more typical"solution minded" or "methods-driven" approach. A problem-centered approach is one in which the participants focus on the problematic situation rather than jumping to a solution (Dery 1984; cf. Cohen, March, & Olsen 1972). They then move toward a problem definition, ideally involving the public in the 10

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I "I I problem situation (Lindblom 1990). They frame the problem in a way that reflects the aspirations and fears of all interested parties (Schon & Rein 1994). I will also propose that a problem-centered approach is most likely to emerge through the efforts of a group outside the educational bureaucracy. The literature review will demonstrate that institutions, bureaucracies-and thus the larger educational community and its bureaucracies-were themselves once solutions to a problem or problems. Their members tend to depend on ready-made (as opposed to broader, innovative or not-yet-conceived-of) solutions, the ones that worked in the past-or that they have always believed would work but were thwarted in attempting or truly implementing. It is necessary, I contend, to find an organization that has the capability of centering its work on the problem rather than on its own continued existence. Educational Reform What schools look like and how they function are considered the public's privilege to decide. Schooling, especially secondary schooling, has been a political issue since its 11

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I : I I I : I inception in the nineteenth century. This politicization can be seen throughout the twentieth century as school reformers have taken several cuts at the definition of "failing schools." In the 1920s, schools were not "efficient" enough to please the Progressives; that is, they were not organized like a business. In the 1930s, teachers were unpaid. In the 1950s, scientific and engineering training did not measure up once Sputnik was launched. In the 1960s, "over-bureaucratization, underinvolvement by parents, and racial segregation were considered the major problems" (Peterson 1983, 29-30). Moreover, education goals have frequently changed. In the first decades of the twentieth century, good schooling meant the rapid and total assimilation of waves of immigrant children. The Progressives' goal was to use scientific management techniques for organizing the educational system for efficiency along with the rest of America according to the factory model (Tyack & Cuban 1995, 8).3 3 The typical American high school follows the factory model in that students are classified according to age and ability and march in cohorts from one classroom and subject to the next every set number of minutes, regardless of interest or need. Individual students are allowed to slip through the cracks as long as the administrative order remains intact. 12

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i I I Following the civil rights movement of the 1960s, good schooling meant universal access to all schools for all students (Graham 1995, 43). Conversely, the mid-1970s version of school failure identified whatever gains in equity were accomplished in the 1960s as the source of the lack of student achievement (Tyack & Cuban 1995, 29). It seems that keeping all students in school led to changes in schools and their curricula that were resented by middle class families whose children once were the only ones in the public schools (Tyack & Cuban 1995, 14). For at least the American middle class, there once was a Golden Age of Schooling, lost when schooling became the legitimate right of students of all social classes. The changing political climate and world events have as much or more to do with a specific call for reform as does the true condition of schooling (Cremin 1989). Consensus-building definitions and focused efforts are lacking, however, leading to an overabundance of solutions. A Plethora of Solutions The end of the twentieth century has seen a call for fundamental reform in many parts of American society. 13

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"Restructuring" is one of the more recent code words. In education, this translates into a concept that includes decentralization, shared decision-making, school choice, schools within schools, flexible scheduling with longer classes, teacher teaming, common academic curriculum required for all students, reduction of tracking and ability grouping, external standards for school accountability, and new forms of assessment such as portfolios (Newmann & Wehlage 1995, 2). There is more, site based management ... empower[ed] teachers ... roles and responsibilities ... personnel structures ... shared missions ... transforming physical space of schools ... flexible group learning environments ... moving away from superficially covering facts toward substantive understanding, problem solving, and analytical thinking (Berends & King 1994, 30). 14

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1 i I I I i I I i I In short, there is a long list of possible school reforms. This list derives from a predilection of the educational community-a major assumption of this dissertation to leap to solutions rather than to center on a problematic situation. The predilection for quick solutions is a national trait, not simply a failing of school people. Even educational researchers decry "the high volume of education policy production at all levels ... and a tendency to address each problem with a distinct special program" (Fuhrman & Massell1992, 1). These critics call for "systemic change," that is, more coherence through national standards and subsequent consistent changes in testing, curriculum, and instruction. They would add more flexibility and yet stricter accountability for individual schools. The intent of this dissertation is to look at the whole of school reform as a national policy issue rather than as the property of one or another reformer or as a project. I propose a broader longer-term and policy-oriented lens for looking at the problematic situation of failing schools. 15

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: I Schooling Overwhelms Reformers Both insiders and outsiders have tried to change schooling. Insiders were successful in nurturing the growth of the common school during the nineteenth century through "networks of professionals, centered in teachers' colleges, cutting across states and localities" (Elmore 1984, 126). Later, insiders tried to humanize schooling with the installation of the kindergarten and the junior high school. However, "through a process of institutional assimilation, the kindergarten and the junior high school ended up resembling the primary and high school grades above them," (Tyack & Cuban 1995, 75-76). The intended changes were trivialized and marginalized. Outsiders have a long history of working inside schools Private companies provide for transportation and food services as well as services for special education and incarcerated youth. They sell class rings and sports equipment, and rent graduation gowns When outsiders have moved to change schooling, however, their success has proven more fleeting. In the Texarkana scandal of 1969, teachers were required to take part in "performance contracting," a technique in which they would be compensated by the number of students who performed 16

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successfully on standardized tests. The first test results seemed to show improved student achievement. However, it was shown that faced with this high stakes "teacher-proof" technology, teachers had employed actual test items to prepare students for the tests. A subsequent 1971 study by RAND showed no significant overall difference between the experimental and control groups (Tyack & Cuban 1995, 117120). In the early 1990s, Education Alternatives, Inc. (EAI), ran nine Baltimore public schools on a profit-making basis. In late 1995, the school district terminated its five-year contract with EAI after three and one-half years. Prolonged negotiations failed to convince EAI to accept a $7 million cut to help the school district meet a shortfall. Data showed that "although students in EAI schools posted modest gains, the company spent about 11 percent more per student than the rest of the city's public schools" and, as has been the case elsewhere, "EAI suffers from overselling in the first place" (Walsh 1995). While there have been numerous attempts at institutional school reform by outsiders, the results have not been any more fundamental or long-lived than those by insiders. 17

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The Current Era of Education Reform As noted above, in 1983, "a report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education and an open letter to the American people" from the National Commission on Excellence in Education, the before-mentioned, A Nation at Risk, trumpeted "a rising tide of mediocrity," and the first problem definition of this generation of school reform. It stated the fundamental mission of public education was to prepare young people for democratic citizenship and to promote individual and national prosperity. It also made it clear that mediocre student achievement and poor teachers were the reasons reform was needed. A Nation at Risk stated its solution: state level policy requiring a core curriculum, increased high school graduation requirements, expanded student testing, and toughening requirements for entering the teaching profession (Odden 1991, 301; Ravitch 1995, 135). This characterization of the problem and solutions was accepted by policy makers who produced a flood of laws and policies of control to be carried out by bureaucrats (Fuhrman & Massel11992). A Nation at Risk clearly stated a simple problem and its solution, but subsequent reformers have concluded that 18

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i ) I I I I i I I I i I it was wrong on both counts (Harris 1994, 6). "Critics dubbed this the 'more-longer-harder' strategy of education reform." Policy as translated by the bureaucracy decreed that students and teachers would take more courses, put in longer hours, and work harder. "Like most command-and-control strategies, it failed" (Osborne & Gaebler 1992, 315). Partially as a reaction to the "deskilling" of teachers and the top-down nature of the first wave of reform-plus its failure to effect the desired improvement-the second definition of reform opposed the notion that those who educate our children are no more than early nineteenth-century factory workers who must be subjected to direction. The underlying problem now was redefined as the first definition of reform, that is, suffocating state and local education agency bureaucracies and their stultifying effects on schools, teachers, and students. The solution lay in granting more autonomy to school-level practitioners (teachers and building administrators). One branch of reformers called for the privatization of schooling (Chubb & Moe 1988; Chubb & Moe 1990; O'Neil 1995). Another branch of reformers emphasized public school change with heavy involvement of staff, parents, and the 19

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community around individual school buildings. These grassroots efforts were supported by educational policy entrepreneurs through projects such as James Comer's School Development Project (Yale), John Goodlad's National Network for Educational Renewal (University of California at Los Angeles and University of Washington), Henry Lewin's Accelerated Schools (Stanford), Deborah Meier's Center for Collaborative Education (New York City), Philip Schlecty's Center for Leadership in School Reform (Louisville, Kentucky), Theodore Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools (Brown University), and William Spady's Outcome-Based Education (Vale, Colorado). These efforts have spawned their own considerable literature (e.g., Ascher, 1993; Comer, 1986; Goodlad 1984; Meier 1995; Sizer, 1984; ; Spady 1977). The first and second problem definitions continue even though their effort has already been called a failure, (Looking Back, 1994). Privatization has also so far failed to occur. A third definition that uses economic arguments has emerged. The new story admits that Americans have always been a bit wary of everyone learning. It asserts that the factory model of the education system, adequate up through the 1970s, will not meet the world class competition of the 1990s. 20

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' I I I I I i I I i j This refrain is different from A Nation at Risk's argument because it says that student performance has not declined, but continues to rise, only too slowly. That student performance has not risen dramatically would not be surprising given today's societal problems; however, even this too gradual rise constitutes a grave problem for the United States, because the real reason for distress is that today's world of work requires a new kind of schooling for all students. As Linda Darling-Hammond said, "we now have to educate every student for a kind of 'thinking work' rather than for assembly line or semi-skilled work, as we did years ago" (Harris 1994, 6). We want higher achievement for all students, "much more thoughtful, adventurous, and demanding teaching and learning, and ... new instructional guidance to produce it" (Cohen & Spillane 1993, 37). The new definition resists blame and blaming; it makes a call to the nation as a whole. It is most often couched in terms of systemic change, "increasing coherence in the system through centralized coordination and increasing professional discretion at the school site" (Fuhrman & Masselll992, 1). This reform is called "standards-based education It is an attempt to "develop structures and practices at the top of the system that promote 21

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i I I I I I and support bottom-up reform ... neither 'top-down' or 'bottom-up' efforts are sufficient ... success in these efforts requires 'meeting in the middle"' (Lusi 1995, 1-2). However, it is important to note that the top and bottom distrust each other. The new definition of meshing top and bottom is seen by many at the bottom as top-down all over again. Whether it is a new way of tackling the problem or not, for the third time in this latest era of school reform, by this paper's counting, we are presented with a solution-minded problem definition. Bureaucracy and Education This generation and its waves of school reform have been around for more than a decade without noticeable large scale visibility or effect (Newmann & Wehlage 1995). Public policy literature has highlighted a central reason this is so. The bureaucracy is ill-equipped to take an approach to problem definition that engages the public. Osborne and Gaebler (1992, 314) characterize public education as "a classic example of the bureaucratic model. .. centralized, top-down, and rule-driven ... a system that guarantees stability, not change." 22

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E.E. Schattschneider's (1960) insights into the value of the scope of the conflict and the power of the audience emerge as especially germane when related to Iannaccone's (1967, 19) observation that the politics of the educational bureaucracy "tends to strengthen the boundaries of its social systems, resulting in a narrow base of support, and to perpetuate itself and its internal power elite despite the needs of society." Majone (1989, 95) warns that the "entire machinery of government" limits strategic thinking. Janet Weiss (1989, 117) showed that the problem definition that triumphed in the long debate over government paperwork was analytically superior to the old definition, but, "the losers were agency officials. Their credibility in decisions about what information they needed was leached away." Since public perception and support of the government have deteriorated, it is hard to imagine that state level bureaucrats would be heavily invested in anything other than what Lynn and Kowalczyk (1995, 5) call "the professional control model" of school governance, where "the interests of the providers of educational services were weighed more heavily" than those of parents and other citizens. "No one wants to innovate themselves [sic] out of a job" (Osborne and Gaebler 1992, 265). 23

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Reformers have their critics, too, of course. The call for "systemic change," to enlist more than just the educational community in the problems schools face, has been called a strategy to "avoid blame and the burdens of reform" (d. Stone 1988, 292). And there are many within the educational establishment who argue publicly that education does not need to change fundamentally (Berliner & Biddle 1995; Bracey 1991a; Bracey 1991b; Bracey 1991c; Bracey 1991d; Bracey 1992; Bracey 1994; Bracey 1995; Bradley 1995; Durden 1995; Schrag 1995; Viadero 1995). Some even blame A Nation at Risk and its call for wholesale reforms on a right-wing plot to privatize American education (Applebome 1995). Others are very much against top-down systemic changes because they would rob children and communities of what is significant to them (Apple 1990; McNeil1995). It is important to note that the problematic situation could fail to be defined or be defined in such a way as to leave schools out of the definition, or ... the possibilities are endless. 24

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Suffice it to say that there is not agreement that there is a problem (Shanker 1996).4 Since 1983 and A Nation at Risk, educators and policy makers have "tried all the conventional medicine" (Osborne and Gaebler 1992, 315-316), while many if not most school-level practitioners deny there is a problem in their school. If we cannot look to the responsible bureaucracy for problem definitions for reform, where do we look? "The real question today is who is putting together some new understanding of the problems, and some new ideas for action ... (Osborne & Gaebler 1992, 324). It is with this question that this dissertation begins. Summary A problem definition and the solutions that flowed from A Nation at Risk-although generating a flood of new policies have not yet solved the problematic situation of discomfort with student achievement nor have they engendered a national 4 Critiques and rebuttals are on the website of the American Federation of Teachers as of September 1996: http:/ /seamon key.ed.asu.edu. epaa/ 25

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innovation for educational reform. Consider the changingand ever-growing-list of solutions. Our argument is that the educational reform community could profit from a problem definition conceived without immediate recourse to ready made solutions, that is, a "problem-centered" rather than a "solution-based" or "methods-defined" approach. New ways to approach problematic situations can be found, but perhaps in places other than traditional bureaucratic institutions. Most of the research on problem definition to date is composed of theory-building case studies that (a) demonstrate the instrumentality of problem definition in the success or failure of a policy issue; (b) relate how various actors in the policy scene strategize to reach a definition and maneuver their definition onto the public agenda (although success seems often to have been achieved serendipitously); and (c) define characteristics and outcomes (both intended and unintended) of successful problem definitions (e.g., Rochefort & Cobb 1994; 1994a; Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith 1993; Weiss 1989). I will focus on a relatively small event with a definite goal and a short timespan (four to five years) and relatively few players (not including the broader public). I understand that I may be studying a situation where a successful problem 26

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definition will not occur. I will be cognizant of closely related strands of public policy theory including the areas of political innovation, agenda setting, and punctuated equilibria. In 1990, the National Science Foundation (Foundation) proposed an innovative concept, called the Statewide Systemic Initiative. The Foundation asked Governors and the state agencies for higher education and for kindergarten-through twelfth-grade education to envision a new, improved state system for higher quality student learning in mathematics, science, and technology for all students, especially the traditionally underserved. The Foundation called the solution "systemic change," but no one knew (or perhaps even today knows) what true, lasting systemic change looks like. Thus, the Foundation was open to state interpretation of the problematic situation. Twenty-five states (as of September 1996) have received these ten-million-dollar, five-year awards. In only three states, Connecticut, Montana. and Texas, is the project directed by what the Foundation calls a "third-party agency," that is, an agency that is outside the bureaucracy. States rarely take advantage of the many reform-minded third-party agencies 27

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available in this arena or in other places where they could make and implement policy (Corcoran, 1996). The Texas education community is a huge bureaucracy with a tradition of centralized control over all aspects of educational policy. That Texas would allow this fairly large Foundation project to fall under the auspices of a third-party agency is a significant event. If allotting this kind of power and authority to an outside-the-bureaucracy group works in Texas, other states need to take a look at what happened, especially in this era of unprecedented attacks on government, attacks that are both internal and external. I propose to document the progress of the Texas state level group commissioned to write a proposal to the National Science Foundation to learn if it approached the problematic situation in a problem-centered or solution-minded way and to learn how the project came to be directed by an outside-the bureaucracy group. I will document early implementation of the grant project by the third-party agency because, as Saba tier and Jenkins-Smith (1993, 2), among others, emphasize, public policy is decidedly non-linear. Thus, problem definition (cf. Majone 1989; Weiss 1989) is active not only in the predecision phase but is at the heart, both substantively and temporally, of 28

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i i I i I I the policy making process. The study will contribute to knowledge about problem definition and how it intertwines with knowledge in related strands of the predecision phase in public policy theory, agenda setting and punctuated equilibria. The research will be especially interesting because it documents experimentation in state level initiatives and states are often called laboratories for experimentation. What we learn may assist in the transformation of the now-fragmented and isolated examples of school reform into a more coherent transitional phase. Powerful definitions are necessary, if not sufficient, for a large scale, highly visible break with current educational practice and institutions. At the very least, these new definitions will scatter seeds for generating new education reform efforts highly visible to the nation's Mortons and Sesnos. Thesis Outline Chapter 2 reviews the relevant literature that situates problem definition as a policy strand with special emphasis on public administration. Chapter 3 explains the research methodology. Chapter 4 is the case study of the Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative, and Chapter 5 presents the conclusions. 29

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CHAPTER2 REVIEW OF THE UTERA1URE Introduction The literature search frames and structures the assumptions of the research. First I define problem definition as a new strand of public policy research. I next define postmodernism to demonstrate that problem definition is part of postmodernism because postmodernism shares with problem definition research the notion that "policy proposals cry out to be deconstructed, torn apart from within" (Rosenau 1993, 2; quoted in Rochefort 1994a, 7). Third, I highlight the salient features of any existing bureaucracy that, I argue, preclude creative and innovative approaches to problem definition. Fourth, a definition of "national innovation" is necessary to clarify what it might look like if school reform-that is, a highly visible, steady progress of widespread fundamental improvement-were pervasive throughout American society. Fifth, I describe related predecision-phase public policy strands. Next, I touch on the 30

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origins of policy studies in order to highlight the centrality accorded to problems from its beginnings. Finally, the bulk of the review will document "the importance of the problem definition phenomenon" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 4). Defining Problem Definition David Dery (1984) and Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, 8) separate two understandings of problem definition in the policy sciences. The first understanding refers to the technical, logical step for diagnosing problems and devising solutions for a policy making authority in policy analysis as an applied profession (cf. Brewer & deLeon 1983). In this dissertation, however, the meaning derives from the second understanding, that "problem definition can never be purely a technical exercise ... policy choices are always statements of values, even if some value positions are so dominant that their influence goes unexamined or so unrepresented that their neglect goes unnoticed." It is an intellectual"contest of different perspectives" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 8). Government action, agenda setting, institutional structures, formal and informal institutional procedures, and 31

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the partisan balance of power are some of the forces that shape policy, but problems are central, public policymaking must also be understood as a function of the perceived nature of the problems being dealt with, and the qualities that define this nature are never incontestable (even though they may sometimes be taken for granted) (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 4). Wildavsky, you recall, tells us, "instead of thinking of permanent solutions we should think of permanent problems in the sense that one problem always succeeds and replaces another" (1989, 5). A problem definition implies that a certain problem exists; it also contains the optimum solution to the perceived problem and, thus, suggests how the implementation of this solution flows from the definition (Baumgartner 1989, 75). An example is provided by Thomas R. Dye (1975, 331) who said, "public education never faced a 'dropout' problem until the 1960s, when, for the first time, a majority of boys and girls were graduating from high school. Let Janet Weiss explain, "problem definition is a package of ideas that includes, at least implicitly, an account of the 32

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causes and consequences of undesirable circumstances and a theory about how to improve them" (1989, 97). Postmodernism Social constructionist problem defining (and setting) began in fields such as sociology and social psychology (e.g., Best 1987, 1989; Hilgartner & Bosk 1988; Seidman 1986; Seidman & Rappaport 1986a; 1986b ). These works add to the understanding of the concept of problem definition in public policy and thus to policy research, but this will narrow its perspective to policy studies per se, those p:ecursors who lead the way to problem definition, a "flourishing subfield within policy studies" (Bosso 1994, 188). A short detour into a clarification of postmodernism situates the dissertation and illuminates the postmodern tendencies of the policy sciences since their origin. As Charles Lindblom and David Cohen (1979, 50) say, "we do not discover a problem 'out there;' we make a choice about how we want to formulate a problem." This is consistent with the social constructionist school of thought. It reveals "public policy making as a representation of disputable definitions over the 33

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existence and character of social conditions" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 7-8). Best defines social constructionism, our sense of what is or is not a social problem is a product, something that has been produced or constructed through social activities When activists hold a demonstration to attract attention to some social condition, when investigative reporters publish stories that expose new aspects of the condition, or when legislators introduce bills to do something about the condition, they are constructing a social problem (1989, 6). While researchers do not always comment explicitly on their use of a certain intellectual style, some do call problem definition "constructionist" or even postmodem. Self-admitted social constructionist policy researchers include Stone (1988, 307)1 who argues, for instance, "nature doesn't have categories; people do ... categories are human mental constructs in a world that has only continua In Dery's Problem Definition in Policy Analysis-the first book to use "problem definition// in its title -Aaron Wildavsky's preface clearly places problem definition 34

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in the constructionist camp. He says, "the very notion of problem definition suggests a constructivist (rather than an objectivist) view; that is, problems do not exist 'out there'; they are not objective entities in their own right" (Dery 1984, ix). I not only argue that problem definition is constructivist, but I stretch that understanding to an acknowledgment of its postmodern qualities. My goal is not to pigeonhole problem definition, but to demonstrate its postmodern tendencies in order to move past current thinking. Furthermore, Cuba and Lincoln (1995, 116) say, "no inquirer, we maintain, ought to go about the business of inquiry without being clear about just what paradigm informs and guides his or her approach." Frank Fischer (1990, 226) says that postpositivism (postmodernism in our terms) rejects "the concept of a value neutral science." He adds, "a postpositivist orientation emphasizes the presence of competing interests struggling to interpret reality" (1990, 266). Donmoyer (1995, 19) agrees and says that current policy making in education "displays a diverse array of voices speaking from different, often contradictory perspectives and value commitments." Pangle (1991, 245) attributes four features to the postmodem attitude, "openness to the other; preference for 35

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diversity, opposition to metanarratives, and opposition to the established order." Farmer (1995) calls postmodernism "antiadministration," a facet of Pangle's "opposition to the established order." Kanpol (1992, 37) says that postmodernity is opposed to grand theories (metanarratives): "contrasted to the positivistic elements of modernism, postmodernism negates a world that is held together by absolute and universal truth and universal reason." Farmer (1995, 244) adds that postmodernism "deterrritorializes knowledge," and regards science "as one discourse among many." How are these tendencies reflected in problem definition research? Can we identify problem definition as an example of the postmodem attitude? Links will be seen throughout this review; I mention a few here. Deborah Stone (1988, viii) predicts that her views on the political nature of all human actions, including policy analysis, will cause some to put her in the "postmodem intellectual camp." Torgerson (1986) says that postmodem policy theory embraces creativity, eschews precise solutions, and incorporates conr1ict balanced with cooperation, achieved through reasoned discussion among all interested parties -a democratic inclusiveness (cf. Donmoyer 1995). Lindblom (1990, 270) argues that true policy analysis has always conflicted with 36

