In this policy brief, we discuss implications of the use of school-level reform designs for state and local policymakers. The more schools choose such reforms, the more is being learned about the importance of the state and local roles in facilitating appropriate matches between designs and schools and in supporting design-based improvement over time.
In the Fall of 1997, Congress authorized competitive grants to provide up to $50,000 per year per school for the use of comprehensive reform models. Beginning in July, 1998, Title I schools will be eligible for $120 million of the funds provided; non-Title I schools may compete for $25 million. The Comprehensive School Reform Development Program (CSRD), also known as the "Obey-Porter" program for its Congressional sponsors, provides funds for states to use in competitive grants to local school districts that submit applications specifying which schools will participate and the reform programs they will implement. States and localities must demonstrate their ability to select "only high quality, welldefined, and well-documented comprehensive school reform programs," provide technical assistance and support, and evaluate the effects (U.S. Department of Education, 1998).
In discussing implications for the state and local role, we draw on lessons from the experience of designers and educators working with New American Schools (e.g., Odden, 1997a; Odden, 1997b) and on emerging findings from current CPRE studies of capacity-building interventions and their scale up. We also draw on findings about successful school-based reform that are relevant whether or not schools are working with a national reform network. Home-grown reform models also need state and local support, and they would be eligible for assistance under the CSRD program as long as they employed research-based components that have been replicated successfully; were comprehensive and supported by stakeholders; used technical assistance from an entity, such as a university, with experience in providing support to comprehensive school reforms; and were carefully evaluated against measurable goals.