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the "dominant style" (read modem or positivist or purely scientific) in policy research because it is neither rational nor value free. Schon and Rein (1994) say that their policy research goes against the tide because it rejects the rational paradigm. Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, 4) tell us "contemporary policy analysis is multidisciplinary in its techniques and orientation, and perhaps nowhere more so than in the burgeoning study of problem definition." Elaine B. Sharp (1994, 155-156) adds that "different cultural conceptions of how a problem is formulated provide alternative world views for participants in the policy process." Janet Weiss (1989) complains that the outcome of the battle for the definition of the problem of government paperwork made government workers the losers and so was a decidedly anti-bureaucratic outcome (cf. Farmer 1995). The anti administration tendency of postmodernism leads us to ask if the quality of-or approach to-a given problem's definition might be related to its identification with or its situation within an organization or a bureaucracy -and for the specific purposes of this dissertation, within the educational bureaucracy. 37

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Bureaucracy Studies of governmental bureaucratic organizations come principally from public administration research, but political and policy researchers have also had much to say on the subject. These include Schattschneider (1960, 71) who called organization "the mobilization of bias." Thus, an organization may not be the optimum place for finding an innovative problem definition. "The irony is that the analyst starts off expecting to influence the bureaucracy, but it is the bureaucracy that influences him," says Nagel (1980, 12). As Dye (1975, 21) adds, "governmental institutions are really structured patterns of behavior of individuals and groups ... institutions may be so structured as to facilitate certain policy outcomes and to obstruct other policy outcomes" (1975, 21). Dery clarifies why an organization, itself the result of creative endeavors, resists creativity: An organization is itself a solution to a predefined problem. The scope of "relevant" inquiry is therefore severely restricted so as to accommodate available resources and policy instruments, interests, constraints, prevailing 38

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values, and other commitments the previous definitions of problems (1984, xii). Thus, an organization naturally provides an environment where policy analyses "involve taking goals as givens and determining what policies will maximize those goals" (Nagel 1980, 13). Donald Schon and Martin Rein (1994, 34-35) say that what they call "metacultural frames" shape policy. Frames are the mindsets of "institutional actors." Frames are powerful, but tacit, and this tacit quality makes them difficult to overcome. Wildavksy relates this phenomenon to the recalcitrance of organizations toward moving to new ways of thinking: Displacement of goals becomes the norm as an organization seeks to make the variables it can control-its own efforts and processes the objectives against which it is measured. This is how organizations come to justify error instead of creating knowledge (1989, 35). illustrating how termination is sometimes necessary in order to break free from a given organization's constraints, deLeon (1988, 193-194) makes it clear that only determined, even relentless, efforts will succeed in ending entrenched policies and organizations. MacRae and Wilde concur, 39

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' I I i i I i I I I i I I i I I I I I I I I I i I I I I I I I I I the definition of a problem situation often implies that certain goals or values are to be sought Thus, if the existence of an organization is threatened, persons in the organization may take its survival to be the goal of analysis (1979, 19). Public administration research backs up this policy research and theory. According to Michael Barzelay (1992, 118t bureaucratic thinking values (a) efficiency over quality and value; (b) control over winning adherence to norms; and (c) following rules and procedures over identifying and solving problems. Perrow (1986, 4) says the bureaucracy eliminates "all unwanted extraorganizational influences on the behavior of members. Ideally members should act only in the organization's interest." Add to these ideas Michel Crozier's (1964) elements of a bureaucracy: ambiguous objectives, unclear norms (cf. Schon & Rein's 1994 tacit frames), and sparse power. A bureaucracy will tend to tum to its traditional solutions because these offer efficiency, control, and procedural validity. An innovative problem definition demands vigorous, sustained study of a policy issue and the issues in which it is embedded. Change is inherent in this kind of analysis, but insiders are compelled to 40

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I stay with the tried-and-true and lack the freedom time, resources, imperatives for new thinking. Related Policy Strands Problem definition has emerged as a topic of considerable interest from among interwoven strands of policy research whose thrust is "how public issues are identified and conceptualized" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 27). This is the predecision phase of public policy research (Kingdon 1984, 2). These theoretical strands, I argue, like problem definition, rely on the "social construction of reality," and so reflect the constructionist and postmodem style, both of which hold that the "definition of a social problem is dependent on time, place, and society" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a, 5). I will limit our discussion of related strands to agenda setting (Kingdon 1984), and Lhe punctuated equilibria theory of Baumgartner and Jones j (1993), which explores how new institutions emerge. I look to I Baumgartner and Jones principally because of the protracted nature of education reform. The agenda, as John W. Kingdon (1984, 2) uses the term in his study of national agenda setting, is "the list of subjects to 41

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I I I i i I which government officials, and people, outside of government closely associated with those officials, are paying serious attention at any given time." How these topics "came to be issues in the first place" is the question. Kingdon asks, "Why does an idea's time come when it does? (1984, vii). Polsby (1984) found two processes inherent in political innovation: the creation of policy options and the utilization of these options Kingdon found three: problems, policies, and politics. He observed that "people recognize problems; they generate proposals for public policy changes; and they engage in such political activities as election campaigns and pressure group lobbying" (206). Kingdon refers to the problem stream as "problem recognition," (1984 206) As his choice of the word, "recognition" demonstrates, Kingdon acknowledges the existence of a problem rather than focusing on how a problem is socially constructed. This differs markedly from the core of problem definition research in that Kingdon perceives problems as realities "out there." Problem definition research stresses the fact (e g. Weiss 1989) that problem definition is found in all parts of any policy process rather than being confined to the opening stages. This also conflicts with Kingdon's placing it 42

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firmly in the predecision phase. In spite of these differences, Kingdon's findings provide a context for problem definition. Baumgartner and Jones (1993) synthesize implementation and agenda-setting research, arguing that although the agenda-setting model underlies the American political system and shows consistency in the way it processes issues, the system also naturally exhibits periods of volatile change. This is an evolutionary view of policy change, an alternative model paleontologists developed to account for evolution. It is not a cycle-model that exhibits regular spurts of energy interspersed with regular periods of calm. Instead, political change can be described as unpredictably episodic. The American government can best be understood, Baumgartner and Jones (1993, 251) say, as a series of institutionally enforced stabilities (equilibria), periodically punctuated by dramatic change. Effective issue redefinition and the resulting institutional instability create new institutions. These new institutions then provide another era of stability. Punctuated equilibria research shares with problem definition theory a respect for the power of redefinition: large scale change and the resulting tendency to enforce the new order of things, (cf. Dery 1984; Dye 1975; Majone 1989; Schon & 43

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. I Rein 1994; Wildavsky 1989). That these punctuations of volatile change happen unpredictably is also in concert with problem definition revealing the messiness and non-linearity of policy making (Kingdon 1984; Polsby 1984; Weiss 1989; Bosso 1994). It is important to keep in mind that what seems evolutionary to those involved may seem revolutionary to later observers. Scaffolding The policy sciences have always had three principal attributes that call to mind social constructionism and postmodern ideas. Lasswell explains it this way, the first [principle] is contextuality: decisions are part of a larger process. The second is problem orientation: policy scientists are at home with the intellectual activities involved in clarifying goals, trends, conditions, projection, and alternatives The third is diversity: the methods employed are not limited to a narrow range (Lasswell1971, 4; emphases added). 44

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Charles Lindblom (1968, 13; emphasis original) says "policy makers are not faced with a given problem ... they have to identify and formulate their problem." He provides an example from the 1960s: Rioting breaks out in dozens of American cities. What is the problem? Maintaining law and order? Racial discrimination? Impatience ... with the pace of reform now that reform has gone far enough to give them hope? Incipient revolution? Black power? Low income? Lawlessness at the fringe of an otherwise relatively peaceful reform movement? Urban disorganization? Alienation (1968, 13)? Yehezkel Dror (1968, 170) stresses the importance of context and values rather than the rational approach to policy analysis. Dye offers a different perspective on why we have to pluck problems out of the kaleidoscope of reality, most of society's problems are shaped by so many variables that a simple explanation of them, or remedy for them, is rarely possible ... a detailed understanding of such a complex 45

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system as human society is beyond our present capabilities (1975, 16). This brief foray into its history shows that problems and the values that form them have been central to the study of policy analysis since its beginnings. Early theories and research like that of Schattschneider and Nelson Polsby provide a base on which to build problem definition theory. Changing the Equation E.E. Schattschneider says in his ground-breaking book, The Semi-Sovereign People. "it cannot really be said that we have seen a subject until we have seen its outer limit and thus are able to draw a line between one subject and another"(1960, 22). He adds, "the definition of the alternatives is the supreme instrument of power" (1960, 68). Schattschneider further counsels, "in political conflict every change in scope changes the equation" (1960, 5), that is, every fight consists of two parts: "the few individuals who are actively engaged ... and ... the audience ... as likely as not, the audience determines the outcome" (1960, 2; emphasis original). Schattschneider says definition is key because it sets the boundaries. How a problem 46

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i I I I I I is conceived can enlist support or make enemies ( cf. Rochefort & Cobb 1994). Along with Stone (1988, 309), he stresses the idea that we constantly deal with unstable boundaries "in a world of continua." Delimiting the scope of the conflict and the power of the audience emerge as germane to problem definition in general, and especially in educational reform, when compared to Iannaccone's observation that the politics of the educational community "tends to strengthen the boundaries of its social systems" (Iannaccone 1967, 19). Another major theme of problem definition research is found in Schattschneider s (1960, 71) insight that organization is "the mobilization of bias." Problem definitions create organizations that embody the solution implied in the definition. The institutions then carry on the bias of the definition Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, 27) agree with other researchers that Schattschneider (1960) was the first to offer "a systematic way to unveil interrelationships and their significance," the interdependence of actions and words. Schattschneider points out (with irony), "somewhere along the line the owners of the government decided to read the constitution as if it were a democratic document" (1960, 116). As Cass R. Sunstein (1996, 29) in a review of Jiirgen Haberm.as' Between Facts and Norms," puts it, "the first [United States] 47

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I I : I I I i Congress rejected "the right on the part of constituents 'to instruct' their representatives how to vote," favoring instead "a deliberative democracy in which representatives would be accountable to the people but also operate as part of a process that prized discussion and reflection about potential courses of action." Many people in the twentieth century, according to Schattschneider, would, in contrast with the Founding Fathers, prefer to "instruct As early as 1960, Schattschneider provided great insight into the difficulties the bureaucracy would encounter in the last decades of the twentieth century. Along the same train of thought, Schattschneider (1960, 138) asks how "leadership, organization, alternatives, and a system of responsibility and confidence" can be organized to remain sensitive to the needs of a political community of hundreds of millions of ordinary people The idea that such a large democracy as today's United States may not be democratically governable challenges the reality, the power, and even the value of the modern conception of the nation-state. These insights become important as we study a possible national educational innovation. Even in the Constitution, the control of education is given to the states 48

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Schattschneider' s insights also bring to mind Habermas' conception of majority rule, not as a mere statistical affair, an effort to tally up votes, but instead as large social process by which people discuss matters, try to persuade each other and modify their views to meet counter-arguments. In this way we form our beliefs and even our desires (Sunstein 1996, 29). From Schattschneider we learn that to be viable, what I now call problem definition must (a) limit the scope of an otherwise borderless situation; (b) yield an explanation that engages those not specifically engaged in a way that supports those who seek to define the problem; (c) expand regular Americans' awareness of their power and promote the concept of discursive democracy, not only among the elite of the House or Senate, but among citizens; and (d) overcome the difficulty of reaching vast numbers of citizens. 49

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Policy Innovation In Political Innovation in America (1984), Nelson Polsby studies conspicuous national policies to learn about the pre decision-making process. The characteristics of the innovations he considers assist in defining "political innovation." In this dissertation, I will use the related term "policy innovation" to spell out what significant change and improvement in education would look like and to contrast that notion with what has been achieved up to the present. I contrast the terms "policy innovation" and "political innovation." For instance, the privatization of schooling would be a purely political innovation, one that would change the locus of authority, but that would not necessarily improve learning for currently underserved students. If schooling were to change suddenly and dramatically, the change would most probably be the privatization of public schooling. However, privatization (currently defined as educational vouchers) would not be the same as fundamentally different schooling that uses cognitive research-based theories of teaching and learning to ensure that all children reach ever higher levels of thinking and 50

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learning. This is policy innovation, an innovation that brings a "new thing" rather than merely a new seat of authority. While privatization would exhibit Polsby's three criteria for political innovation, it would not be the type of innovation investigated here. It could, however, be the prelude to more fundamental change. On the other hand, such a huge political innovation might satisfy the public's desire for change in education while obfuscating the fact that all that changed was the politics of schooling and funding, not the philosophy of learning. Polsby (1984, 100) says, "to the extent that a common definition of a 'need' can be created among decision-makers, innovation is possible." According to Polsby (1984, 8), political innovations: "(a) are relatively large scale phenomena, highly visible to political actors and observers; (b) embody from at least one point of view a break with preceding governmental responses to the range of problems to which they are addressed; and (c) unlike major crises, with which they share the preceding traits, have institutional or societal effects that are in sense lasting." Polsby deals with national policies while this study embraces the possibility that educational reform may not be effected through national policy alone. 51

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i I : I : i I I I I I I I .I i i I i I I I I I I [ I incorporate the ideas of Mary Sanger and Martin Levin (1992)-of a more evolutionary, emergent or grassroots (postmodern) innovation-with Polsby's purposefully topdown approach. Polsby's observations are insightful and relevant to our study because national cognizance, in our definition, would bring with it support both by government institutions and the public. Although Polsby warns that his findings are preliminary, the seven dimensions he teased out from the "extraordinarily messy" facts of his case studies assist us in understanding the intransigence of the school reform problem. The most important for us can be summarized as follows. When a problem is protracted, (a) specialists have little influence; (b) there is great political conflict, and (c) possible solutions are widely publicized (Polsby 1984, 148-149). These are all attributes of the protracted struggle for education reform. Polsby adds that innovations arise from the interworkings of (a) interest groups, (b) "the intellectual convictions of experts and policy makers," and (c) solutions, along with the "certain knowledge that in some form or another they could work" (1984, 166; cf. Kingdon 1984). 52

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Polsby (1984, 173) notes that the study of political innovation must adopt "very generous time perspectives." He (1984, 11) adds that his study looks only at policy initiations that occurred, and "takes no account, even as a control, of those dozens or hundreds of nonevents which might have happened, but did not." This dissertation might well be a study of one such nonevent, as we shall see in subsequent chapters. Quiet, persistent workers are the backbone of the innovative nature of American society, according to Polsby. They invent and subsequently sustain policy options. Important for this dissertation is Polsby's contention that among their ranks are what he calls "policy entrepreneurs ... whose careers and ambitions are focused on the employment of their expertise and on the elaboration and adaptation of knowledge to problems" (1984, 173). He contrasts these entrepreneurs with nonspecialist politicians in the sense that the entrepreneurs "are focused upon the substance of policy and on the consequences of different arrangements for outcomes in the policy area ... (1984, 55). Who are these entrepreneurs that Polsby finds so vital to policy innovation? 53

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' : I I I I I The Policy Entrepreneur Polsby identifies policy entrepreneurs as "persons with special interests, competence, or expertise, who have a great deal to do with the alternatives considered and debated by more prominent figures" (1984, 55). Polsby's conception of the policy entrepreneur involved in the initiation or problem definition phase of policy contrasts with Kingdon's (1984) entrepreneur who can play a role in any part of the innovation process. Kingdon also provides a definition of policy entrepreneurs: They could be in or out of government, in elected or appointed positions, in interest groups or research organizations. But their defining characteristic, much as in the case of a business entrepreneur, is their willingness to invest their resources-time, energy, reputation, and sometimes money-in the hope of a future return (1984, 129). Kingdon (1984, 188) also tells us where to find a policy entrepreneur He or she might be a cabinet secretary, a senator or member of the House, a lobbyist, an academic, a lawyer, or 54

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career bureaucrat. He describes the qualities of an entrepreneur, saying he or she must have some claim to a hearing .... expertise, an ability to speak for others ... or an authoritative decision-making position ... [be] known for his political connections or negotiating skill ... and probably most important, successful entrepreneurs are persistent (1984, 190). Kingdon insists on the entrepreneur's persistence rather than his or her technical skill in policy analysis (d. Cohen & March, 1972). Policy entrepreneurs "lie in wait" for a window of opportunity to open: Some portion of the time ... problem solving does take place, but people in and around government ... do not solve problems. Instead, they become advocates for solutions and look for current problems to which to attach their pet solution (1984, 190). Polsby' s emphasis on the entrepreneurs' quiet, persistent work contrasts with Kingdon's depiction of their more influential status (they have to have some "claim of to a hearing" and their hope of a future return) and his assertion 55

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that their success is often a result of "dumb luck" (1984, 188, 192). Polsby stresses the interdependence of policy entrepreneurs and elected and appointed officials: officeholders and policy entrepreneurs, who "specialize in identifying problems and finding solutions." He quotes an election analyst, who says "entrepreneurs need politicians, too" (1984, 171). Polsby has faith in technocrats and in ready-made solutions This confidence contrasts with a major theme of this dissertation that ideal policy making starts with the problemnot a ready-made solution. This high regard for government workers and readymade solutions places Polsby with Sanger and Levin (1992, 88) who say that innovation depends on "evolutionary tinkering Polsby (1984, 171) calls this "dusting off old ideas." Sanger and Levin also argue that "innovation does not spring from systematic policy analysis." Polsby (1984, 171) says real-life policy making is a process of opening a drawer, finding a previous analysis, revising it and presenting it again. Alternatives to rational, systematic policy analysis are another recurring theme in problem definition theory and research (Wildavsky 1989; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994). 56

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David Price (1971) finds policy entrepreneurs on Senate committees while Michael Duffy (1992) describes the rise of a member of President Clinton's 1992-1993 transition team who co-created the Progressive Policy Institute as an example of the entrepreneur. Paul Krugman (1994, 10) holds what he calls (largely economic) policy entrepreneurs, in low esteem. They are part of "a new class, neither professors nor politicians, that has come to play a key role in the interplay between ideas and policies." Krugman's complaint is "they offer unambiguous diagnoses, even where the professors are uncertain; they offer easy answers, even where the professors doubt that any easy answer can be found" (1994, 11). Krugman names such high profile types as President Clinton, Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and MIT professor Lester Thurow as policy entrepreneurs. Sanger and Levin (1992, 109-111) disagree with Krugman. They argue that public sector entrepreneur executives are not only indispensable, but socially desirable. According to their findings, these entrepreneurs (a) created "new and personal missions for their agencies"; (b) took advantage of opportunities, making "virtue out of necessity"; (c) were risk-takers, especially in the area of "taking on too 57

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I I I I I I I I I i i I I I I I I I i I I I I much"; (d) "had a bias towards action"; and (e) consciously underestimated "bureaucratic and political obstacles." Educational entrepreneurs are an important presence in the current reform era. They would probably disagree, but, in the large view, each began his or her work focused on a school based solution rather than thorough research into a broader problem. They are not as cautious as the bulk of their colleagues (Krugman 1994), and they are ambitious and persistent (Kingdon 1984). However, the best-known educational policy entrepreneurs have worked in and with schools and thus are not approaching the problem from the superficial stance that Krugman criticizes (1994). Although they might have entered the policy arena with a naive view about the possibility of change, the difficulty schools faced in implementing their original ideas has made it clear to them that there are no easy answers (Stringfield, 1994). Drawing on all of these policy research sources-Price, Polsby, Kingdon, Duffy, Krugman, and Sanger and Levin-the ideal policy entrepreneur for the purpose of political innovation in the name of fundamental school reform would have the ear of policy makers and be steeped in the complexities of school reform. In general, theory says the policy entrepreneur has his 58

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or her pet solutions, has at least a modicum of self-interest, is grounded through work "in the trenches," can conceptualize grand schemes, is often, but not always, a leader, and understands policy making. Polsby and Schattschneider as Prologue Schattschneider outlined the basic tenets of problem definition theory without giving it a name decades before it became a policy theory strand. Defining a problem provides the ability to get things done. It provides an advantage to those who share the definition by giving the problem a name, stabilizing, crystallizing, delineating it from the shifting kaleidoscope of the problematic situation, rendering it understandable and workable. The more manageable segment can engage the audience, enlisting its assistance. In other words, problem definition organizes, and organization is the "mobilization of bias" (Schattschneider, 1960). A dilemma is how to include the vast public of today's United States. Polsby' s research brings out several important ideas for this foray into problem definition theory. For instance, there is general agreement that policy making is much messier than 59

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theory has heretofore depicted and thus more difficult to analyze (cf. Weiss 1989; Bosso 1994 et al.). For Polsby, political innovation is the interaction of a process of invention with another "that senses and responds to problems, that harvests policy options" (1984, 173). He does not subscribe to an approach that focuses on the problem. Polsby shows that a new problem definition redefines not only an issue but also the government. Innovation in most of his cases amounted to new governmental organizations as the solution to the problem (cf. Dery 1984; Majone 1989; Weiss 1989; Bosso 1994). The events Polsby calls political innovations have an imposing quality while Sanger and Levin (1992, 88) consider innovation a process of "evolutionary tinkering with existing practices." Polsby also accords a great deal of respect for this kind of change. He considers quiet, slow change the rule, but quiet slow change sometimes bursts onto the national scene with a major innovation-what Baumgartner and Jones (1993) call punctuated equilibrium. 60

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Current Perceptions of Problem Definition We now enter into a discussion of policy research focused on the concept of problem definition, although not all the researchers use the term. Lay Probing Lindblom (1990, 223) contrasts two models of social problem solving, carrying his conception of "muddling through" to the whole of society, beyond policy analysis. His two models are the science-guided society and the self-guiding society. Lindblom finds that democracy came loose from its close association with science very early in modern thought, largely due to the outrages of the Terror of the French Revolution. He provides the example of moving from the divine right of kings to the rotation of leaders through elections to demonstrate that great changes can occur, even those antithetical to the current regime (Bosso 1994; Kuhn 1962; Polsby 1984). Lindblom looks to lay people-rather than professional analysts, the technicians -to probe issues because it is important to him that the exploration of policy issues be 61

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i i I I I i grounded in a certain time and place, and thus, certain values. It is also essential that probing be action-oriented (1990, 216, 224). Lindblom's ideal society does not include a search for a grand conceptualization since it holds little faith in pure reason divorced from action to solve social problems (d. Dery 1984; de Leon 1992; Fischer 1990; Schon & Rein 1994; Torgerson 1986; Wildavsky 1989). Lindblom (1990, 36), who does not use the term, explains why problem definition is more than a technical exercise, "formulating a problem calls for inquiry no less than does formulating a solution to a formulated problem. The origin of a social problem lies in the probes that declare it to be a problem." It is naive, he says, to think that one has found the best solution; it is significant that an issue has been well-probed (cf. Rochefort & Cobb 1994a; Wildavsky 1989). I call this probing problem centeredness (cf. Dery 1984; Weiss 1989; and Wildavsky 1989; cf. Schon & Rein 1994). Lindblom (1990, 270) maintains that policy analysts engage not in the rational model, as the dominant theory dictates, but in "trial and error, Simon's satisficing, disjointed incrementalism, Etzioni's mixed scanning, and the like." He 62

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questions the ability of policy analysts to engage in the rational exercise policy analysis is conceived to be: The do-it-all model assumes a single problem to be defined, then solved, a task with a well marked beginning and end. In fact, problems, year after year, require reexamination and redefinition (1990, 266, 274; d. Dye 1975; Wildavsky 1989). Problem definition research not only consciously rejects the idea of value-free policy making, but one of its main purposes is to investigate the role values play in policy making (Wildavsky 1989; Dery 1984; Fischer 1990; Weiss 1989; Schon and Rein 1994). Stone (1988, viii) wants "a kind of analysis that recognizes analytical concepts themselves as political claims instead of granting them privileged status as universal truths." Wildavsky (1989, 124) argues there has to be a balance between the purely intellectual and the purely interactive, and good policy analysis provides this "hybrid," using "intellect to help guide rather than replace social interaction." Lindblom says that often in the self-guiding society there is no practical solution to huge predicaments, until, he adds, society is ready to "bear the costs of the remedy," that is, 63

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j I I I I I i I I I I I I I I ) I I I I "reconsider the institutions, social processes, or behavioral patterns up to that moment regarded as parameters" (1990, 217; cf. Schattschneider 1960; Wildavsky 1989) Large changes are difficult if not impossible; redefinitions must struggle against the recalcitrance of institutions the outcomes of previous solutions. Ideal problem solvers understand that they are just taking a step toward betterment, not reaching a solution, what Wildavsky calls "problem succession." Preferences Aaron Wildavsky (1989,8) is also skeptical about the possibility of the rational paradigm ("order objectives, compare alternatives choose the highest ranking") and argues, instead, that "problems are man-made" (1989, 57) Wildavsky does not use the term, "problem definition," but in his writing, he constantly skirts the concept. Policy analysts, he claimed, ought to work backwards. Instead of beginning with a problem, they should "formulate a problem at the very end" (1989, 3). Wildavsky's backwards framework calls to mind Elmore's (1982) "backward mapping." In backward mapping, one first decides what the preferred outcome looks like and then plans 64

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backwards to the present. This contrasts with starting with the present situation (however defined) and taking steps to reach a future desired point. Wildavsky opposes the rational model of policy analysis because it "accepts as immutable the very order of preferences it is our purpose to change, and it regards as perfectly plastic the recalcitrant resources that always limit their realization" (1989, 404; cf. Peterson 1983 on task forces). He says that policy analysis is linked to culture because solutions to problems are first limited by "values and beliefs that support the social structure" (1989, 396; cf. Bosso 1994; Stone 1988). The solutions to policy problems change those very values and beliefs -what Wildavsky calls the modification of public preferences. He considers improving preferences the highest calling of policy analysis (cf. Stone 1988; Majone 1989; Lindblom 1990; Bosso 1994). Wildavsky warns that a powerful definition must involve the public in its formulation and definition (cf. Schattschneider 1960; Lindblom 1990). According to Wildavsky (1989, 13) "through interaction, common understandings (though not necessarily, common positions) grow." He sees the "purely intellectual mode" of policy analysis as divorced from 65

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; I I I I I i I reality and thus reaching trivial conclusions. In this way, "thought," says Wildavsky, "is made supreme at the expense of having anything worth thinking about" (1989, 125). Because of his desire for a change in preferences, Wildavsky (1989, 404) says he values error in the policy process: "Error must be the engine of change. Without error there would be one best way to achieve our objectives which would themselves remain unaltered and unalterable." Here, Wildavsky seems to contradict himself because elsewhere he states that it is imperative to relate "resources to objectives so that the promise of public policy can be kept" (1989, 397). If error is essential to change, how can keeping promises also be paramount? He says "problem-finding is analogous to inventing or theorizing" (1989, 3). Unlike Dery (1984), Majone (1989), and Schon and Rein (1994), Wildavsky claims that if there is no solution, there is no problem. A solution, a goal (but not necessarily a method for reaching that goal) must be at hand before a problem can be conceptualized or defined. Again this seems contradictory because elsewhere (1989, 397) he says that changing our preferences is the finest quality of policy analysis. Dery, Wildavsky's student, has different views on the subject. 66

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i I I I I I I I I The Christening In Problem Definition in Policy Analysis. David Dery (1984, 4-5) says problems as defined in social research are "the product of imposing certain frames of reference on reality . a framework within which certain interventions are considered -and indeed defined-as solutions." Rather than emphasizing the solution, Dery maintains that dissatisfaction coupled with aspiration for better conditions leads us to define problems (1984, 17). "The task is to outline an approach to problems in general rather than to presume an 'ownership' of solutions to each particular problem" (1984, 113). Dery insists we cannot resolve all dissatisfaction, alluding to Wildavsky' s problem succession. Contrary to Wildavsky's insistence on the necessity of solution before there can be a problem, Dery emphasizes the central character of the problem with a definite slant toward the innovation that can result from a focus on the problem "The definition of a problem as a discrepancy between a given and a desired state implies that the latter is to be treated as constant. In fact, only present, undesirable conditions call for manipulation and change" (Dery 1984, 17). 67

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i I I I I I I I I I I i I I I i I I i I I I I I I I I I I I ! i I I I I i i I I I I Problems should not be seen as the gap "between 'what is' and a fixed 'what ought to be'" (1984, 7). The desired state is neither a given nor fixed. The facile "Does it work?" is replaced with the more complex and open "What does it do?" (1984, 42). Dery does not deny that thinking about possible solutions is part of the process of examining the problem, but he maintains that problems are "better treated as opportunities for improvement" (1984,5). This leads to constant problem redefinition or Wildavsky's problem succession. Dery suggests "problem-rn.indedness" (which I join with other theories, especially Lindblom's [1990Jlay probing and Schon and Rein's [19941 problem setting and call"problem centeredness"). By this he means exploring the nature of the problematic situation rather than simply choosing among given solutions. Choosing among givens preserves-or at least can favor-the status quo. If we choose among the easy givens, "the scope of 'relevant' inquiry is therefore severely restricted so as to accommodate available resources and policy instruments, interests, constraints, prevailing values, and other commitments-the previous definitions of problems" (1984, xii). Wildavsky argued that our preferences would change even though he insisted that a solution was necessary. 68

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Dery says that the world is a complex system because nothing can be changed without winners and losers. He calls this a restatement of the Pareto optimum in objective terms (1984, 64). This is a resurgence of values, that constant theme in problem definition research. Values render objectivity and place the rational paradigm out of the reach of even positivist policy practitioners (cf. Stone 1988; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994). Dery stresses the inventiveness of problem definition, the constant search for a better way or the imaginative end of what we are now doing. He provides further insight into the obstacles to defining a problem situation while supporting and enhancing Wildavsky's earlier contentions about the necessity and desirability of creativity and the ability to learn. Unlike Wildavsky, he does not believe that a possible solution is a necessary prerequisite. Yet, like Wildavsky (e.g., 1989, 60), Dery wants us to move beyond today's mindset to "opportunities for improvement" (1984, 116). Majone concurs. Conversation Majone (1989, 1) views policy analysis as conversation, that is, persuasive arguments that rely upon data, models, 69

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metaphors, and stories. He agrees that analysis begins with a problem situation, an awareness that things are not as they should be, but without a dear idea of how they might be corrected. Problem setting is the process of translating a problem situation into an actual policy problem stating the goals to be achieved and a strategy for accomplishing them (1989, 57). Majone (1989, 5) sees institutions as the "entire machinery of government ... laws, regulations, norms, organizations, decision-making procedures." These constitute the outcome of previously successful problem definitions (cf. Dery 1984; Polsby 1984; Weiss 1989). Majone agrees with Wildavsky (1989), Lindblom (1990), and Schon and Rein (1994), among others, that policy analysis cannot be purely intellectual (1989, 146). He calls the belief that it can, the "rationalist fallacy," and adds, "imagination, judgment, and analogical and associative thinking play a bigger role in problem setting than rigor and technical skills" (1989, 57). Here, Majone seems to stress different kinds of thinking rather than a grounding in 70

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action, the importance of values, and involving the public (cf. Wildavsky 1989; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994). According to Majone, the aim in problem definition should be neither to mask assumptions nor to attack the opposition, so much as it should be explicit about our assumptions and values so that we can find a basis for education and common understanding among people with different values. Schon and Rein (1994) call a process similar to this "frame reflection." At one point, Majone {1989, 71) puts a mathematical spin on approaching a problem's definition. In mathematics, he says, it is often productive to ask what cannot be done and why-in order to find what does not "fit into current conceptions ... to open the door to radically new configurations of policy." Majone later backs up the importance of values. In organizations with transparent principles, proposals are judged by "how they contribute to the ongoing debate" (1989, 152). Thus, sharply defined core principles "may facilitate ... adaptation to new situations by providing clear criteria .... Conversely, selection of goals and activities will not be effective "where the community is too open ... if each and every proposal were taken seriously, the burden for the selection mechanisms 71

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would soon become unbearable, leading to a breakdown of evaluative criteria" (1989, 163). Majone is not arguing for restriction; he favors openness in discussing conflicting values In an earlier work, Majone (1981/2, 12; quoted in Browne & Wildavsky 1983, 246-8) discusses the relationship between the structure of an organization (whether it is a bureaucracy or not) and its task environment (whether it has well-understood or ambiguous goals [ends] and ways to meet the goals [means]). U ambiguity is present in ends and means, a bureaucracy tends to co!'l.trol inputs through budgets and accountability. The non bureaucratic professional organization, on the other hand, promotes collegial control, "mutual adjustment .. .learning and effective cooperation ... peer review" without recourse to explicit rules of behavior because it is based on its members having a dear and common understanding of their values (cf. Schon & Rein 1994). Majone calls for a grounding philosophy for a group, an idea that resonates when we think about a bureaucracy's difficulty in engaging in the work of change due to ambiguous objectives and unclear norms (Crozier 1964). Focus and persistence allow for successful advocacy as we see in Janet Weiss' (1989, 99) analysis of the redefinition of federal 72

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paperwork, the conflict between lithe government's need for information and the resistance to collecting it." Framework, Weapon, and Outcome Janet Weiss finds great power in problem definition. It creates language for talking about problems and non-problems that draws attention to some features of social life at the expense of others; locates responsibility for problems, putting some groups on the defensive and others on the offensive; widens and deepens public or elite interest in particular social phenomena; and mobilizes political participation around issues or symbols highlighted by the problem definition (1989, llS). Problem definition lies at "the heart of the action" according to Weiss (1989, 98) and "heart" in this instance implies importance and power but also the center, conceptually and temporally. In this interpretation, problem definition is a 73

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tool found inside a given policy's history as well as in the theme for both its initiation and outcome. She calls problem definition elusive because it is embedded in both the decision ("an intellectual framework for further action") and the implementation ("a weapon of advocacy and consensus") phases of the policy cycle. It can also be a new institutional mindset, that is, an outcome of the cycle. It can change language and responsibilities. Weiss says "much policy making is preoccupied with whose definitions shall prevail" because the intellectual framework brings with it the power to shape what happens by justifying only some solutions and actors as well as focusing attention on only certain outcomes, certain ways of evaluating success or failure (1989, 98-99; cf. Schattschneider 1960; Stone 1988). Weiss deconstructed the paperwork policy process, exemplifying the postmodern approach. Like others (e.g., Majone 1989; Dery 1984; Rein & Schon, 1994), Weiss says a policy sets up new structures that reflect the problem's definition, "problem definitions must accommodate political realities, but they also help to create those realities ... problem definitions carve new channels in institutional arrangements" (1989, 114). Skocpol (1992, 58; quoted in Bosso 74

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1994, 200) agrees, "as politics creates policies, policies also remake politics." Although case studies shed light on certain processes that make redefinition more probable, they cannot predict what will happen, she adds (1989, 103). One must always be open to unintended consequences. There is an interplay, "a dynamic process in which intellectual understanding and institutional behavior guide one another over time" (113). Like Kingdon (1984; cf. Polsby 1984), Weiss sees at least three influences, "the objective features of the problem, the emergence of policy entrepreneurs, and fluctuations in the appeal of political symbols and language" (1989, 108). Problem definition can never be locked in and often remains an open and messy question, leaving room not only for "multiple options for addressing a given problem, but multiple definitions each implying its own family of solutions" (1989, 98). Furthermore, political events can reinforce or thwart the power of the symbols invoked in the definition or the coalitions gathered. These political events can be, but do not have to be, crises. Her study, for instance, shows that the collection of information by the federal government "had probably been a problem of about the same magnitude for many years" (1989, 75

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109). Conversely, Kingdon (1984) places emphasis on the severity of a problem, as do Rochefort and Cobb (1994). Far from merely setting the process in motion, problem definition and redefinition follow the process all the way through (cf. Brewer & deLeon, 1983). Creativity is valuable because it attracts like-minded thinkers and assists in reaching common ground among diverse coalitions. A process gathers momentum as it reaches a critical mass. Consensus is usually too much to ask, but "modest interdependence" creates new channels for shared political realities. Policy entrepreneurs play a pivotal role (cf. Polsby 1984; Kingdon 1984). At the auspicious moment, they move quickly toward "concrete legislative and administrative proposals" says Weiss (1989, 111). In turn, recalcitrant organizations and bureaucracies that generally constrain innovative definitions of problems finally respond to new ways of thinking-when the pressure is strong enough. Problem definition can then be seen as an outcome, that is, newly configured governmental institutions. Weiss sees a policy as setting up new structures that reflect the new problem definition, in Schattschneider's words, the "mobilization of bias" (cf. Baumgartner & Jones 76

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i I I I I I I I I I I I I I I i I i 1993; Dery 1984; Polsby 1984; Schon & Rein 1994; Bosso 1994; Skocpol1992). Weiss' (1989, 99) history of the government paperwork question demonstrates how "policy actors struggle over problem definition throughout the policy process, how political context shapes problem definition, and how consensus on problem definition influences successive rounds of policy making. As mentioned in Chapter 1, Weiss points out that agency officials were the losers in the paperwork story, "their credibility in decisions about what information they needed was leached away .... Their participation in information policy was reduced by the assumptions and theories of the new regime" (1989, 117). The redefinition of the problem was anti administration, a postmodem attitude (Farmer 1995). Weiss stresses problem definition's power. She makes it clear that advocates need a rationale behind a definition, a creative interpretation of a problematic situation-a new story -in order to be successful. 77

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Stories Deborah A. Stone (1988, 282) takes a "social constructionist view of policy problems ... our understanding of real situations is always mediated by ideas; those ideas in tum are created, changed and fought over in politics." Stone describes what she calls "causal stories." Stories are analogous to a problem's definition. Like problem definition, these stories, challenge or protect an existing order .. assign responsibility to particular political actors so that someone will have to stop an activity, do it differently, compensate its victims, or possibly face punishment ... [ they} can create new political alliances (1988, 160-161). Adamant about the purposeful intent in problem definition, like Weiss (1989) and others, Stone says problem definition is a strategy "created in the minds of citizens by other citizens, leaders, organizations, and government agencies, as an essential part of political maneuvering" (1988, 122). She argues that there is "a systemic process with fairly clear rules of the game by which political actors struggle to control interpretations and images of difficulties" (1988, 282). 78

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Stone places great value on what she calls political reasoning-the strategic use of stories. She sees political reasoning as an outlet and impetus for human imagination. In her respect for this process and her refusal to rely on traditional problem solving and the rational approach, she agrees with other problem definition scholars (cf. Polsby 1984; Dery 1984; Wildavsky 1989; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994), and expresses her ideas in the postmodern style. Like Weiss, Stone sees problem definition or political metaphors as a strategic part of "a contest over policy ... addressed to a hostile audience" (1988, 309). However, for Stone (1988, 306), contrary to Lindblom (1968; 1990), there is no middle ground nor is there a dichotomy between analysis and politics: "reasoned analysis is necessarily political. It always involves choices to view the world in a particular way when other visions are possible. Policy analysis is political argument and vice versa." Stone clarifies how large societal myths help determine how a society defines problems (cf. Bosso 1994; Rochefort & Cobb 1994a). Stone says assertions of a causal theory are more likely to be successful if its proponents have visibility, access to media, and prominent positions; if it 79

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accords with widespread and deeply held cultural values; if it somehow captures or responds to a "national mood"; and if its implicit prescription entails no radical redistribution of power or wealth (1988, 159160). Stone's comments about rules, games, and political maneuvering call to mind Bosso's (1994, 200) ideas on "a polity centered approach to problem definition," the convergence of "existing structural and political conditions to create the contexts within which political actors jockey to promote competing problem definitions and formulate public policy." On the other hand, Stone says, our aspirations for equity, efficiency, liberty, security, democracy, and justice unite us even as contradictory interpretations divide us. The pressure to communicate our preferences and visions makes us a community. She sees debates over a problem's boundaries as a privilege; it encourages the use of our imaginations (1988, 310). She holds in high esteem the acts of arguing for one's values and convincing others-or changing one's mind. Changing minds is what the democratic life is all about. Like Stone (cf. Wildavsky 1989), Schon and Rein (1994, 20) say that "change in 80

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the way participants look at and understand the world" is a desirable consequence of reaching a problem definition. Problem Setting As they consider and critique the policy world, Rein and SchonS (1977, 238-9) use the term "problem setting" to describe a process that can develop "new purposes and interpretations." They say, "the questions we ask shape the answers we get .... Whatever is said of a thing, denies something else of it." They agree with Schattschneider's idea of "boundary-setting." Frames, they say, (a) highlight some features of the situation; (b) ignore other features; and (c) bind the remaining features into a pattern (1990, 238-9). They question working backwards from a desired state because, instead, they want to ask the unaskable, subject values to inquiry, and question what is most desired (Rein & Schon 1977, 248; cf. Oery 1984; Wildavsky 1989). This brings to mind Dery's (1984) problem-mindedness and Majone's (1989) 5 Schon changed the spelling of his name from Schon to Schon. We will use the new spelling in the text, but both spellings in citations and the Bibliography. 81

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mathematical spin. Wildavsky finds a desired outcome indispensable to policy analysis. Schon and Rein want organizational players to learn new ways to question their values and desired outcomes. Schon insists on problem setting rather than problem solving, I have become persuaded that the essential difficulties in social policy have more to do with problem setting than with problem solving, more to do with ways in which we frame the purposes to be achieved than with the selection of optimal means for achieving them (1986, 255; cf. Lindblom 1990; Schon 1988). Schon says we need to recognize one person or one organization's description of a problem as that entity's description rather than reality. In this way we are led to understand that this description is not everyone's "reality This is one of the facets to how we succeed at looking at the same situation through different organizational lenses. Again, values and the elusiveness of the problem's definition are brought to the fore. Schon also suggests that immersing oneself in practice 82

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rather than remaining cerebral allows us to "capture the experienced richness of the situation (its phenomenology) without forcing it into existing formal categories" (1986, 279). Schon (1986, 279) adds that through research of practice in this vein we can "inquire into the processes by which we are able to construct new category-schemes, new models, from the information-rich stories we tell." Like Lindblom (1990), Schon and Rein (1994, 10) divide policy making into three traditions-rational actor, politics, and negotiation-all three of which they reject because they all share the central idea of instrumental rationality: that policy makers are rational actors who choose the means-policy positions, strategies of political action or negotiating ploys that they believe to be best suited to the achievement of their ends, which are rooted in their interests ( cf. Dryzek & Torgerson 1993, 214; Elder & Cobb 1983, 1-2). They say their 1994 book "swims against the prevailing tide." Schon and Rein thus place themselves with problem definition researchers. However, they say that, unlike 83

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I I I I : I i I I I I I i I I I I I I I I I Lindblom, they do not see practitioners as "muddling through." Nor do they see a need to leave policy making or probing to lay persons (cf. Lindblom 1990). Instead, they see "a kind of reflective practice, which we call design rationality" (1994, xi). Schon and Rein also offer the idea that "the parties to policy controversies see issues, policies, and policy situations in different and conflicting ways that embody different systems of belief and related prescriptions for action ... (1994, xvii; cf. Majone 1989). They continue (1994, 29) "frames are not free floating but are grounded in the institutions that sponsor them, and policy controversies are disputes among institutional actors who sponsor conflicting frames." Again we find the marrying of a solution and an organization (cf. Dery 1984; Majone 1989; Schattschneider 1960; Weiss 1989). Schon and Rein assist us in thinking through how institutions work together. They make it clear why there are difficulties inherent in collaboration among agencies. This reinforces the idea of organization as the "mobilization of bias" (Schattschneider 1960). Rochefort and Cobb provide a different perspective on the "why" of these struggles. 84

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Instrumental versus Expressive Rochefort and Cobb (1994a, vii) edited a collection of studies that integrated Rochefort's background as a researcher in the "social images of problems and their impact on policy design" with Cobb's earlier studies of agenda building and symbolic politics. A dominant theme of their book, as expressed in the final section (Bosso 1994, 200), is an approach to problem definition that focuses on "culture, socioeconomic conditions, institutions, and history." Like Weiss' (1989) article on government paperwork, these studies demonstrate that a successful problem definition is an outcome as well as a prologue to policy change. New definitions create new problems, which, in turn, create new structures. The studies also depict policy making-as seen through the lens of problem definition-as disorganized and decidedly non-linear, in fact, "sloppy and complicated" (Bosso 1994, 201). They subscribe to the "social construction of reality," the idea that the definition of a social problem is dependent on time, place, and society (1994, 5). As you might recall, they explicitly attribute problem definition's surge in importance to postmodernism "an intellectual style concerned with examining 85

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the unquestioned value assumptions embodied in culture and society" (1994, 7). Of paramount interest for our purposes is their slant on why so many policy makers and authors talk past each other. They call it the "instrumental versus expressive" orientation (1994; 1994a). In the expressive mode, the end does not justify the means. The process embodies one's values and beliefs. In the opposing instrumental orientation, action is undertaken for the purposes of promoting or achieving some larger goal. It is a means to an end, and is subject to assessment of success or failure and relative efficiency. The instrumental-> expressive continuum constitutes a trap for opposing problem definers, a subtle way to disagree. An apparently easy consensus on a universally desired outcome can be devilishly difficult to attain because, while the problem definers may agree on the ultimate goal, the obvious or proposed path there may be unacceptable to one faction (1994a, 23-24). Yet the two sides often do not perceive that they are talking past each other. One focuses on the means (expressive) and the other on the end (instrumental) because for them, this time at least, the means are amenable or even innocuous. Clean needle distribution to curb the spread of AIDS among drug users, condom distribution to prevent the spread of AIDS 86

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among high schoolers, and a balanced federal budget that requires cutting entitlements are examples of easily agreedupon goals with differing means that can pit one faction against the other. This dimension can be seen in the contrast between two opposing visions of how children attain literacy. The "Great Reading Debate" rages between advocates of two main philosophies of reading instruction: the whole-language method, which emphasizes reading for meaning, the use of children's literature instead of basal readers and worksheets, and the teaching of skills in the context of reading; versus the phonics or code-oriented approach, which emphasizes direct instruction in letter sound relationships and patterns (Matson 1996, 1). If we look through the expressive lens, we see that for some, good schooling cannot be children learning spelling and vocabulary without ever reading anything but stories constructed only for school. For others, the vision of good schooling is not children pursuing their own interests, never 87

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learning the basics. Even if one way were demonstrated as unquestionably more efficacious for better student learning, it could not or would not be accepted as the answer by the opposing side 6 A new problem definition in education reformstandards-based education-purports to embody an instrumentalist perspective. It allows flexibility on how to educate coupled with accountability for results; each faction can align its school with its vision of good schooling. The problem is reaching agreement on measuring results. Rochefort and Cobb (1994, 176-178) observe that adoption of one mode or the other cannot be predicted for certain populations or aligned with liberalism or conservatism, for instance. In addition, advocates of a given policy often mix the two ends of the continuum; the dynamic is more complex than it seems those who object to the impropriety of premarital sex sometimes offer instrumental counterarguments (such as, "condoms are 6 The evidence "increasingly points to the conclusion that neither method by itself is as effective as a balanced approach that combines the two" (Matson 1996, 1). 88

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unreliable") as a way of attacking the condom distribution program. And instrumentalists are invoking moral values, not cost-benefit analysis, when they plead the sanctity of saving "even one life" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994, 177). These divisions are convoluted because they become "entangled with, and influenced by, preexisting social and ideological cleavages" (1994, 177). In general, the closer one is to a problem, the more drastic steps one will take to combat it, but the struggle gets even more complicated when, for instance, racial tensions enter the picture. Rochefort and Cobb add that even when there is strong public support, the policy is at the mercy of individual decision makers' value systems, as well as turns in public attitudes and political contexts. Echoing a recurring theme of problem definition research, Rochefort and Cobb (1994, 178) conclude that this is an area where values clash, and that "only those policies that are widely perceived as doing both 'what's right' and 'what will work' will cross untroubled political waters." The instrumental-> expressive dimension is another a way of looking at organizational structure and how it might 89

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I I I I influence the creation of a problem definition. Bosso provides several insights along these lines in his macro perspective on organizational structures. Regime-Level Policy In line with Stone's (1988) ideas of societal catalysts and constraints that favor or disfavor a certain problem definition, Bosso (1994, 183) tells us "problem definition illuminates how a society solves problems." He calls these constraining influences "societal value systems," or "culture." These forces are not easily changed, but Bosso (1994, 190) believes they can change and that this type of huge cultural change might be the most interesting aspect for scholars of problem definition. Wildavsky (1989) would call this changing our preferences, Polsby, political innovation. Lindblom (1990) reminded us of the end of the concept of the divine right of kings to persuade us to believe that enormous changes are possible. It would take epic change for American schools to reach significantly higher quality learning for all students. According to Bosso, problem definition research questions the modern nation-state, or statism, i.e., faith in the 90

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power of technical experts or public administration. This skepticism has already been seen, for instance, in Schattschneider's (1960) perception of people's expanded sense of their power and the difficulty of governing such a vast democratic nation (which is much larger in 1996 than it was in 1960). Bosso's ideas are also related to Stone's (1988) explanation of policy solutions as modes of constructing and maintaining political boundaries, and Lindblom's questioning of faith in science and reason for governing society (1990). Dery (1984), Weiss (1989), and Majone (1989) say that problem redefinitions discredit or redirect old (current) ways of thinking as they create new institutions. On the other hand, Polsby (1984) and Sanger and Levin (1992) profess faith in technocrats. Polsby (1984, 165) claims the United States political system "favors the application of rational thought to problems" and has "incentives to search for innovations." Weaving these ideas together-new definitions discredit the old but the system is designed to redesign itselfbrings to mind the punctuated equilibrium theory (Baumgartner & Jones 1993). Polsby and Baumgartner and Jones have more faith than, for instance, Bosso or Stone, in the system's ability to effect large changes that go against the grain. 91

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Bosso maintains that overt conflict over problem definition often does not occur because the prevailing culture and institutions "simply screen out most (and sometimes all) definitions of a problem" (1994, 199). While the "received culture," that is, governmental structures, and institutions, can and do change, some parts are more resistant than others (1994, 193). Stone (1988, e.g., 300-310) agrees. Reminiscent of Schattschneider' s sense of the public's heightened perception of its power, Bosso also talks about how sometimes the general public gets control of an issue, "its influence [is] felt through electoral returns or other mechanisms that tell policy elites just how far they can go" (1994, 199). Bosso says elite arguments can simmer for decades, which is why "so many public debates about institutional reforms really have substantive policy impacts in mind" (1994, 200). These debates are concerned not only with surface issues, but also longstanding struggles for problem definition and for a redefinition of institutions. Bosso cites Baumgartner and Jones (1993), but not Weiss (1989), who stresses that the question of government paperwork had been debated for years before 1972 when the problem was effectively defined and the Paperwork Reduction Act was 92

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passed. Nor does Bosso mention Polsby (1984) who divided his cases of political innovations into those that were quickly enacted and those that took decades or even longer. School reform resembles the paperwork debate because it, too, is a protracted struggle. Further, it may well be that school reform will not become pervasive and so will join what Polsby calls nonevents. Bosso stresses the "sheer complexity of law in the American context," (1994, 196) especially local and state control and the ensuing effects on policy. He points out that localities have considerably more flexibility than the federal government. States are often called "laboratories," (or "natural experiments" in the policy evaluation literature). He adds that state or local control is certainly of importance when talking about education: "the result is a patchwork quilt of debates and policies, with local conditions playing central roles" (1994, 196). This patchwork calls to mind Schattschneider's (1960) ideas of enlarging or reducing the size of the conflict to gain or leave out bystanders. It also recalls Wildavsky's {1989) contention that one-size-does-not-fit-all, as well as the overtly postmodern idea of inclusiveness in policy analysis (Torgerson 1986). 93

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Further, Bosso discusses the "unique periodicity of the American system to its issue dynamics" (197; emphasis original), due to differing electoral timetables. For instance, in the 1996 election campaign, a long-simmering debate over the privatization of public schooling, one that has raged since the beginning of public schooling, came to the fore. This high profile of the debate may portend change in the next administration, no matter which candidate wins. Bosso contends that even policy entrepreneurs (cf. Kingdon 1984; Polsby 1984; Stone 1988), along with virtually everyone else, of course, are channeled by institutions. Problems often depend on these entrepreneurs to get them on the public agenda, but even the relatively powerful entrepreneurs are not free of cultural or institutional constraints (197-199). Bosso's perspective on problem definition as a regime-level concept provides us with a broad context for this policy strand and brings us to the end of the literature review. Summary Problem definition is a political process; education and education reform are also political (deLeon 1988; Wildavsky 94

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1989). Problem definition may help to clarify the reasons behind the lack of success of the many attempts at fundamental school reform that have come and gone throughout this century. The goal of educational reformers is argued to be no less than a national innovation, whether it is imposed from the top (Polsby 1984) or is bottom-up and evolutionary in nature (Sanger & Levin 1992). The political nature of educational politics can be seen as working against an easy, early, or universal solution Styles of public policy theory, such as social conflict and politics, social constructionism, or postmodernism may come together to provide a novel and productive approach to problem definition (Rochefort & Cobb 1994a; Bosso 1994; Sunstein 1996). Through the lens of problem definition, public policy making appears messy, non-linear, grounded in action, and inclusive of many players (Torgerson 1986; Stone 1988; Weiss 1989; Wildavksy 1989; Lindblom 1990; Bosso 1994). Among the many facets of the complex policy puzzle of problem definition, we focus on "problem-centeredness"-exploring the nature of the problem and the generation of alternatives from the problem's many ramifications, probing a problematic situation with lay persons and being mindful of the bias of our 95

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organization. Problem-centeredness is opposed to 11Solution mindednessu -jumping to a solution without mucking around in the problem. Problem-centeredness may have the power to move us to radically new configurations of policy and thus more powerful problem definitions (Dery 1984; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994). Organizations in general, and lithe educational bureaucracy" specifically (Osborne & Gaebler 1992), seem illsuited to problem-centeredness rather than solution mindedness because organization is "the mobilization of bias." A given definition is a weapon for advocacy and consensus for breaking down the status quo, just as, contrarily, it can be a bulwark for the same status quo (Weiss 1989). Institutions are the instruments of stability of their definition (or bias) (Schattschneider 1960; cf. Baumgartner & Jones 1993; Bosso 1994; deLeon 1988; Majone 1989; Schon & Rein 1994; Stone 1988; Weiss 1989). Members of organizations have a tendency to see the agency's continued existence and success as their major goal (Nagel1980). Although they were once the solution to a problem as were bureaucracy and the educational bureaucracy-such organizations now contribute to a period 96

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of stability or rigidity (Baumgartner & Jones 1993). Effective issue redefinition creates new procedures and institutions (Baumgartner & Jones 1993; Bosso 1994; Stone 1988; Weiss 1989; Skocpol 1992), which can result in administrative intransigence rather than innovation. An outside-the-bureaucracy group with a definite focus might be more capable of dealing with the ambiguity inherent ir. creating a dynamic problem definition Such an organization would be freer to take a more problem-centered approach. However, it, too, would be constrained by the larger culture (Bosso 1994; Stone 1988). An outside-the-bureaucracy group is defined as a group whose leaders are not employees of the kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade educational bureaucracy or a school of education in a state university, or the Governor's Office. This group is not estranged from bureaucratic groups. On the contrary, such a group, if it is to be effective, must work well with them. "Working well with" does not necessarily mean not effecting change on the bureaucracy itself. For an outside-the-bureaucracy group to gain power, a policy entrepreneur is necessary (Bosso 1994; Duffy 1992; Polsby 1984; Price 1971; Sanger & Levin 1992; Weiss 1989). Even though he or she would also be constrained by the rules of the 97

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game, institutional constraints, and the "received culture" (Bosso 1994; Stone 1988), the entrepreneur would skillfully and purposefully ignore these constraints whenever possible. He or she would also exhibit other traits like risk-taking, a bias towards action, the ability to impose a personal mission on a new organization, and opportunism (Sanger & Levin 1992). Problem definitions of public policy issues spring from networks of like-believers who sometimes succeed in pushing their issue onto the public agenda (Kingdon 1984; Weiss 1989; Rochefort & Cobb 1994; 1994a). Existing institutions, devolution to the states, periodicity, and other national characteristics of the United States inhibit or facilitate certain definitions (Baumgartner & Jones 1993; Bosso 1994; Polsby 1984; Stone 1988). This is partially because effective issue redefinition creates new procedures and institutions (Skocpol1992; Stone 1988; Weiss 1989). In areas as patently political as school reform, a definition may succeed or fail depending on whether the outcome is embodied within the method (the instrumental/ expressive dimension). It has to be perceived as workable but it also has to do "the right thing" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994). 98

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i ; I I I I I i I I I i I I i I I i I A Conceptual Framework My model of the process of reaching a problem definition relies on Polsby's (1984) three criteria for large scale, national innovation: (a) wide visibility, (b) break with preceding habit, and (c) lasting consequences. I use Polsby's concept of large scale, national innovation to contrast what has happened so far in the area of school reform with what school reformers desire. School reform, although a robust industry within the education community, has not reached the status of a political innovation, still less that of a policy innovation, and has little hope of doing so without a more powerful problem definition. Unlike the implications of Polsby's (1984) study, however, I do not believe the innovation must be federal or national. It could emerge in a postmodem fashion, that is, from schools, localities, states, or even school reform efforts, that is, it could emerge from the grassroots and be incremental (Sanger & Levin 1992). The innovation I target -a fundamental transformation in the philosophy of schooling to include high quality learning for all students-may take a generation or more (Polsby 1984; Saba tier & Jenkins-Smith 1993). I have acknowledged that this huge shift may be overtaken by privatization of public 99

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schooling, another innovation to be sure, but purely political in nature. I propose five assumptions about the process of reaching a problem definition: 1. A problem-centered approach to problem definition is desirable but rare (Dery 1984). There is a greater likelihood of finding the focus and, at the same time, the representative participation to allow for a problem-centered approach in a group that remains outside the bureaucracy. Again, an outside the-bureaucracy group is defined as a group whose leaders are not employees of the kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade educational bureaucracv or a school of education in a state J university, or the Governor's Office. 2. An outside-the-bureaucracy group would need to have some sort of powerful person attached to it : a policy entrepreneur (Polsby 1984; Kingdon's 1984; Weiss 1989; Sanger & Levin 1992; Bosso 1994). The ideal entrepreneur is characterized by at least five traits, as outlined by Sanger and Levin (1992): the entrepreneur (a) created a new and personal mission for the agency; (b) took advantage of opportunities; (c) was a risk taker, especially in the area of "taking on too 100

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much"; (d) "had a bias towards action"; and (e) consciously underestimated "bureaucratic and political obstacles." 3 I expect to find a problem-centered approach to problem definition in this outside-the-bureaucracy group. Part of our definition of problem-centeredness is the type of interactions Schon and Rein (1994) call"design rationality," and Lindblom (1990) calls "lay probing." Design rationality is in the realm of the technician while lay probing includes the public. 4. We will see postmodern ideas emerge from problem definition research. They include questioning values and an anti-administration perspective (Torgerson 1986; Majone 1989; Weiss 1989; Schon & Rein 1994; Farmer 1995), the importance of context and action (Dery 1984; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein 1994), avoidance of precise definitions (Torgerson 1986), reasoned discussion among all interested parties, reflected in an openness and a preference for diversity (Torgerson 1986; Majone 1989; Lindblom 1990), and an aversion to the idea of absolute truth (Weiss 1989; Pangle 1991; Kanpol1992; Lindblom 1990; Farmer 1995). 5. Politics will be of crucial importance in the rise of the policy entrepreneur, the feasibility of implementing a program, 101

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and the viability and power of the resulting problem definition (Bosso 1994; Rochefort & Cobb 1994; 1994a; Stone 1988). Observation This dissertation is based on a case study. I will explore how an outside-the-bureaucracy group approaches a problematic situation or difficulty. I see the need for a policy entrepreneur who champions this group. I argue that political conditions will be conducive to the rise of the entrepreneur and the group's influence. Questions The questions that define the case study are 1. Was the group that created the problem definition an outside-the-bureaucracy group? Is the group directing the project an outside-the-bureaucracy group? Is it a bureaucracy (Barzelay 1992; Crozier 1964; Osborne & Gaebler 1992)? I I I 2. Was a policy entrepreneur connected with the project I I and/ or its creation? What qualities did he or she display I [ (Kingdon 1984; Polsby 1984; Sanger & Levin 1992)? I I 1 102 I I I I I I i

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3. How did the process of reaching the problem definition reflect problem-centeredness, frame reflection, and/ or lay probing (Dery 1984; Lindblom 1990; Schon & Rein; 1994)? 4. Did the process exhibit postmodem tendencies such as questioning accepted values (and public administration), and the importance of context and action (Dery 1984; Majone 1989; Lindblom 1990; Rochefort & Cobb 1994a; Schon & Rein 1994; Torgerson 1986; Weiss 1989)? 5. What role did politics play in the evolution of the problem definition (Kingdon 1984; Polsby 1984; Rochefort & Cobb 1994; 1994a; Stone 1988; Weiss 1989)? These questions define the research and form the basis of the exploratory nature of its design, setting the stage for the case study. 103

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CHAPTER3 RESEARCH DESIGN Introduction This dissertation focuses on the predecision phase of policy making, specifically, the approach that organizations in the public sector take in reaching a powerful problem definition when confronted with a problematic situation. I have posited several assumptions of the problem definition strand of public policy theory. These assumptions deem it possible as well as desirable to establish a problem definition without deciding first on a solution. The Study The research design is a case study. Copies of documents provided by the National Science Foundation (Foundation), the Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative (Texas SSI), plus interviews with various staff will be the main sources. 104

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Rationale for the Case Study Method This dissertation proposes to explore the theories of other policy researchers. It is in line with Rein and Schon's (1994, 114) contention that "a study of rare events ... holds the potential for illuminating the careers of stubborn policy controversies." I wish to provide "explanatory clues" (Komarovsky 1967, 349; quoted by Peshkin 1993, 25). The case study method is proposed because (a) I want to explore how a group outside the traditional educational bureaucracy approached a problematic situation; (b) the case constitutes an event that started in the recent past and continues in the present and (c) a major focus is the boundary between studied phenomenon (the group and its process) and the overall context (the state educational bureaucracy); and (d) the process was complex and could not be captured by surveys (Yin 1994,9, 10, 13,22, 39). I consciously chose a case study methodology because I am working with the postmodem and social constructionist theoretical strand of problem definition which is focused on human interaction. I want to maintain coherence between theory and method, and, as Schon and Rein say (1994, 145), a frame, such as postmodernism or social constructionism, 105

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determines "what counts as evidence and how evidence is interpreted.'' I attempt, however, to step "far enough outside'' my frame to see that my "position is not self-evident and that other ways of framing the issue are possible'' (Schon and Rein 1994, 44). 1\s I search for reason in the policy give and take of the Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative and its relations with the National Science Foundation, I strive to understand the point of view of both entities as well as their interactive dynamic, keeping in mind the difficulty of remaining neutral and fairminded. Integrity of a Case Study It is appropriate in studying a postmodem theoretical issue to employ a qualitative case study approach, thereby assuming the responsibility of dealing with reality, that ever changing, amorphous entity-and flirting with a lack of positivist dependability, which depends on an unchanging universe for replicability. Every attempt will be made to establish and maintain the credibility, that is, the internal validity of the case study. The ability to be neutral and fair-minded and thus enhance the 106

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internal validity of the study will be ensured by soliciting comments from study participants as the work progresses (Marshall & Rossman 1989, pp. 144-149). I also attempt to assess participants' truthfulness through my knowledge of group processes and understanding of roles in the educational hierarchy. Analysis of documents and interviews will be used in a "triangulating fashion" (Yin 1994, 13) in order to check the reliability of individual sources and to add to the robustness of the study. "Triangulation" is defined in this study as purposeful redundancy (asking the same questions of several informants in different roles and organizations in order to compare their versions), overlapping methods (multi-interviews and successive perusal of documents), and "thick notes" (Denzin & Lincoln 1994). Although Yin (1994) makes it clear that a case study of a rare event does not need a comparison, I will study the same sorts of documents and conduct interviews with a few staff members from the Colorado Statewide Systemic Initiative because it is more traditional in its relation to the education bureaucracy and its approach to a problem definition. The purpose of this line of research is to assist in confirming that the Texas effort's evolution and its final problem definition were 107

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not commonplace in this national Foundation effort, and constitute another attempt at triangulation. Similarly, to control for bias in interpretation and thus assure confirmability, I will use a combination of the following tactics: (a) reliance on the dissertation committee, the outside SSI monitor, and Texas SSI and Foundation staff as "devil's advocates"; (b) a constant search for negative instances; and (c) value-conscious note taking and interpretation (taking everything down as each subject talks and submitting information to triangulation). The lack of external validity is typically seen as a weakness in the case study approach, but I assert that the findings will be theoretically (versus statistically) generalizable because of the ubiquity of the problem of problem definition in the policy process and policy design. Government agencies are currently under attack internally as Congress and state legislatures cut back on federal and state resources and authority because of a lack of faith in the bureaucracy's ability to get things done. The government is also under external attack as the public perception of its efficacy is at an extremely low point. This study of educational problem definition could lead 108

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to a more desirable status where the public and government agencies work together. All records and documentation will be kept in chronological order in files in the researcher's possession. The Texas Site The National Science Foundation's Statewide Systemic Initiative Request for Proposals and grant process offer an opportunity to explore how one state group approached the problem of systemic school reform in the area covering science, mathematics, and technology. The site chosen is the Texas SSI. The Texas site is unusual among the 25 states that have received these ten-million-dollar, five-year grants because the organization that houses the Texas project, even though situated within a part of the huge Texas educational bureaucracy (i.e., the University of Texas at Austin [UTA]), it is not directly in line with the Regents or the state higher education agency. In most states, official parts of the state educational bureaucracy, typically the state kindergarten-through-twelfthgrade or higher education agency, were the responding agents to the Foundation SSI request, although many state agencies set 109

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up other agencies to house the SSI once the grant was won. Among the 25 states awarded the grants, only Connecticut (from the outset), Texas (because of a break in implementation) and Montana (during implementation) housed the implementation in third-party, outside-the-bureaucracy agencies. The Texas SSI is housed and directed from the Dana Center for Mathematics and Science Education at UTA. The Dana Center was not created for the Texas SSI project, as were many of the other state organizations connected with Statewide Systemic Initiatives. The Dana Center existed before the initiative, has vast resources outside the Foundation grant, both separate from and connected with it, and will continue to exist after the Texas SSI project has been completed. More conventional agencies for the implementation of the initiatives include the state kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade agency or state higher education agency. Texas was selected because of the unusual character of this situation. It is surprising that such a large and centralized state would empower a third-party agency for a large project. Connecticut is a small state (although it has a sizable population) and Montana, while large geographically, has a 110

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small population. Both tend to be discounted as valid venues for generalizable research (it is not true, however, that systemic change is easier there; it is just different). Texas and the Texas Education Agency (TEA), on the other hand, are extremely large, as is the whole Texas educational bureaucracy. The very size of the Texas educational bureaucracy makes highly conspicuous the empowerment of an outside-the-bureaucracy group, especially to manage a multimillion dollar project. There are enough agencies inside the bureaucracy; it does not seem necessary to look outside. Thus, Texas is considered a good laboratory for other states because of its size, the size of the bureaucracy, the diversity of its population, and the power vested at the state level. Third-party agencies exist in all states. If the case study shows the Texas third-party agency to be less cumbersome and more able to create a viable and engaging problem definition and/ or if it is more agile in implementing its plan, this event would definitely add to policy theory. This dynamic could then be expanded outside educational policy making. If Texas can move outside the bureaucracy to effect statewide policy, other states can too. Since, however, as Yin (1994, 26) notes, "there is no precise way of setting the criteria for interpreting" the type 111

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of findings that this case study will yield, the work of explicating the findings that actually emerge from the case study will be left for the conclusion. Specific Procedures Uri Treisman (Executive Director), David Hill (Assistant Director), and Rose Acera (Coordinator of Research and Evaluation) have granted permission to study the Texas SSI and the Dana Center. Texas SSI documents will be the main source. These include publicly available documents: successive iterations of grant proposals, evaluations from outside monitors, responses to Foundation questions, letters to and from outside monitors and program officers, Foundation regulations, and instructions, personal notes, and memos. These documents are to be examined in order to understand (a) the context of the national Foundation effort, (b) the Texas SSI's evolution, and (c) the relationship between the Texas group and the Foundation. I will visit Austin once, arriving on Sunday, May 5, and departing on Wednesday, May 8,1996. The Foundation audit is planned for that Monday and Tuesday. Hill requested that my 112

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visit coincide with a Foundation peer audit visit, so many people I want to interview will be close at hand. In addition, the first two days of interviews will be enhanced by observing the Texas SSI presentation to the visiting Foundation team and the auditing team's responses. I have been assured the Texas SSI presentations will be highly interactive so I will witness the level of satisfaction and hear the concerns of the visiting team. I plan to take detailed notes on the computer and by hand as the subjects speak, both to the group and in interviews. The Executive Director of the Texas SSI has discussed the dissertation research with the Texas SSI group and has agreed to be interviewed and has suggested other interviewees. He will introduce me at the May meeting with a short explanation of the context of the research. As I approach each subject, I will explain that the interview will take approximately one to one and one half hours and ask if follow-up questions can be pursued by telephone or electronic mail. I plan to cite selections from the interviews and documents. In a relatively small organization like the Texas SSI (approximately thirty people), anonymity on the inside is probably not possible and it has not been requested (except for specific statements). However, to insure wide participation in 113

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the interviews, informants will be assured that reference will not be made to interviewees' identities, except where it is either obvious and/ or deemed necessary for explanatory purposes. To balance the information gleaned from Texas SSI staff (triangulation and thick notes), I will also interview the outside monitor7 as well as Foundation officials in Washington DC, and people associated with other SSis. Unsolicited Confirmation In the late stages of the writing of the dissertation, I encountered unsolicited backing for information gathered during the study. One non-Texas SSI participant volunteered praise for Treisman's ideas via electronic maiL One non-SSIparticipant in yet another state told me of the visionary and inspiring quality of Treisman's ideas once she learned he was the subject of my dissertation. A third-party agency CEO in New Jersey said that Treisman was the person in mathematics and science education that he most admired. A third person 7 To provide formative evaluation, the Foundation hired outside monitors who visit the project four days each year and spend four additional days writing reports. These reports are sent to the NSF and the state. 114

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with no ties to Texas, the Foundation or the SSI asked me if I knew that Treisman had "saved the Texas SSI." 115

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CHAPTER4 CASE STUDY Introduction The assumptions from the literature review form the underlying structure of this case study as they were the basis of the questions that drove the research. The case study begins with an explanation of the institutions involved. The National Science Foundation A recent brochure identifies The National Science Foundation (Foundation) as an independent federal agency established by Congress in 1950 to promote and advance scientific progress in the United States. 8 The brochure states, "the Foundation accomplishes its mission primarily by awarding competitive grants to educational institutions for 8 The establishment of the National Science Foundation is one of the case studies in Nelson Polsby's (1984) Political Innovation in America. 116

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research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering." The annual budget exceeded three billion dollars and represented three percent of the total federal research and development budget. It also represented thirty percent of federal support for math and science education. Over ninety six percent of the Foundation's budget went directly to institutions and individuals for research and education programs. The agency collaborates with universities, state governments, other federal agencies, and others on a broad range of projects in science, mathematics, engineering, technology, and education. (Forms and Publications, [n.d.]) The Dana Center reads, The 1995-1996 mission statement of the Dana Center the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas works in Texas and nationally to achieve equity and excellence at all levels of public education. A catalyst and incubator for educational innovation, the Dana Center is engaged in research, program development, 117

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and dissemination, advocacy and equity in mathematics and science education, and promotion of educational policy that supports useful change. While recognized as a leader in strengthening mathematics, science, and technology education, the Dana Center also operates programs in literacy and public engagement" (Rose Acera, personal communication, October 1996). The Dana Center is supported by the Charles A. Dana Foundation, several federal grants, and on-going grants from an anonymous donor (Welch 1995, 5). Rose Acera, Coordinator for Research and Evaluation wrote: Uri Treisman received the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in American Higher Education in 1987 for work that led to higher minority student achievement in freshman calculus at the University of California at Berkeley. The Foundation's first support was for national dissemination of that work in the higher education sector; that dissemination was the 118

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! I I I I I l I beginning of the Dana Center. The grant accompanied him when he was recruited to and subsequently moved to the University of Texas at Austin in 1991. Present programs at the Dana Center include the Texas SSI (with all of its extensions); the telecommunications network; state technical assistance for federal programs; plus other smaller state projects (Rose Acera, personal communication, October 1996). Acera continues, the intent is not only that the Dana Center be a place for dissemination, but a place where these programs can interact .. and help audience schools (with particular attention to high poverty schools), understand, choose and craft programs to their needs. The vision of the entire Dana Center is systemic ... we need to connect the different components professional development, curriculum development, telecommunications, federal programs, and so on-which are usually located in and report to different 119

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bureaucracies, and usually do not talk with one another (October 1996) There are currently over eighty Dana Center employees (Karen Eikner, personal communication, 1996). The Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative The Texas SSI is one of three National Science Foundation Statewide Systemic Initiatives not directly connected with a state department of education or Board of Regents. As part of the Dana Center and as a result of the Dana Center's third-party status, the Texas SSI operates outside the official state of Texas educational bureaucracy and hierarchy. The Texas SSI is not staffed or directed by current employees of the state education agency or the Governor's Office, nor is it directed by the University Regents or housed in a school of education of a state university. The Texas SSI started out like most other state programs, that is, as a proposal written by a consortium of state agencies, including the Governor's Office, the K-12 and higher education state agencies, and one or more departments of education at state universities. Initially, it was to be housed in the School of Education at UTA. This case study lays out the Texas SSI's 120

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evolution from a project situated well within the educational bureaucracy into a project situated, if not completely outside the bureaucracy, at least in a third-party agency on its edge (as contrasted with other SSis), yet focused "on improving the [whole] infrastructure" (Welch 1995, 18). The National Science Foundation Statewide Systemic Initiatives The National Science Foundation's Statewide Systemic Initiative Program was an innovation, said Janice Earle, the first Texas SSI program officer. Earle said that before the 1990s, although they had funded kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade (K-12) education through curriculum development and teacher enhancement projects since the Sputnik era, K-12 education was considered "precollegiate," that is, the Foundation was only interested in those students going on to college. In the 1990s its focus changed. Working with state education agencies on state-level policy was a major shift. The Statewide Systemic Initiative was an effort to serve not only non-majors in college, but even middle school and high school students at risk of dropping out from high level mathematics and science education-if not from school altogether. 121

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In its original1990 Request for Proposal (RFP), the Foundation introduced the Statewide Systemic Initiative program as a solicitation for proposals intended to broaden the impact, accelerate the pace, and increase the effectiveness of improvements in science, mathematics, and engineering education in both K-12 and post-secondary levels (Request 1990, 1). The statewide initiatives were to "encourage statewide systemic initiatives designed to overcome such systemic barriers as may exist" (1990, 2). The RFP required that a state proposal be submitted through the "Office of the Governor or another office or organization designated by the governor and also have signature of the chief state school officer and/ or the commission of higher education" (1990, 4). The RFP said the Foundation would award four to eight grants of from one to two million dollars per year, totaling from five to ten million dollars to each successful state over the life of the project. The RFP also called for integration of significant state and local funds, private sector funds, and funds received from the federal Department of Education. The RFP provided 122

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' I I I I I I I I f examples of the possible focus of the effort, including various combinations of mathematics and science in kindergarten through community (junior) college (Request 1990,2). According to Peirce Hammond, a Foundation official, the RFP reflected the fact that the Foundation was attempting to "ride several waves" of school reform begun in the late 1980s, waves of change initiated by the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk. For Governors, being an "education Governor" had become a real plus. After all, said Peirce, "education constitutes about one-half of each state's budget." The business community "had moved from thinking of cheap labor as the name of the education game" because it had become apparent to many business leaders that the new technologically-driven global economy would need workers who could think and who knew how to learn. On another front, constructivist learning theory, based on cognitive research, was shifting people's thinking to the idea that virtually everyone can engage in high levels of learning All of these groups were realizing that school structures and the traditional way of delivering curriculum (different curricula for different students) were not serving all youth. 123

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. I I As mentioned above, Foundation mathematics and science initiatives were not new to K-12 education. But, while single intervention strategies like curriculum reform were doing no harm, they were not accomplishing widespread change. The tendency to believe either that small efforts will make a big difference or that there is a u silver bullet" that will lead all other efforts to higher quality student learning was prevalent and needed to change. States seemed the appropriate level to begin a new, broader intervention strategy to change the face of K-12 mathematics and science and technology education. By definition, all"systemic" (classroom, school, district, state) efforts had to work together. Top-down had failed and bottom up strategies, alone, Hamilton claimed, would become "formless." The Foundation could not fund all fifty states, but it intended to start a trend that other states would choose to follow. The Foundation's definition of systemic was described in ten "elements of systemic change" (see Appendix B). State proposals were to be rated partially on addressing as many of these components as they could in an "integrated and well coordinated" fashion (Request, 1990, 3). The elements were not 124

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prescriptions, but "suggestions of issues relating to many of the factors essential to systemic change" (Request, 1990, 3). The RFP also described a likely study or planning group composition as "leaders essential to the process of bringing about changes in the educational system of the state" (Request, 1990, 4). Cohort 1 RFPs were due at the Foundation by October 15, 1990. Texas submitted a proposal but it was not funded. Stages of Evolution In October 1991, a Texas group, much like analogous groups who did parallel work in other states, completed the final Texas proposal to the National Science Foundation for the second (1991) cohort of the Statewide Systemic Initiative program. The proposal, entitled "The Texas Science and Mathematics Renaissance," was submitted by the Director of Education Policy for the Office of the Governor, the Dean of the College of Education at UTA, the Commissioner of Education, and the Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. These people, according to the proposal, formed "the key liaison," charged with guiding "the development of policy to reform science, mathematics, and 125

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engineering education at the preservice and inservice levels" (Final proposal, 1991, 17). Texas followed the conventional procedure with the requisite players for states applying to the Foundation for this sizable amount of money for statewide school reform. The coalition of state-level agencies well within the educational bureaucracy made good, bureaucratic sense. If a state system promised to change the ways it established and then implemented science, mathematics, and technology education from pre-kindergarten through four years of college, it was entirely appropriate that the major state education agencies, those closely linked to the legislature, would lead the effort. In this customary way, Texas began an interesting journey, the case studied for this dissertation. The study of the evolution of the Texas SSI will be divided into four stages. Stage One is the first funded Texas plan (1991) and its implementation (1992-1993). Stage Two includes the Foundation's suspension of funding for the original Texas plan, after it demonstrated "inadequate progress," and its subsequent redesign period. Stage Three is the Texas SSI's move to the Dana Center and its subsequent refunding (1994). Stage Four is a snapshot of the early implementation of the Texas SSI (1995-126

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1996). As a prelude, we look at the Foundation's definition of systemic change. Systemic Change The RFP listed ten elements of systemic change (see Appendix B). In elaborated fashion, they are 1. The organizational structure of the educational bureaucracy and the locus of decision making must change. States should set the vision and keep the record. Schools should have more flexibility coupled with heightened accountability Schedules and calendars should be derived from research-based theories of teaching and learning instead of the Taylor "factory model." 2. Schools and districts must be provided with resources based on the needs of students and teachers for teaching and learning, not on the varying amounts of money gathered through the property tax. State funding models should be used to equalize these differences. 3. States must better prepare those who would teach and must be sure that more women and minorities succeed in science and mathematics education and then enter the teaching profession. 127

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4. We must improve the ways we keep good teachers and encourage and support them in learning more about their subject matter and how to teach it. 5. States need to set goals for subject matter learning for all students and provide curriculum frameworks that provide a broad outline for reaching those goals. 6. States must continually update the delivery of instruction, including the intelligent integration of technology. 7. States must also find new ways for more open-ended (as opposed to multiple-choice or one right answer) assessments of student achievement, including problem solving and higher order thinking. 8. Facilities and equipment need to be continually updated and equitably provided. 9. There must be coherence within the system, among levels of schools-elementary, middle, high school, and higher education-as well as among reform efforts. 10. State systems must make it clear to their customers basically the whole of society, focusing on students and parents -how students are doing and why and what all parts of the system are doing to ensure improvement in student achievement. 128

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Latitude to reach these goals was allotted to state proposal-writing teams. Stage One: The 1991 Plan The first Texas plan proposed using the new money the SSI would bring into the state (two million dollars a year for five years) and state matching funds (one million dollars a year) to buttress reforms that had already begun. This consortium proposal was a case, according to one informant, of "Look what we're doing! Aren't we great?" The stated goal of the 1991 Texas Science and Mathematics Renaissance (TSMR SSI) proposal was "to improve science and mathematics education for all Texas students The proposal identified the major barrier to this goal as "the scarcity of adequately prepared science and mathematics teachers in the state." The project was focused on "providing comprehensive and ongoing inservice training for teachers now in the classroom, as well as excellent preservice preparation for those students who will become mathematics and science teachers"(Final proposal1991, 7). The proposal was for funding an ongoing middle school teacher professional development project created by the UTA School of Education. 129

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The 1991 TSMR SSI focused on five Education Service Centers (ESC) and eight middle school campuses.9 ESCs are regional consortia of local school districts that cooperate to procure materials, supplies, and expertise for regional workshops and other resources for member-districts. There are twenty ESC regions in Texas; one is the size of the state of Indiana. The stated 1991 objectives were to 1. Develop TSMR Centers for the professional development of both inservice and preservice teachers of science and mathematics ... 2. Coordinate and enhance effective science and mathematics inservice programs and other exemplary outreach programs ... 10 3. Establish a means for the business and industry community to collaborate ... 4. Establish a means to integrate technology ... 9 What many states would call schools, Texas calls campuses. 10 Inservice programs are for teachers currently teaching; outreach programs are those not held on a certain university campus. They may be held on linked university campuses or at other sites. 130

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5. Establish aggressive recruitment and retention programs to increase the numbers of women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities who enter the science and mathematics teaching professions ... 6. Encourage the dissemination of information to parents and the general public about the importance of mathematics and science literacy in today's world (Final proposal 1991, 7). Earle said that Texas is so large that it cannot be expected to tackle everything at once. The middle school strategy, entering through "one slice of the education pie," seemed a good idea. California, another huge state, had a similar strategy. The Foundation was interested in the state-level policy potential of the project. The then-commissioner had indicated he wanted to transform what he (and the Foundation) considered "underutilized ESCs" into true regional educational centers. The transformed centers would have adequate staff and funding for high quality teacher development and be a mechanism for decentralizing the system. Foundation staff saw this policy transformation in the TSMR SSI proposal. 131

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In addition, the Foundation saw Texas as a good site for an SSI because of the early 1990 changes in Texas laws that dovetailed with the intent of the Foundation program. In 1990, Texas Senate Bill1 had mandated accountability for student performance and the creation of district committees to establish and review local district educational goals. In 1991, Texas House Bill285 mandated site-based decision making for all campuses in the areas of goal setting, curriculum, budgeting, staffing patterns, and school organization (Strategic Plan 1993, 1). Foundation sources confirmed that these moves in the direction of "standards-based education" (not called that in the early 1990s), were integral to what "systemic change" meant in the original Foundation SSI program. According to Earle, the 1991 Texas plan made the first cut followed by a site visit. The site visit team members liked what they saw and heard from the Texas group. The Foundation agreed to ftmd the project with one change-a request that fiscal responsibility and the "Principal Investigator" of the project be shifted from UTA to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). This request was made, according to Earle, because, although the UTA School of Education had been important in the writing of the proposal as conceived as a project for teacher 132

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i i i ; development, it was the state-level policy aspect of TSMR that most interested the Foundation. The authority for the desired policy changes lay in the TEA. The Foundation had the money and the state group then working on the project proposal had committed to seeking this money to improve education. So, at the request of the Foundation, the Texas SSI moved even more solidly into the state K-12 bureaucracy and into TEA. In September 1992, roughly a year after it had been submitted, the 1991 Texas proposal began implementation with the fiscal year. Sources both in Texas and at the Foundation say the TSMR SSI struggled in its first year (1992-1993). As an example of the disarray, several new Texas TSMR SSI directors were appointed between 1991 and 1993. According to both sets of sources, some of these directors suffered from lack of content knowledge in science and mathematics; most did not have the experience for such a high profile job (a policy position at the state level), while others were victims of the evolution of the project and the ensuing politics As one person put it, all of these changes-including moving the project to TEA-caused some people to "get their noses out of joint 133

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In June 1993, a strategic plan required by the Foundation for the second year of the TSMR SSI was submitted over the signature of yet another new project director in TEA. The letter mentioned several weaknesses per the elements of systemic change in the first year of implementation. These included that they had not (a) expanded recruiting efforts for minorities and underrepresented groups; (b) formed a sufficient number of business and community partnerships; (c) engaged the public; or (d) communicated sufficiently with schools about technology. The TSMR SSI was credited by its implementers with (a) continued support from its original backers plus other professional organizations; (b) finding good regional sites; and (c) staffing the sites with "exceptional people, both knowledgeable and enthusiastic" (Strategic Plan 1993, ii). As is evident in their report, TSMR SSI people understood that execution of their plan had not met their goals or the expectations of the Foundation. None of the new, ambitious undertakings under the rubric of "systemic change" was realized. As a consequence of this disappointment, the project's description changed. It more closely mirrored systemic 134

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concerns, first mentioning that Texas had many reform efforts underway: If TSMR is to have a systemic impact, it must play a sometimes larger, and different role from these other initiatives. It must enhance and support local, regional, and state-level programs already in place, provide a conduit between programs and funding sources, and initiate a select number of large-scale programs that will result in far-reaching impact through local implementation (Strategic Plan 1993, 1). The second year's objectives also reflected steps, albeit mincing, toward a more systemic view: 1. Strengthen the coordination of state initiatives ... 2. Develop state level professional development programs in middle school mathematics and science (Strategic Plan 1993, 30). The wording in the first objective, "coordination of state initiatives," was not used in the 1991 TSMR SSI proposal, nor 135

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j I : i I I I was "state-level" mentioned. However, the writers of the plan stuck to the idea that the TSMR SSI would "continue to target middle school mathematics and science" (1993, 1). This "subtle shift," as the Texas writing group called the reworking of the original proposal, was evidently too subtle to convince the Foundation of the continuing value of the Texas TSMR. In July 1993, in a discussion between the commission and the Foundation program officer, the commissioner requested that a hold be placed on the project. In August 1993, the Foundation suspended Texas SSI funds and called for a "redesign period." Texas could use the leftover funds from the first year for the redesign. Earle was sure that the Texas group had been surprised at the large amount of attention the Foundation paid to the early implementation because she did not visit the state very often. Each program officer had several SSis to monitor and only $2000 per year in travel funds. However, outside monitors, technical assistance by the Education Development Center, and SSI representative meetings in Washington ("reverse site visits.") bolstered Earle's information However, even though the Foundation employed outside monitors, no one, Earle contended, could appreciate Congressional pressures on 136

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Foundation staff because they did not interact personally with legislators. Members of Congress were constantly asking what they were getting for their money What Earle learned about Texas was that none of what she considered the plan's promised potential had been accomplished. Foundation complaints included the fact that it was months after the November 1992 start-up before the first director was named. Once named, the director did not measure up to the Foundation's requirements for the position; nor did her successors. Furthermore, little of the money had been spent -a sure sign that they were not working at the systemic level, Earle added. "Nothing happened." Another new director was chosen for the redesign period and a team of writers, including old and new players, was formed Among the new names on the roster of the ''broad based group of people" working towards the redefinition of the Texas effort was Uri Treisman, mathematics professor at UTA and Executive Director of the Dana Center for Science and Mathematics Education also at UTA (Strategic Plan 1993, i). Significantly, during the rewriting, the policy context was changing. State-level policy changes were following each other in rapid succession, moving faster than the TSMR SSL In 1993, 137

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the Texas Legislature consolidated the educational accountability system around student performance, setting district and school campus criteria and mandating public disclosure with prescribed state sanctions for low school performance (Strategic Plan 1993, 1). These policy changes were evidence of "standards-based education," and elements of systemic change as spelled out in the RFP. The project implementation might not have been pleasing to the Foundation, but the policy environment was certainly to their liking. Stage Two: A New Plan and New Rejection During the suspension period, the Texas writing team questioned each other as to why the TSMR SSI proposal had been funded in the first place given its subsequent suspension As one Texas informant has it, Foundation funding was awarded partially because of the diversity of the Texas school populationin terms of ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic level, languages spoken, rural/ urban/ suburban location, size of district, and 138

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previous academic experiences (Seeley 1993, 6). They understood they did not have a common understanding of what systemic change meant even among themselves, and they did not know what the Foundation wanted. There were at least three versions of the new proposal. In an early draft of the revised plan, the mission and objectives had changed. There was an explicit mention of systems: Given that the goal of the SSI effort is the implementation of systemic reform in mathematics and science education, the mission of the Texas SSI is to develop the constituencies necessary for the implementation of mathematics and science education reform (Strategic Plan, August, 1993, 6). In a later draft, the objectives had evolved: 1. The Texas SSI must develop the necessary constituencies to educate the public ... 2. The Texas SSI must develop the necessary constituencies to seed innovation ... 139

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3. The Texas SSI must develop the necessary constituencies to monitor the implementation of reform (Strategic Plan, October 1993, 6; emphases original). Wording such as "develop the necessary constituencies" responded more directly to the Foundation's originally posed systemic elements. The group was not so subtly using the Foundation's words. Yet, according to Earle, she and others at the Foundation saw these drafts and found them all"flawed." It is no wonder the plan kept changing. In the proposal actually submitted, the objectives had changed yet again: 1. The work of Texas SSI will serve as a model to complement, facilitate, and augment the alignment of policies and structures with the state's vision for reform. 2. Texas SSI will create an environment that supports the implementation of the state's vision for mathematics and science teaching and learning. 3. Texas SSI will establish lasting vehicles for networking and for building the capacity of 140

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various constituencies, particularly that of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers, to implement standards-based mathematics and science reform, and will seed innovation in meeting the challenges of implementing this vision of mathematics and science (Annual Progress Report 1994, 30-31). The second and third objectives supported a statewide vision, but only as a "model," not as a link to state policy change. "Establish lasting vehicles ... is a hint of new ideas fleshed out later. This annual progress report, outlining the early implementation of the somewhat redesigned TSMR was sent to the Foundation in May 1994. At the heart of the new plan were three ideas: "Policy Alignment, Creating an Environment for Change, and Building Capacity" (Annual Progress Report, 1994, 3). Its desired outcomes included models of professional development. The TSMR SSI test sites would continue as part of the project. Nothing much happened between the January submission of the redesigned proposal and the progress report. None of the revised goals had yet been attempted. This was understandable since Texas had not been funded beyond the 141

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first year (1992-1993). The Foundation continued to refuse refunding and in May demanded an acceptable revision be submitted by June 30,1994. The Foundation even stipulated who was to write the new revision: Treisman. The result was the famous-in Texas SSI circles-" Addendum." Why Treisman at this point? Treisman emerges as critical to the state and Foundation turning to a third-party agency. He was esteemed by Foundation staff (one called him a "genius") and highly regarded inside Texas. He was called upon not only to write the proposal but also to direct the project if the proposal was accepted. Stage Three: The Addendum In the overview of the June 1994 "Proposal Addendum" Treisman stated, we now present new programmatic strategies and a powerful and fundamentally new model for developing a broad-based indigenous leadership that can bring about the envisioned structural reform of Texas mathematics, science, and technology (M, S & T) education (1994, 1). 142

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The plan claimed to address "the concerns raised by NSF staff members and outside reviewers" (1994, 1). It described "a complex of SSI working groups [now called Action Teams] each charged with designing and putting in place a fundamental building block of the new system." The topics the groups would tackle included new curricula, new models of large-scale teacher development, and new mathematics and science frameworks. The "working groups" were described as follows: These inter-institutional teams will be composed of college and university faculty members, teacher leaders and school administrators, private sector scientists and engineers, state and local education leaders, representatives of other relevant groups of stakeholders (Treisman 1994, 1; emphases added). Similar groups had been mentioned in the January 1994 proposal; however, the Addendum was much more explicit. Empowering these Action Teams, with a clear mandate and with adequate resources to tackle important educational problems, a grassroots state leadership will 143

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emerge that is accustomed to cooperative action. consensus building. and priority setting -a new feature of the Texas landscape (1994, 2). Here was the problem definition. Texas needed to grow a new kind of leadership in the middle of the bureaucratic hierarchy. It was not to be situated in schools or models, but in a quasi-public forum. The emphasis was on the groups' (a) broad-based, cross-role, grass-roots composition, (b) their ability to make decisions and (c) take action for the whole state. Action Teams were promised a budget, "approximately $100,000/ year" (Treisman 1994, 8). Money and the ability to direct the money toward reform according to what the Action Team members decided made them very different from the usual bureaucratic "task force." rne Addendum (Treisman 1994, 9) emphasized the possibility that these groups would "create a tradition of cooperative action." Treisman said that what was available was not doing the job. A "network of distributed leadership" could change the infrastructure and move the system to new levels of student learning. The Addendum clearly decentralized the Texas SSI decision making. 144

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The Addendum promised a partnership between the Dana Center and TEA, linkages with other Foundation programs for mathematics, science, and technology, as well with Goals 2000.11 It pledged close ties with the Texas Education Network, the Internet link for Texas educators, as well as other state telecommunications efforts (Treisman 1994, 3-4). Treisman (1994, 3) called the links "streamlining" to bring "greater coherence to a chaotic landscape." He claimed a role for the Texas SSI (1994, 6), through an "SSI policy team" that would work to align such state system products as end-of-course examinations, teacher licensing examinations, instructional materials, textbook adoption guidelines, school accreditation criteria, school finance structures, school desegregation law, and teacher compensation. To further support this systemic work, the new SSI would use its resources to entice districts to "redeploy their ... entitlement monies" (1994, 11). The proposal provided particulars on a planned public relations campaign, a partnership with business, and pledged the SSI would work with other subject areas (1994, 6). Th.e ability to align all critical policy areas was seen as a 11 Goals 2000 is federal money granted to states that present a plan for instituting standards. 145

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source of the new Texas SSI's potential authority (1994, 5-6). A form of the word "system" was used at least six times in the twelve pages that described the program. There was a definite (not subtle) change from previous proposals. The desired changes responded directly to eight of the ten elements of systemic change in the RFP. Treisman set up imposing challenges for the new Texas SSI and the Addendum exuded a sense of power and urgency as he asserted (1994, 5), "in a marked deviation from the earlier SSI plan, the framework alignment process will begin immediately." It also stated that as of July 1, 1994, Philip Uri Treisman, Professor of Mathematics, University of Texas at Austin, and Director, The Charles A. Dana Center for Mathematics and Science Education, will become the SSI's Principal Investigator and Executive Director ... The University of Texas at Austin will serve as the Initiative's fiscal agent (1994, 4). Treisman said he was the principal author of the Addendum with a little help from a few people. Others supported his claim to principal authorship. 146

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The Policy Entrepreneur According to sources within the Texas SSI, the head of the Foundation's education sector required that Treisman become the Principal Investigator and Executive Director of the project for the Foundation to continue consideration of funding. Some informants insist that Treisman's taking the reins of the project was absolutely crucial to the Foundation, thereby rendering the actual revision of the plan secondary. Some Texas SSI staff explained that while sometimes a plan is submitted and accepted as a blueprint for the implementation of a project, this time a plan was required to be submitted and accepted (regardless of the plan's contents) just so the project could happen. Thus, these staff members contend that Treisman' s intellectual and political presence in Texas, plus his ties to the Foundation (he serves on the Advisory Board of the National Science Foundation's Education and Human Resources sector, for instance) constituted the actual reason for the refunding of the Texas SSI, rather than Its intrinsic value or substance. The whole process was political, these sources said. Furthermore, these same people (and others) are certain the current Texas SSI is not implementing the Addendum plan. These people held Treisman in awe for what they called his 147

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brilliance; they were cynical about the bureaucracy and its relation to politics. If true, this would certainly indicate that it was the presence of a policy entrepreneur, not his ideas, that was essential to the refunding. Foundation sources tell a different story. They say that one of the problems with mutual un.derstanding between the Foundation and the Texas education bureaucracy was that the former Commissioner of Education had not "bought into" the Texas SSI. It was pressure from Texas Governor, Ann Richards, to get the grant refunded (after her opponent criticized her administration during 1994 gubernatorial campaign for the defunding) that kept the Texas players in the game. Yet the plans remained "flawed,'' because of the lack of ownership by the Commissioner. The subsequent entry of Treisman, according to Foundation sources, "gave us hope" an acceptable plan could be created and implemented. Foundation sources insisted that Treisman's performance in front of a Foundation panel in Washington DC, where he explained and defended the new plan, enhanced that hope. They maintained that the Addendum plan went through regular processes and only the new promise 148

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I I I I I I i I I i i I I I ! i I of real systemic change in the plan allowed the Foundation to refund the Texas SSI under Treisman's direction. Furthermore, in an interview, Treisman did not agree with descriptions of the change that suggested the Addendum's contents did not matter to the Foundation. According to Treisman, whom a source calls "relatively humble," he had ten days to create the new proposal. He spent "fifty non-stop hours" writing it. In other words, he vouched for its high quality and maintained that everything in the Addendum was currently being implemented. In his words, "It's all there." Treisman added that the first thing he did when he set the refunded project in motion in November 1994 was to convince David Hill, a former Austin area superintendent, to become Deputy Director He needed someone to carry out day-to-day management, a good leader who was also well connected in Texas education circles. Hill's job was to implement the ideas of the Addendum. As the Texas SSI outside monitor, Welch, (1995, 14, 15) reports, "David Hill has been invaluable." "Uri is not a detail guy" said one source, referring to his management style. Study of SSI documents demonstrated that, as Treisman had contended, the Addendum presented new content and dynamics and these were being implemented in 1996. Elements 149

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I I i i I I I I of these ideas had, of course, been discussed during the redesign year, at least when Treisman joined the 1993-1994 writing team, if not before. One long-involved informant called the winding path of the Texas SSI "an evolution." Others might be more apt to call it a maze since not everyone among those involved along the way was following the same path.I2 As a result ofTreisman and Hill's leadership, several people who had been involved in various stages of the TSMR SSI -and had been pushed or dropped out-were later invited back in to fiJI roles that better suited their talents and expertise. This effort at reconciliation had caused some healing as exemplified by David Molina, a former director of the TSMR SSI, now involved in what has been described as a Texas SSI concrete success. He candidly discussed his involvement and frustration with the Foundation and, without prompting, added "there really is a vision [now]." Molina was not alone; Texas SSI staff (including all the people working on its many projects in and outside the Dana Center, many of whom are only part-time SSI employees) and Foundation officials were adamant that Treisman was an 12 Not everyone would talk to the researcher about the history of the Texas SSI, despite numerous requests 150

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excellent person for the position because of his commitment to student "access,"13 as well as his many good ideas, strategic thinking, distinction as a mathematician, prestige among mathematicians and scientists, and political savvy. Stage Four: Implementation (1994-1996) A comparison of previous versions of a revised plan and the Addendum revealed, as Treisman insisted, that the Addendum presented new and ambitious ideas, (a) the Action Teams and their grass-roots and cross-role characteristics, (b) linkages with other federal programs, and (c) a far-reaching vision of alignment of all parts of the state educational system. The Addendum (1994, 5) also differed from earlier versions by conveying a sense of urgency. A glance at what was happening in 1995-1996 indicates the basic concepts of the Addendum were being carried out in the implementation of the Texas SSI. 13 "Access," as defined in education reform, says true equity provides underprivileged students with resources, and removes barriers to their academic preparation. See, for example, (Treisman 1992). 151

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Early Implementation The Texas SSI was being implemented "in the midst of a rapidly accelerating deregulation of school governance, a downsizing of its central education agency, and a possible transformation of its accountability and curricular guidance systems" (Welch 1994,1). Action Teams were given a mandate to thoroughly investigate given issues and ultimately fashion policy both within the project and throughout the state through the many programs the SSI and the Dana Center administer. However, Action Teams do not just go off on their own but are closely tied to Texas SSI philosophy through staff who serve as facilitators and support people to the teams. Using the Action Teams across the conceptual "middle" of Texas, the SSI set up a process that allowed for input from all political camps, all educational and community roles, and all regions of Texas. It reached out across Texas and around and down the educational system in a three-pronged approach that fit with the push for decentralization by the new Republican Governor (George W. Bush) and the State Board of Education. The three prongs are top-down, bottom-up, and "across the middle." Treisman considered the third dynamic, "across the 152

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. I I i I I i I I I I I I I i I i I I I I I I I I I I I : i I i I I I I I I i I I I I I I i I I I middle," of major importance and the true innovation inherent in the problem definition. The Texas SSI "created neutral venues across the middle of Texas" where issues could be kicked around and consensus reached. "These fora included people from all regions of Texas and from roles besides just education professionals: the middle. All were concerned with education, even though the consciousness of some had to be raised. In this heretofore missing space, participants worked with people who viewed education from distinctly different perspectives. Treisman stressed the idea that mathematicians and scientists were working with educators, and teachers were working with state directors of mathematics and science educational reform. State directors of government programs targeted to minorities and the disadvantaged were also working alongside content area specialists and school-and district level practitioners. In one Action Team, educators from all subject areas worked together for coherence among the state content standards. The vision is one of a protean structure that, according to Treisman, could ultimately become a new educational "institution." "Protean institution" may seem to be an oxymoron, but in Treisman's plan, this postmodem institution 153

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would visit and revisit all parts of Texas in a rolling fashion. Individual Action Teams would disappear once they accomplished their task. They resembled a network rather than an institution, and a constantly changing network, at that. As the May 1995 progress report says (Annual Progress Report 1995, 7), the Action Team concept is "a unique meeting ground for activist leadership, where ideas and good local practices can spread easily." As Welch (1995, i-ii) said, "their action plans have the potential to reshape educational policy, improve the science and mathematics education infrastructure, change the way that teachers are prepared, link the SSI to the large Title I program in the state, and change the science and math curriculum and the way it is taught." SSI staff said they wanted to "give local control a chance" by equipping local administrators with decision-making tools and other tactics to take wise advantage of their new authority so they would not, for example, "use modem technology to deliver bad instruction quicker!" Everything is organized around state content standards. In his comprehensive report, Welch (1995, i-ii) described the work of the current Texas SSI as "the professional development of team members, the creation of networks of reform-oriented 154

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professionals, and the identification of a pool of potential recipients for SSI incentive grants planned for the future." There were thirteen Action Teams with 220 people working on them during the summer of 1996. Over the life of the project, the numbers have changed as new issues emerged. The teams have taken on new forms as their products were completed or missions fulfilled. The Texas SSI provided the public space, the topics to ponder, facilitation, and the intellectual tools to negotiate the issues. Local decision-makers and stakeholders were invited to reach consensus on the work that needed to be done. They were provided the time and money to do their work. Teams shared approximately one million dollars a year for incentive grants to schools and districts (Welch 1994, 14). The Action Teams decided how they wanted the incentive grants constructed while Texas SSI staff implemented the Action Team plans and administered the grants. As an example, the "Pre-service Mathematics Team" was provided with a $200,000 Fund for the Improvement of PostSecondary Education grant for elementary teacher preparation in mathematics. It subsequently wrote and published a document that outlined how elementary school teachers should 155

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I I j I I i I I be prepared to teach science. The Action Team then funded faculty members at fourteen Texas institutions of higher education to develop courses following the document's guidelines. It was evident that all of this was carried out in coordination with the existing powerful segments of the educational bureaucracy. TEA, for instance, despite all its downsizing, still held a great deal of power, including control over the accountability system, textbook selection, and state mandated curriculum. The Texas SSI maintained many linkages with TEA. Welch elaborates, the project has been given the authority [through TEA] to administer the Eisenhower mathematics program and the Goals 2000 money; TEA and SSI are working together on the Title I action plan; the project is working with a TEA-supported center whose mission is the development and study of effective practice for African-American learners, among other things (1995, vii) The SSI worked closely with TEA, all of the regional service centers (no longer just one quarter of them), school 156

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principals, and major new statewide reform initiatives, that is, other third-party agencies. In his version of the Texas SSI, Treisman focused on policy, and his definition of policy included the provision that money be attached. Money was pivotal. Rather than relying on the mere (for Texas) two million dollars a year the Foundation SSI program provided, the Texas SSI was using 12 million dollars and working up to a goal of $20 million a year, said Treisman. Title I, Eisenhower, and Goals 2000 brought in the bulk of federal money to the state and the Texas SSI had a hand in all of them. In addition to Foundation SSI funds, the Texas SSI used (in 1995-1996) approximately $500,000 of Eisenhower funds14 and $360,000 of Goals 2000 resources for its Action Teams. TEA provided one million dollars a year and TEA and the Dana Center provided in-kind support totaling approximately $70,000 a year (Welch 1995, 18). The Texas SSI is the main contractor in developing the state science and mathematics standards and also is assisting the state in connecting mathematics with other subject areas 14 The SSI operated the K-12 Eisenhower program for TEA in 19951996. It had close ties with the higher education part of the Eisenhower program, but did not operate it. 157

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such as science, social studies, and language arts as well as career and vocational technical fields (Welch 1995, 3). A real coup was the SSI's link with the massive Title I project for underprivileged children. The SSI also linked up with the AmeriCorps grant which targets literacy for kindergarten through-second-grade children (Welch 1995, 18). Before the SSI, Treisman said, there was no real connection between efforts to serve underprivileged students and efforts at curriculum modernization in Texas. The Texas SSI tightly bound Eisenhower, Technology, Title I, and Title VII programs. This was their greatest accomplishment, Treisman said. These accomplishments and ongoing initiatives seemed to call for a large organization, but the Texas SSI employed only about thirty people in 1995-1996. Its location was inside the Dana Center although it was not synonymous with the Dana Center. The Texas SSI Inside the Dana Center There was no formal entryway into the Dana Center, the home of the Texas SSI into 1996. Once you entered, you were surrounded by people working. And there was no physical division between the Center and Texas SSI. They blended into 158

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each other. The SSI section was a bunch of crowded rooms, up a steep staircase in the back of the small building. Supplies were stacked up everywhere, including in what was once a shower stall. SSI staff seemed proud of the lack of formal organization; they bragged about sharing desks and computers. Texas SSI staff were scattered around the state. Some worked full-time at the Dana Center location (although they spent much of their time in the field). Others worked part-time for the Texas SSI and part-time for universities other than UTA. Hiring university people part-time was a strategy for bringing more institutions into the project and broadening the SSI' s base of committed people. Welch (1995, iv-v) commented on the Texas SSI's culture and lack of organization: "there has been a constant explosion of new projects and responsibilities ... there is a chaotic aura that surrounds the project ... some people share the same desk." When he asked for a copy of an organizational chart he found "hand-written additions . (1995, vi). Welch (1995, v) added, in the project's defense, "despite the bustle, there is a conspicuous liveliness about the project, especially at the Dana Center." Welch attributed the lack of order to the number of ideas generated. Treisman's ideas were definitely part of the culture, 159

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I I considered both a true asset and also an ongoing concern. As Hill, the person whose job was to pull all this together put it, "not all of his ideas work, you know." A Texas SSI staff member wrote, I don't think of the Texas SSI as a bureaucracy -it's too ad hoc-building temporary structures to address issues and lacking in such things as rigidity and protocols. People who have worked for real Byzantine bureaucracies (like [TEA]) might laugh at the idea of SSI as a bureaucracy. Another wrote, I see the SSI as a team more than a bureaucracy, almost a living organism. I've never worked in the university before, but have had contact with other departments since taking this job. From what I've seen, we don't even make the bureaucracy scales quiver by UTA standards. Our bureaucracy is imposed from without, by the University and [Foundation]. It does not impact the intemal culture of our organization. 160

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Another, more concrete assessment by a staff member is that there is, "unquestionably, a university bureaucracy that touches us on administrative matters (travel, reimbursement, accounting, and accountability) but it does not drive our work strategies or decisions." The program monitor was not willing to say that the Dana Center was not a bureaucracy. He found that idea "problematic," but he did say the Texas SSI, was "a bunch of interested, committed people trying to do a job." Welch (1995, 15) also wrote, "the management style of the project involves getting people to work together on problems of mutual concern." Welch (1995, 15) was certain, however, that the Texas SSI was "entwined in the bureaucracies" and, what is more, he emphasized that it had to take on more bureaucratic procedures to meet its many obligations. Consequently, the non bureaucratic characteristics of the Texas SSI were being challenged even as it was acknowledged to be accomplishing its mission. Nor did its location inside the Dana Center keep it from being knocked around by internal and external forces, including state politics. 161

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Election Year Politics In August 1994, the Foundation agreed to refund the project scheduled to run until1998, with the new funding starting in October 1994. Contrary to the call for urgency in the Addendum, activities were put on hold from early October until after the November 1994 elections. A change was possible in the state administration, a change in parties and educational philosophy. And the Republicans did win; the sea change happened. Foundation sources agreed that it had been a dangerous time for the project. As Welch wrote (1995, viii), "another key issue is whether [the SSI] can successfully navigate through a changed (and increasingly politically conservative) state government." There were legitimate reasons to be apprehensive. For one, the SSI had earlier become a political issue in Texas. Republican candidate George W. Bush had criticized Democratic Governor Ann Richards when the project was defunded by the Foundation (Welch 1995, 16). Governor Richards laid down the law, said Welch. Texas would recapture this funding. Would newly-elected Governor Bush take on a project that had been funded under his predecessor? 162

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., I On the national level, conservative state administrations had turned down federal education money in the last few years, ostensibly fearing the control that comes with that money (Pitsch 1995). The Statewide Systemic Initiative program was focused on assuring "equity and access" to underserved populations, a strategy found by many conservatives parallel to affirmative action in the larger society-as "dumbing down." A Foundation source said if certain children are succeeding under current conditions, their parents find real value in the ways things are now. Changing the system that decides what is taught and how those things are taught to allow more children to succeed is perceived as "lowering the bar." The new Republican Governor appointed a superintendent from Lubbock, Texas, as the new Commissioner of Education and "summarily dismissed" the former commissioner who hailed from New York City. The State School Board changed from a ten to five Democratic majority to an eight to seven Republican majority. In addition, authority was continuing to move from the state department of education to the Governor's Office (Welch 1995, 1). TEA was "severely downsized," said Foundation sources, and much weaker than it 163

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. I I had been in the early 1990s. The fear among Foundation sources was that mathematics and science would be forgotten. Treisman left the newly funded project in limbo for a few weeks because of the election. After the election, Treisman said he worked with the new-Governor 's staff who were communicating with representatives of the religious right and the business community to decide how the 551 would mesh with the decidedly more conservative administration and school board. Governor Bush ultimately decided to tighten state accountability systems while providing more local flexibility rather than eschewing all state control and thereby relinquishing complete control to districts. Foundation sources said, "you have to give Uri credit for that." Bush's decision put the 551 in a favorable position, according to Treisman, Welch, and Foundation sources. As the monitoring report explains: The changes at TEA and in the governor's office have turned out to be advantageous for the 551. The down-sizing of TEA staff has caused them to look outside the agency for help. The new commissioner of education sees the 551 as a valuable resource and has given them funding and the responsibility for 164

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I I mathematics and science reform in the state (Welch, 1995, viii). Welch, both in his report and interviews, attributed this rapport to Treisman, who developed friendships in the Governor's Office and among other policy makers. "The Governor's office and TEA continue to seek assistance from Uri Treisman and the Dana Center ... he seems much in demand" (Welch 1995, viii, 18). Welch added that the Governor and Commissioner found themselves relying on Treisman almost too much (politically speaking) and thus decided they had to award some programs to other entities. Texas was known in educational policy circles as the quintessential top-down state, that is, it "has had a history of passing legislation to address its educational problems" (Welch 1995, 18). The top-down ethic says good teaching and thus learning will occur because the legislature legislates and TEA dictates what teachers have to do. However, earlier in 1994, TEA had been mandated to cut its staff by 20 percent during the period of 1995-1997, to become a service (rather than a monitoring) agency, and to move many of its functions to the twenty regional Educational Service Centers. Texas Senate Bill No.1 had set up a new, decentralized education code that 165

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states, "The [Texas] State Board of Education by rule shall establish the essential skills and knowledge that all students should learn ... Such legislation and its products are nationally known as "standards" (cited in Welch 1995). The Texas SSI worked well with the new Republican Administration in its stress on local control within a top-down accountability system, said Texas sources. The new philosophy provided much more freedom to building administrators and, in some cases, to teachers, but it held them all more accountable for results in student achievement. The Texas SSI's "across the middle" capacity for realizing important initiatives and the resulting power to fashion new documents (such as curriculum frameworks tied to standards) and align all of these documents (for example, standards with teacher licensing and, eventually, teacher rewards and compensation) gave the SSI "teeth," Treisman said. In essence, the Texas SSI was, in tandem with other agencies, implementing the state standards policy. The Texas SSI's ability to win new power was attributed to (a) the policy environment within the state, (b) strong linkages with other agencies, including TEA, (c) its strategic position (attributed both to the Dana Center's 166

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i I I I third-party status and the policy entrepreneur), and (d) its momentum as it continued to win control of such endeavors. Summary Texas institutions and agencies (and their representatives) who won Foundation support for a systemic initiative in 1991 wandered through a maze. Texas participants were spurred on at various times by Foundation questions and criticisms. Differences in interpretation, suspension of funding, state politics, formative learning during early implementation, monitoring reports, and self questioning and reflection shaped subsequent plans. State and Foundation ideas of what constituted systemic reform differed. The difference in interpretations remained tacit which made it difficult for them to reach agreement. Politics kept the bargaining process going. In the midst of a near breakdown in negotiations between state and Foundation officials, a policy entrepreneur, highly-admired by state officials as well as Foundation staff, emerged. Almost single-handedly, he wrote a new proposal subsequently accepted by the Foundation. The new proposal embodied a systemic vision although it is not clear whether in its subsequent refunding of the Texas 167

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proposal, the Foundation relied on the actual ideas presented in the proposal or on its confidence in the perceived brilliance of the policy entrepreneur. Politics then slowed the beginning of the new project as the election changed the Texas state administration from Democrat to Republican. The project is now implementing the ideas of the Addendum. What are the implications of the case study for problem definition research and school reform? 168

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I CHAPTERS CONCLUSION Introduction I will first discuss the findings related to each of the questions that drove the research and then speak to the implications for public policy in general and education reform specifically. The questions were 1. Was the group that created the problem definition or the group directing the project an outside-the-bureaucracy group or a bureaucracy? 2. Did the group take a problem-centered approach, engaging in frame reflection and/or lay probing? 3. Did the approach exhibit other postmodem tendencies? 4. Was a policy entrepreneur involved? 5. What part did politics play? 169

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Characteristics of the Texas Groups Those charged with writing the original1991 proposal and its subsequent iterations were educators and policy makers well inside the Texas educational bureaucracy. They came to the table with a predetermined solution; they had structures already in place that met the specifications of the Foundation's Request for Proposals (RFP)'. After a shaky startup caused by the difference in interpretation of the original Texas proposal by its state creators and Foundation officials, a near breakdown in negotiations occurred. The final, successful version was written, not by a group, but by a single education policy entrepreneur in whom the Foundation had "hope." Foundation officials believed that Uri Treisman would create a system approach that would fulfill their requirements. He was presented with the unenviable task of resolving the impasse. Treisman wrote the successful Addendum virtually alone, so the ultimate proposal was written by a very small group whose principal member was a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) and certainly part of the education bureaucracy, but-more important in terms of my first question -he is also Executive Director of The Dana 170

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. I Center at UTA, a "third-party agency" and an outside-the bureaucracy organization by this dissertation's definition. The findings are very messy. The first group was inside; the second group was outside. So new questions arise: How does the Texas process of getting to the third-party agency compare to other states in which a third-party agency is directing the SSI? How are the other third-party-agency-SSis faring? Are they as intertwined in the bureaucracies? Are they as successful in redirecting large blocks of money? How do these third-party SSis compare to traditional SSis?l5 Are Non-Bureaucratic Tendencies Apparent? Outside the bureaucracy in its location within the Dana Center, the Texas SSI also exhibits other nonor post bureaucratic behaviors. First and foremost is its focus on the customer as evidenced in the Action Team's inclusion of streetlevel bureaucrats, educators who are not mathematics or science teachers, plus non-educators Second, the Texas SSI members were described as people who knew what their work was and 15 The Consortium for Policy Research in Education will publish a two-year study on standards reform in all fifty states in late 1996. 171

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. i what drove it. They worked cooperatively under difficult circumstances, some even without their own desks. So they have a mission, clear goals, and clear norms-features often missing in bureaucracies that depend on rules and procedures. The surprising influence of the Texas SSI also distinguishes it from bureaucracies and their "sparse power." Welch also commented on the Texas SSI's apparent lack of (bureaucratic) inside evaluation processes. Texas SSI staff expressed their need and appreciation of the Foundation's prodding for evaluation. Yet, even though Welch had requested in November 1995 that they hire someone to do an inside evaluation (not taking staff away from the Action Teams), in May 1996 no one had yet been hired. Texas SSI staff said they understood the necessity of the requested strategic plans, but they had trouble fi..'lding the time to think together about long term plans let alone write them. They were too busy doing their work in the field. They preferred what they call "working plans," that is, flexible one-year plans rather than three to five year plans. As David Hill, who was credited with bringing order to the day-to-day management of the Texas SSI, said to his staff, "we don't know what it looks like; we're cutting the path." 172

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SSI personnel defended their non-bureaucratic ways and claimed that in the Dana Center they had the best of both worlds. They had the insider's ability to communicate with likeminded souls and the prestige of UTA. They had the outsider's flexibility, outreach capability, and respect that came with the Dana Center and Treisman, a renowned mathematician. They also had the Dana Center's small and elusive-but useful-distance from the bureaucracy. A Texas source called it "inside support and outside influence." "Inside support" can be seen in the close ties the Texas SSI maintained with the traditional Texas educational bureaucracy. The new Commissioner of Education was co Principal Investigator along with Treisman. The Texas SSI was staffed by people who still or once served within the bureaucracy. More important, as Rose Acera, the Texas SSI's Coordinator of Research and Evaluation, made very clear, neither the SSI nor the Dana Center was estranged from the I bureaucracy-nor did either have any desire to be. These links I were considered a major strength not only by Texas SSI insiders, but also by Welch. Cathy Seeley, Director of Policy and one-time TEA employee, was incensed by the research assumption that one 173

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needed to look outside the bureaucracy for projects that moved radically beyond the status quo (even though I attempted to explain that this assumption was not a disparagement of people but of a system). However, Seeley did admit that TEA could not legally engage in public outreach since it was seen by Texas legislators as tantamount to lobbying by a state agency. The Texas SSI was not constrained by state laws such as this, and public outreach was one of its major strategies, a strategy that would have had to be finessed differently by TEA if it had ever been seriously contemplated. Respect for good people and ideas inside the educational community was important not only for the Texas SSI's relationship within Texas, but also for its relations and credibility with the Foundation. Janice Earle, the original program officer said the Texas SSI fell into the role of writing the state standards for mathematics and science because TEA had effectively been taken out of this arena during the transition between the two Governors. In the same vein, a current high ranking TEA official remarked that in order to leap ahead, the SSI leadership needed to be outside the state agency, referring to Treisman's ability to attract large projects as well as his good relations with the new Governor's Office and State Board. 174

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This third-party agency exhibiting non-bureaucratic behaviors worked well both inside and outside the bureaucracy. Here, in the implementation-as opposed to the predecision phase-the outside-the-bureaucracy status paid off. The Texas SSI garnered large blocks of federal and state money and directed it all to building coherence around state standards. How did the Texas SSI gain and maintain this ability? Again, the policy entrepreneur is central to the mission and success of the program. The Policy Entrepreneur as Liaison A recipient of the MacArthur "genius" award, Treisman was known for "developing programs to enhance the success of minorities in college-level mathematics." His award-winning minority program is succeeding at UTA after being imported from Berkeley where he created it. Although he served on the Texas SSI redesign committee and the SSI Executive Committee in 1993-1994, and had been extensively involved in kindergarten-through-twelfth grade (K-12) school improvement in Berkeley, his domain in Austin was higher education before 175

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I I I he agreed to take over the ssr. Is he an opportunist in the Kingdon mode, waiting to be tapped? He claimed he was reluctant to take on the large task of directing the Texas SSI. He said his decision to direct the SSI was a wrenching one, especially because of the time he would have to devote to it. He added that he had seen the potential of systemic change in his work with the writing committee and I stressed that he knew his new plan could be radical on the state I level since the "whole state education code was about to be rewritten." When he agreed to tackle the rewriting, he insisted that the Foundation pledge that whatever he created could be a complete and fundamental break with the old SSI and old ways of doing things. Treisman falls far in the direction of the Sanger-Levin (1992) end of a Krugman (1994) (destructive dilettante) -> Polsby (quiet worker)-> Sanger and Levin (indispensable executive) continuum. But there is more. Treisman is a conscientious practitioner who carries his classroom and institutional experiences to the policy area. Looking down from the top of the educational hierarchy, Treisman is adviser to staff close to policy makers in the Governor's Office and other agencies. From the other end of the top-down-> bottom-up 176

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I continuum, Treisman is doing the work he envisions improving, that is, practicing what he preaches. In 1996, he taught a pre-calculus course in mathematics, facilitated his student-access workshops, co-taught a course on mathematics education with an Education School faculty member, and ran several independent graduate studies and reading courses. Further, as evidenced in his ground-breaking work in enhancing opportunities for minorities and women at Berkeley, and the "fifty hours" it took him to write the Addendum, he takes a problem-centered approach to policy rather than pulling out a ready-made plan from a "dusty drawer" (Polsby 1984). He also took advantage of the proverbial "windows of opportunity" (Kingdon 1984; Polsby 1984) by being available when TEA could not carry out certain tasks. In so doing, he paved the way for a large federal program, similar to others turned down by conservative Governors and state legislatures, to thrive in a conservative political environment. He bowed to what he perceived as overwhelming obstacles by slowing implementation of the new SSI until after the November 1994 elections and the possibility of change in the state administration. Then he exhibited an understanding that with 177

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I I I I J would-be opponents one has to find "what's right," not just I "what works" (Rochefort & Cobb 1994). Treisman said that unilaterally imposing one's model on others was arrogant. It could be said, however, that he imposed his model of lay probing on the reform of science and mathematics education. But can inviting people to think about issues that are going to be resolved in one way or another in any case and giving them intellectual tools to do so be considered imposing a model? Even if one calls it a model, it is a more professional-as opposed to bureaucratic-model. It depends on learning and cooperation based on common understanding of values and goals (Majone 1981/2). Treisman uses his problem definition problem-centeredness as a weapon for advocacy and consensus (Weiss 1989). Interestingly, the Action Team strategy resembles the strategies of other educational policy entrepreneurs like James Comer, John Goodlad, Henry Levin, Deborah Meier, Theodore Sizer, Philip Schlechty and William Spady to effect bottom-up change starting at the school level. They all profess to scorn models, but they, too, are accused of imposing one. They have formed networks like Treisman's "protean institution" that moves across the middle of Texas. 178

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The other entrepreneurs advocate that people consider issues, talk things over, involve all school staff plus parents and the community, consider issues, make decisions, and take action. True, each holds up his or her own vision of schooling as the preferred goal, but schools and communities are free to decline that vision. One difference between Treisman and the others is that Treisman's goal is defined by state law: coherence driven by state content standards. Another crucial difference between the Texas SSI Action Teams and the bottom-up efforts is the governmental aspect of the Treisman enterprise and the vast sums of federal and state money it has attracted over a short time span. His SSI work is centered in one state while the others have branched out into several states. Treisman works within the state university system while most of the others (not Goodlad or Meier) are in private institutions. Another difference is that Action Teams are implementing (state) policy that would have been implemented, however well or poorly, in any case, whereas the other entrepreneurs are attempting to cause change. Individual entrepreneurs would argue with each of the above differences which only calls for more research in this area. 179

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What are the similarities and differences among Treisman's strategies and scope and those of other educational policy entrepreneurs? How do the Action Teams-that network whose individual points in the web disappear as their work is completed -resemble and contrast with such national networks as the Accelerated Schools (Levin), the Coalition of Essential Schools (Sizer), the Partnership for Educational Renewal (Goodlad), and the School Development Model schools (Comer), to name but a few? Is Treisman influencing the bureaucracy instead of the other way around (Nagel1980)? The other educational policy entrepreneurs also head third-party agencies, How have they taken advantage of large federal and state grants? How are they collaborating with state bureaucracies? Are their agencies intertwined with the bureaucracies? If so, how? If not, would they attain more power by working more closely with government agencies? And, most important for this dissertation, Would government agencies be more able to implement policy that actually changes teaching and learning with their help? Treisman exhibited the qualities of Sanger and Levin's (1992) entrepreneur in his work with the Texas SSI (and the 180

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. I Dana Center) by (a) creating a personal mission based on access for the Texas SSI; (b) taking advantage of opportunities; (c) (reportedly) attempting to take on too much and taking risks; (d) showing a bias towards action; and (e) consciously underestimating "bureaucratic obstacles," for instance, by melding mathematics and science reform with literacy for underprivileged children-two huge programs that do not often work together at the state policy level. Treisman partially attributed acquiring the Eisenhower program, the telecommunications network, and the Title I technical assistance contract to "luck." It would be difficult to attribute such acquisitions of power to strategic planning; the education environment is too unpredictable. While admitting that luck had something to do with it, Treisman added that these sorts of opportunities occur because of another of his strategies, "following the money." This is because he considers "Folky" only those government actions tied to money. The ability to "follow the money" is certainly not an innovative 181

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concept, but is an indication of Treisman's reputed ability to think on multiple levels.16 He provides a model of the education policy entrepreneur. He is not a dilettante or a publicity seeker. Instead, he is a "quiet worker." He works within the system while exploiting the third-party-agency status of his organization to move quickly and decisively when he sees an opening. He finds these openings by following the money. He understands state policy and values good relations with his colleagues inside the bureaucracy. He is politically astute on several levels, from using discretion when it is called for at the top policy levels to being inclusive of those outside educational circles. His preferred model for change is, in essence, no model, but is guided by analysis and openness. He uses money to lend authority and efficacy to projects and people More research is needed in the area of the personal attributes of educational policy entrepreneurs as well as their agencies. The experimentation going in education reform at the 16 He is what Jeffrey Goldberg, in his description of a 1994 Freshman House of Representatives member, calls "the unthinkable-a math teacher with actual power" (1996, 42). 182

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federal, state, and local levels provides many likely subjects against which to compare Treisman. How Was Problem-Centeredness Evident? The problem-centered approach was shown to be a difficult stance for groups to take, as predicted by Dery (1984). The first version of the 1991 Texas plan and several later iterations of the Texas problem definition were solution-minded and solution-driven. According to a long-involved Texas SSI source, the first successful proposal was thoroughly grounded in what was already happening. The solution was already being implemented; the new part was the federal money the Foundation could contribute. It is tempting, but it would be wrong-minded to belittle the ideas of the original group and its proposal simply because they were not problem-centered or of the systemic magnitude called for in the RFP. One of the myriad pressures on bureaucrats is to refrain from constantly reinventing everything to secure new grant money. Building on what is already in place is a legitimate (and often rewarded) move to coherence in state systems teeming with ideas for reform. 183

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i I Unfortunately, this dynamic works against a problem centered approach as it builds on old solutions without providing the intellectual space to remain immersed in the problematic situation long enough to reconceptualize the amorphous uncertainty. This is not to say that a problem centered approach necessarily calls for revolutionary or even new solutions, only that old solutions should not be imposed on current (or never really defined) problematic situations without a thorough examination of the problem. The final push for funding was solution-minded as well. The Foundation had faith in one person to solve the Texas dilemma. When this policy entrepreneur was finally given the task of rewriting the proposal-as requested by the funding agency-he, too, used a favored solution he had learned from his mother.I7 His solution was to take a problem-centered approach to the implementation of the project. In a more linear, bureaucratic, traditional, and modern track, implementation follows selection, but Treisman postponed the definition of the problem by dividing it into smaller components or issues and devolving these to decentralized Action Teams, people closer to 17 His mother was a Communist union organizer. 184

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I I the work. The problem definition reached by the entrepreneur and the strategy to reach its goals were, consequently, problem centered. The genesis and success of the final Texas SSI were in the realm of problem setting (Rein & Schon 1990) and a combination of lay and expert probing (Lindblom 1990). Frame Reflection In one sense, the original Foundation Request for Proposal had provided a ready-made solution called "systemic change." That the problem was already defined and the solution decided on in the original Request for Proposal is true in one sense, but one hears from many states involved that the Foundation did not have just one definition. It had multiple definitions. Each official brought a new definition as program officers, and subtly (as well as not-so-subtly) different definitions quickly succeeded one another. As one of the principal Texas players maintained, the Foundation "could not articulate what it wanted." From another perspective it could be said the Foundation took a problem-centered approach in allowing states to define what systemic change looked like. According to Foundation 185

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I : I I I I I I I sources, they were absolutely opposed to telling states what to do. Foundation officials said, in essence, "We want a better system, that is, one that exhibits many of these characteristics. Tell us how you will get there and what it will look like when you do." Foundation officials said the changes could only be real and lasting if 110wned" by the states. The states had to define their own particular version. Foundation staff further maintained that states wanted the Foundation to tell them what to do because that was what they were used to-and this time, the Foundation refused. Another explanation is that systemic change was an elusive concept in the early 1990s. There was great frustration at the state level (not only in Texas) with early Foundation attempts to clarify what was wanted when state plans were judged "flawed." According to Texas SSI sources, Foundation staff seemed not so much to recognize systemic change "when they saw it" Justice Stewart) as to recognize faulty plans when they saw them. However, Hamilton Peirce, a Foundation official, objected to State officials calling early Foundation notions of systemic change "ill-defined"; he insisted they were purposefully vague in order for states to create their own plans. 186

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It would be easy to blame the lack of sustained frame reflection among the players on budget constraints. After all, Foundation program officers only had $2000 I year for travel to several states. However, they were backed by monitors and evaluators and reverse site-visits. There is evidence that the various players tried to understand each other's point of view. Earle obviously understood the immensity of Texas and the particular challenges it presented for systemic change. When the suspension of funding occurred, Earle said she had no desire to say, "You blew it; we're cutting you off." Instead, she sat down with those concerned and said, in essence, "what you've done so far hasn't gotten far enough; take this money and use it to plan anew what best strategies you might accomplish here; submit a plan; we'll review it." Earle took the states' side, "from my point of view, this stuff is hard to do; nobody knows how to do it." Yet the Foundation did tell states what to do, or more precisely, what they could not do, that is, what was somehow inconsistent with the Foundation's definition of systemic reform. Foundation staff used the bureaucratic approach, controlling inputs through budgets and accounting (Majone 1981/2). The Foundation laid out an invitation to come up with 187

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a "state-owned" plan, but then reserved the right to decide whether or not the state plan fit their unarticulated conception of systemic change. Top-down control like this renders the Foundation's approach as something different from a problem centered approach or frame reflection. Only the state group had to reflect; the Foundation held all the cards -and close to the vest. The 1993 Texas group redesigning the project (which included Treisman, you will recall) and submitting its "flawed plans" tried to understand why they were not more successful. Cathy Seeley, then of the TEA, wrote, systemic reform is something we can all agree is necessary and appropriate, but defining what each individual means by systemic reform will continue to evolve over the next five years, and beyond. Even the guidelines of the National Science Foundation describing systemic reform continue to change with each new publication or call for proposals (1993, 4). Yet "project mentality" is evident in Seeley's memo to Texas colleagues in the days leading up to the January 1994 proposal redesign about how "daunting" it would be to add 188

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five ESCs each subsequent year of funding. Systemic rather than project-reasoning would have envisioned the Texas SSI not as the funder or agent for this "scaling," but as the catalyst for a leap to include all ECSs -a leap effected by changes in state policy and subsequent redirected state funding. Earle had inferred just such a promise for state policy changes in the 1991 plan. The state group who wrote it evidently saw it in a different light. And to take the state's perspective, Foundation staff may not have realized the enormity of the task of "simply" changing state policy. It appeared that the process was dose to breaking down in May 1994 when the Foundation insisted the state group turn to Treisman. Earle considered it "fascinating" for an outside entity to be working in Texas, "one of the most centralized states in the country." She was surprised and pleased that Texas agreed to attempt something new and untried. This frustrating experience vaguely resembles what Schon and Rein (1994) call"reflective practice." It cannot be said, however, that the State groups and the Foundation reached that level of mutual understanding only that they tried and then settled on a mutual escape hatch. Further research could tease out valuable information both for the 189

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I I I I I Foundation, those it funds, and those it refuses to fund. IS From a broader perspective, these interactions could inform many areas of policy research. Where is there evidence of frame reflection among state and federal agencies? What are the constraints that render a meeting of the minds difficult? How do the two types of entities view policy and the possibility of making good policy differently? What is the role of federal entities as the power of state agencies waxes and wanes? And in the area of third-party agencies, What are their less-visible (than the Texas SSI's) effects on state and national policy? How are third party agencies and/or policy entrepreneurs influencing the interactions of federal and state agencies? While frame reflection remained elusive to the original state groups and the Foundation, a relative, lay-probing, is an integral part of the ultimate Texas problem definition. lS Foundation grants amount to 30% of federal funding for math and science education. The federal government supplies approximately 6% of educational funding. 190

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Experts versus the Public? In the Action Team process, the "indigenous leadership" called for in the Addendum, there is evidence of "lay probing" (Lindblom 1990). Besides teachers, the roster of those at the summer workshop also included a parent, several science directors or supervisors, professors, school administrators, two business people, and two consultants. They come from all parts of Texas. A large share of them are women (about 75%) and there are several minorities on the team (Welch 1995, 11). The Texas SSI problem definition fixed the limits of the system outside the mathematics and science sectors to include elementary teachers, teachers of other subject areas, administrators, and even the public. While inclusion along these lines was a professed goal of "systemic change," it seemed to trouble Foundation officials and their peer evaluators once it became a reality. There are several possible reasons for this. A Texas SSI staff member hypothesized that the Foundation thinks its 191

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education programs can be run like its other more experimental, laboratory-based projects carried out in sterile, controlled environments. Another possible reason is its outsider status. As the program officer at the Texas SSI audit in May 1996 said, "this SSI is subtle; the last visiting team [and a different program officer] missed the point; that's why this visiting team is here.,, The previous visiting team, composed of Texas SSI peers -educators from other states -had not considered the Texas SSI Action Team concept of its mission or even its accomplishments as systemic change. They sensed its outsider (and anti-administration) status and consequently did not see how it could be possibly be a force inside the system. Conversely, Welch (1995, 17), who is a former Foundation official and who spent considerably more time studying the Action Team strategy, found the Texas SSI "the central systemic initiative in the state." These two interpretations contrast markedly, a contrast that demonstrates the educational establishmenes reluctance to include outsiders in its policy making (Iannacone 1967). In this case, the outside is seen as lacking the authority to get things done; other times the outside or the public is seen as lacking the expertise to be part of an envisioned enterprise. 192

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i I I A related concern was the Texas SSI's strategy of "percolation." Percolation meant the project was expert-driven; it was, instead, an incremental grass-roots (in the sense of street-level practitioners [Lipsky 1992] and citizens) process to reach consensus and take action. In contrast to percolation, which certainly resembles lay probing, the Foundation and expert-driven. During the May 1996 audit visit, the Foundation program officer asked SSI staff if Action Teams would be allowed to decide what was good science or mathematics education. The visiting team was evidently concerned that teachers and administrators of varying disciplines along with regular citizens would have some authority over Texas education. The Texas SSI staff quickly attempted to reassure him that the definition of good science would not be left strictly to public opinion. Action Team meetings were facilitated by SSI staff; the experts would make sure what sorts of answers would be answered through lay opinion rather than scientific knowledge. "Good science and mathematics" would prevail even in an open process. There was no resolution of this issue-the fear of public intervention -at the May 1996 meeting. 193

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I I ; I I I I I I I The Action Teams could be a way for bureaucrats and the public to communicate with each other, a new way to solve problems. However, in the implementation of this problem centered, lay probing, problem setting approach, we see the postmodem-involvement of the non-scientific public vying with the modem, the received culture, the experts, the formal. We need to know more about the Action Teams to be sure of what is happening "across the middle of Texas." What is the Action Team process? Are Action Teams truly engaging street-level practitioners and the public in policy making or is this lay probing concept already being assimilated, trivialized, and marginalized by the institution of schooling (Tyack & Cuban 1995; cf. Dery 1996)? Treisman's Action Team strategy holds the promise of authentic grassroots change. You will recall the fate of the concepts of the kindergarten and middle school, insider attempts to change schooling to better serve certain age groups. Both originally-envisioned fundamental changes were trivialized and marginalized. Kindergarten ended up looking more like first grade than a "child's garden," and most middle schools still more closely resemble high schools than places where pre-adolescent 194

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I I I intellectual needs are met. Are the Action Teams fulfilling their 1 promise? Has the Texas SSI succeeded (or will it succeed) in creating a new story in Stone's (1988) sense? If Action Teams are vibrant prototypes of a possible protean institution, what needs to be done to keep them authentic? What is the Texas SSI (or the Texas educational bureaucracy) doing to be sure they fulfill their promise? The Role of Policy and Politics Politics played an unquestionably large role in the evolution of the problem definition in several ways. The interplay of the political and policy streams was evident first in the way state level policy changes in the Texas education scene of the early 1990s attracted Foundation funding. Second, The Foundation interpreted the 1991 plan as the precursor to further major state-level policy changes. Next, Foundation policy ultimately motivated the group creating the definition to a more systemic view. Then gubernatorial politics forced the Texas players to continue searching for a definition in order to secure funding. Democratic Governor Ann Richards insisted they 195

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continue after her 1994 Republican gubernatorial opponent, George W. Bush, criticized her office for losing the funding in 1993. Politics kept the 1994 version from implementation until after the election results were known. Finally Treisman worked closely with the new Governor's Office and made the project viable again. All of this fully supports the problem definition research (e.g., Rochefort & Cobb 1994; Weiss 1989), as well as Kingdon (1984) and Polsby's (1984) theories on the importance of policies, politics, and people. I argued that American education is political. The Foundation Statewide Systemic Initiative program is likewise political; it espouses not only state-level rather than federal implementation (a conservative notion), but a concept of good schooling based on contemporary cognitive research (an often controversial notion that pits both liberal and conservative reformers against those who would not change the status quo). Treisman depicted the battle after the 1994 elections as between the religious right and the also-conservative Texas business community. The religious right wanted virtually no state interference, while the business community still wanted a modicum of top-down control with a great deal of local flexibility. 196

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I I I I I I I I Experience has shown that liberals and conservatives can find common ground when educational reform calls for control at the top through new, stricter accountability systems and yet more flexibility in the areas of curriculum, school structure, and public involvement at the school level. Liberals see social justice in the fact that local school communities have the right and obligation to decide how best to educate the children in their neighborhood, while conservatives see civic virtue in strong local control with relief from the authority of the state and its bureaucracy (McDonald 1991). Not only policy, but also values, twist and tum through the history of the Texas SSI, while politics remains an insistent and yet legitimate intruder at each juncture. Summary The case study served up several matters of interest for the educational and generic policy maker. I examined theories relating to the predecision process in public policy making with an emphasis on problem definition. Theories were supported and negated. 197

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I I i I The saga started in a traditional bureaucracy-centered way. Only because of obstacles did the project devolve to a third-party agency. The policy making process was non-linear and complex (Stone 1988; Weiss 1989; Bosso 1994), and displayed postmodern tendencies including an anti administration bias and an openness to public participation (Farmer 1995; Lindblom 1990; Rochefort & Cobb 1994; Schon & Rein, 1994; Stone 1988; Torgerson 1986; Weiss, 1989). Solution mindedness was the (bureaucratic) rule; problem-centeredness the (third-party) exception (Dery 1984). Ironically, the solution mindedness of the Foundation (trusting Treisman) led to the problem-centeredness of his third-party agency. The process did not exemplify the rational method, but was steeped in practice and action (Wildavsky 1989; Lindblom 1990). Frame reflection, even reduced to the idea of good communication, eluded the players (Schon & Rein 1994). A non-bureaucratic organization (Barzelay 1992; Crozier 1964) played a major role and a policy entrepreneur was integral (Duffy 1992 ; Kingdon 1984; Polsby 1984; Price 1971; Sanger & Levin 1992). The viable problem definition with potential for systemic change appealed to different groups who all seemed to have the same ultimate goal but did not agree on how to get there 198

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(Rochefort & Cobb 1994). So the new definition posed its own dilemmas for public officials, administrators, policy makers, and street level practitioners (Torgerson 1986; Lindblom 1990; Weiss 1989). The problem definition brought the possibility of a new, flexible institution (network) for the Texas educational community (Majone 1984; Schattschneider 1960; Weiss 1984). The whole was draped in politics (Kingdon 1984; Polsby 1984; Schattschneider 1960; Stone 1988; Weiss 1989; Rochefort & Cobb 1994; 1994a). As the theories were tested, new knowledge emerged. I was surprised by the centrality of the policy entrepreneur and his ability to work the system-for the system's own goals. What was learned has implications for generic public policy makers, educational policy makers, and educational reformers. Implications for Policy Research The implications fall under two dimensions. 1. Policy innovation for fundamental school reform is not on the horizon. Furthermore, I am convinced that policy in the classical sense could not effect fundamental school reform of the epic dimensions envisioned. Policy innovation, by definition, 199

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I I I I I I I .I I I I I I I I I would create new institutions. New institutions are not what is needed. "Protean institutions" -constantly changing networks might provide the flexibility required for radical change in the late 1990s. Networks created and nurtured common schools in the nineteenth century; they are called upon again to provide a policy environment that allows needed change to occur at the school and community levels. Initiating, nurturing, encouraging, and supporting lay probing with time and money is problem definition as implementation, even if the initial, formal"policy" is instituted by the top of the hierarchy. If we do not have lay probing tied to resources and action, we will not achieve system -as opposed to systemic-change. The policy the Action Teams are making has the potential to improve the performance of public schools because it is fashioned so dose to where the work is done (cf. Elmore 1991). Of utmost importance is to distinguish the Action Teams from task forces (Peterson 1983). Action Teams have the power (and the money and because of the money, the clout) to envision progress and take action. Task forces, as you will recall, often exaggerate problems and recommend changes that cannot be effected. Task forces have no responsibility and no 200

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resources to carry out what they tell others they should do (Peterson 1983). I depicted the current era of school reform as embracing first a top-down, then a bottom-up strategy, followed by coherence between the two ends: systemic change. You will recall, that in opposition to my admittedly policy-level analysis, many street-level practitioners, my friends and fellow school reformers, find the third strategy, systemic change, an alias for "top-down." They see increased top-down accountability as systemic change's dominant characteristic and maintain that any promised enhanced flexibility at the school level is illusory because old kinds of accountability procedures and tests will be used to measure supposedly desired new ways of doing things. The educational system is being set up for failure, they maintain. They sense a "power over" rather than "power with" relationship (Nancy Mohr, personal communication, December October 1996). The only hope of moving to a change in mindset and new ways of doing things is for the two ends of the spectrum to take the space, tools, and resources (time and money) to talk things over, plan, and take action. "Across the middle" is an efficacious education problem definition because including 201

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street-level practitioners and the public is necessary to implement the ideas of the standards movement: truly higher quality learning for all students. Still, the Action Teams cannot do it alone. The process, intellectual tools, and resources have to be carried out closer to the classroom simultaneously. They need to be carried down to the individual school-community level and right into the schools in order to effect fundamental change where it counts. Resources should be channeled to new places where this can happen and to places where this kind of problem-centered approach at the school level has already begun. Treisman called for an "indigenous leadership." The replication of the Action Teams on a smaller scale and at the local level must find as well as create this leadership. Are the the Action Teams really examples of lay probing? What does "facilitation" by Texas SSI staff mean-a process to get things done or control of the question and so, accepted answer? Who is included or excluded? Are the Action Teams providing for significant change to continue and evolve? Do university professors, administrators, teachers, and members of the public see the opportunities as top-down or do they sense their power at the middle? Are they merely serving as a "telephone" between the top and the bottom or shaping policy 202

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I through their unique perspective? What is the Texas SSI doing to ensure the efficacy of the Action Teams? How is their work (the outcomes of the grants provided) being evaluated? How are lessons learned being disseminated? Even Goals are Not Givens There is evidence in the case study of the value of research into the evolution of problem definitions without the benefit-or drawback-of knowing the outcome of that evolution. Dery (1984) advised us to resist taking even goals as given. I looked first at national political innovation as a preferred outcome and then moved to policy innovation, a "new thing," as opposed to a different locus of authority. I now see school reform as a necessarily emergent-as opposed to large scale policy -event (signaling a postmodem aversion to the modem nation-state and to mega-narratives). This postmodern aversion to large-scale solutions is in keeping with the current national climate. Ralph Nader, a quintessential and often highly visible policy entrepreneur (although not in his 1996 presidential campaign) said recently, "doing it quietly is the way to get things done now" (Durkin 1996, 51). Even with 203

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I I I all its large programs, outside of educational circles, the Texas SSI has not yet registered on the national-or even the state screen. It may be that what was happening in Texas from 1991-1996 was the equivalent of the predecision activities Janet Weiss describes in her 1989 study of the government paperwork situation as she looked back at what happened after what she deemed a definitive change in policy, a breaking away from the professional control model and the established order, in 1972. She would, however, be the first to admit that what she described as a revolution in the description of government paperwork policy was not the end of the diminution of administrative authority. Instead, it was part of a long-term trend linked, for example, with the later struggle for term limits and, a year or two later, the call for campaign finance reform. The diminution of administrative authority is a trend that has not run its course and school restructuring can be seen as part of it. Some of what Polsby (1984) calls nonevents may be incremental steps toward a grander change, for which the end is not clearly seen, let alone articulated. Each time a significant shift in policy occurs, supporters (and researchers think) "This is it!" but later the shifts will be 204

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seen as part of a more massive whole, just a point on a j continuum (Stone 1988), due, in part, to the "sloppy and complex" nature of policy change. I am not arguing for I I I I predestination, or even progress, a modem notion, after all. What I do argue is that what seems evolutionary to those in the midst of the event may seem revolutionary to those who follow. It is beyond human capability to envision epic change. But it is important to chronicle and analyze the steps that are part of a formless problematic situation to those in the middle of it. Abundant policy research in the educational arena, for example, would assure that even if later researchers declare that a major transformation of schooling did not occur, they will not be able to say, "Nothing happened." Much research is being done in the school reform arena, but mostly by educational policy researchers not always familiar with problem definition or social construction research. A wealth of stories like the Texas one lies inside the flurry of current school reform policy making; interdisciplinary collaboration among general and education policy researchers is imperative. 2. Third-party agencies working in concert with federal and state agencies and with equal power in their particular area can effect changes that government agencies alone cannot. 205

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Collaboration among state agencies and third-party agencies, similar to what is happening in Texas, is rare (Corcoran 1996). Yet, in Texas a third-party agency succeeded in bringing together many fragmented reform efforts under a state-level umbrella. It garnered considerable policy (and financial) clout and was influential in furthering an ongoing national and state policy tJuust the content standards. If school reform is to "scale,"become pervasive rather than exceptional-it needs all the help it can get. The success in Texas should alert states to an largely untapped resource, the third-party agency. In Texas, the SSI sometimes filled a void when something else had already driven administration out of the arena: state policy in one instance, politics in another. Its third-party status gave the Texas SSI the opportunity to try new things while maintaining close relations with the state bureaucracies and with the Foundation. There was no estrangement from particular people, only from certain aspects of the bureaucracy: rules, procedures, and the institutional bias of the educational system. 206

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The "era of big government is over."19 Anti administration can be interpreted to mean "beyond" rather than "against" government administrators. There is strength-and sanctuary in working inside the government while maintaining an outside presence as well. One does not need to be either inside Q.[ outside the bureaucracy; one can work in two worlds, the "and ... and" mindset. More research into the styles of the educational policy entrepreneurs and their agencies would add to our understanding of the policy changes taking place-or not taking place-in the educational arena. Also important, the success of Treisman's third-party agency because it is part of a web with the bureaucracies could instruct those educational policy entrepreneurs who disdain or fear close interaction with governmental agencies. Treisman's role as a policy entrepreneur could serve as a starting point for research contrasting the different stances. His perspective on systemic change would enrich the (education) policy world's understanding of this concept. It is important that the work of the Texas SSI in the context of its location 19 President Clinton's 1996 State of the Union address. 207

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i I I I I inside the Dana Center be better known and understood among policy theorists and educators alike. The Texas Model of an open, problem-centered, layprobing process could be a prototype of a new way for I American society to solve its problems (Bosso 1994), a stance i I that emphasizes the dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs coupled with aspiration for something better (Dery 1984). Action Teams that work "across the middle" can change how state-level agencies work with colleges and universities, schools, districts, other third-party agencies, and the public to collaborate and reach consensus-and, most importantly, take action on school reform as well as other policy areas. This dynamic is supported by the postmodem literature that argues in favor of wider inclusion, both in terms of good policy and a greater sense of community (Torgerson 1986; deLeon 1992; Fischer 1990). Lessons Relearned This study can be said to have advanced problem definition-and school reform-research by providing a postmodem perspective on that "slippery notion" (Peshkin 208

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1993) we call reality. I started with five questions and ended with many more, as posed above. To paraphrase Wildavsky, I hope those generated belong to a better class of questions. Learning from what I wrote, emerging as a different policy person after this endeavor, I was also reminded that "post" is a prefix used to me:m that we could not have postmodemism, for instance, unless we passed through modernism, however short or long a period of time that takes. My point was not to bash the educational bureaucracy. Rather it was to warn of the tacit and powerful influence of any institution on the imagination of its members. I also wanted to demonstrate to educators and administrators in general new ways they can overcome their insularity, their inability to deeply involve the public. I am now sure that a problem definition as a catalyst for a national innovation that leads to higher quality student learning, as I had first envisioned it, will continue to elude reformers. I see the value of successive definitions. I am convinced more than ever of the importance of problem definition, that a problem-centered approach, frame reflection, and lay probing are crucial. The question this dissertation addressed was, How can school reform move from elite quarrel 209

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I I I to mass movement? How can we inform the Sesnos and Mortons representatives of the larger public-that something of great value is happening? Now I ask another question, Would national public engagement hurry real reform? The answer depends on how the public's fury or benign interest was visited on the schools. What is happening -be it defined as civic virtue or social justice at the bottom and across the middle must be allowed to grow and take on momentum. Top-down, policy-induced public engagement could provide the climate and space for it. 210

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APPENDIX A Questions for Texas SSI Staff The research questions are grounded in the concepl; and brought forth in the introduction and literature rtview and generally follow Kingdon's (1984) ideas for interviews on the predecision phase of public policy making. Different questions were asked officials from different agencies. 1. How did you become aware of the opportunity of Foundation funding for Texas math and science education? Where were you working at the time? How did you become involved? What sorts of efforts were made to be inclusive in the process, that is, include practitioners, citizens, parents, and/ or students? 2. How was the writing group formed? Who were others involved at the first? Who came on board later? Did you have operating norms? What were they? 3. What were the affiliations of people chosen to write the grant or expected to join the project team? What were reasons 211

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I I for choosing (or not choosing) people from certain organizations? How did you and do you interact with these other agencies? What sort of information-gathering did the group carry out in preparation for writing the grant proposal? Are there records of interest in this regard? 5. What were some educational, political or cultural events happening at approximately the time that influenced the group's thinking? In what other sorts of information-gathering activities did you engage? How long did the grant-writing process take? 6. Did the Foundation award the Texas proposal as written the first time? What were their concerns? How did your group respond to those concerns? Did the changes the Foundation required add to the quality of the grant? 7. What are the purpose and goals of the implementation group? 8. You're a mathematician (evaluator, principal, superintendent, state agency official), how do you usually go about conceptualizing problems and their solutions? Did you use some of those techniques in this process? 9. What is your personal philosophy of education? How did philosophies of education fit into the grant-writing process? 212

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I I I What evidence do you have that the conceptualization of the problem honors different philosophies? What do you expect math and science teaching to look like at the end of the project? What else will have to change? 10. Can you give me a nutshell version of what the project is all about? What is happening systemically because of your strategies? How widespread is its influence? Will the ordinary citizen know about it? The classroom teacher? What other influences has the project had? What would you do differently next time? 11. I'd like to ask you some specifics (items gleaned from previous interviews). 12. What else do you think I might be interested in? 13. What records/ documents do you think I should study? 14. Who else can help me? Questions for Peirce Hammond These questions were sent by electronic mail. One to two hour-long telephone interviews followed. 213

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1. What was the original impetus for the SSI program? For instance, what is its relation to the standards movement? Why do some states have the impression that the Foundation "wants" to fund them? 2. How many states are involved? How many cohorts? Will all states be funded? Why or why not? 3. Have any states been de-funded? Why (short answer)? 4. How has the SSI program evolved? Why? For example ... 5. How do you ansvver states' impression that the definition of "systemic change" was ill-defined when the program began? How has that definition evolved? (drivers then and now) plus processes: network meetings, Foundation questions, and state responses, other stuff? 6. What role do the site visits play? Reverse site visits? 7. How would you respond to the critique that the Foundation expects its evaluations of SSis to look like evaluations of laboratory experiments? 8. Is the Texas plan unique in any way(s)? How about the Texas SSI's ties with Title I, Reading Recovery-are those unique? Is the Texas SSI's location in the Dana Center unique? 214

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I .I I I 9. Are there real qualms that the Foundation has with a grass-roots approach? Is it inside the bureaucracy? Is it a bureaucracy? 10. The outside-evaluator seems impressed with the Texas SSI; yet it conflicts with some Foundation ideas. Is the Foundation impressed? 11. If not, what is the relationship with the outside evaluators? What is your vision of how the Foundation works with the SSis? How is this an interactive process? How is the Foundation evaluation system evolving? 12. What has been learned in dealing with "systemic change" What does the Foundation really want? That is, what does systemic change mean? How big is the system? Does it include parents, students, other teachers, and so on? 13. How /why would you say that the Foundation "throws its weight around," especially in the area of, for instance, demanding that Treisman be Principal Investigator, Executive Director, other instances of the Foundation demanding who would be PI in other states? 14. From what I hear, there are frequent changes in Foundation officials who deal with a program. A lack of 215

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. I I I I I I I continuity that otherwise could provide understanding of what a state is about? Would you agree that is a problem? 15. Are there other people I should talk to? 16. Are there documents, especially Foundation questions to Texas in 1992 and 1993, that you could provide? 17. What have I forgotten-or not known enough to ask-that could provide insight into how policy is made in this program? Questions for Tanice Earle In general, in this part of the interview, I'm interested in how different organizations communicate with each other to reach a common goal, a type of organizational learning. There are several stages: 1. I'm interested in the interaction between the Foundation and the Texas SSI in its first year of operation. How did the Foundation and the SSI communicate? Did you send them questions? Did someone visit? 2. The first successful proposal strikes me as weak systemically (8 sites, all middle schools, for instance), but it was 216

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funded. Any insights on that? How did it then fail to show significant progress? 3. After Texas was defunded/ suspended (what's the language?), how did the Foundation stay in contact? How did Uri Treisman get involved? Who/what brought him in? 4. What was wrong with the 1994 Directions for Action proposal? I haven't found any of the documents that explain what its failings were. Did the Foundation see drafts that led up to the 1994 submission? 5. What happened in Texas after it was refunded (right language?)? Can you give me any insights on Uri's work with the new governor and others? 6. Also, as I mentioned, you had confirmed at one point that the Texas SSI was outside the bureaucracy. I'd like to talk to you about that. How is it outside the bureaucracy? How would you define the bureaucracy, etc.? Is it unique or rare in that regard? Are there some statistics on states represented by third parties-not K-12 or Higher Ed-among the SSis? Other insights? 7. Do you know about the Texas SSI's current progress? Are you impressed by aspects of it? Which? Is it unique in some ways? What do you think about the possibility of evaluating a 217

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changing the infrastructure type SSI (like Texas) through higher student achievement? Questions for Wayne Welch These questions were used in two telephone interviews for a total time of approximately two hours. I am looking for the National and regional context; the Texas SSI's evolution; the Texas SSI as contrasted with other SSis. i. How long have you been evaluating SSis? Which SSis are you evaluating now? 2. Did you have any background on Texas? 3. Why was it unfunded? 4. Is the Texas SSI unique in any way? How about its location in the Dana Center? 5. Do you see the Texas SSI as a bureaucracy? 6. Do you see it as powerful in the state? Why? 7. How do you see the Foundation working with the states? Do the networks of SSis work? Do you see an interactive process? What does the Foundation really want? 218

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i 8. Where does it throw its weight around? (replacing directors, etc.) 219

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APPENDIXB Ten Elements for Systemic Change The kinds of statewide initiatives that may win support under this solicitation are those that will analyze, review, and improve all or some of the systemic components of education in the proposing state in a coordinated way. States will be expected to integrate into plans for science, mathematics, and engineering education initiatives such components of systemic change as: 1. Organizational structure and decision making; 2. Provision and allocation of resources; 3. Recruitment and preparation of teachers and college faculty; 4. Retention and continuing professional development of teaching and non-teaching personnel; 5. Curriculum content and learning goals; 6. Delivery of instruction, including the use of educational technology; 220

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7. Assessment of student achievement; 8. Facilities and equipment; 9. Articulation within the system; and 10. Accountability systems (Request 1990, 1) 221

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