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Journal of Educational Change

, Volume 10, Issue 2–3, pp 101–113 | Cite as

Large-scale reform comes of age

  • Michael Fullan
Article

Abstract

This article reviews the history of large-scale education reform and makes the case that large-scale or whole system reform policies and strategies are becoming increasingly evident. The review briefly addresses the pre 1997 period concluding that while the pressure for reform was mounting that there were very few examples of deliberate or successful strategies being developed. In the second period—1997 to 2002—for the first time we witness some specific cases of whole system reform in which progress in student achievement was evident. England and Finland are cited as two cases in point. In 2003–2009 we began to observe an expansion of the number of systems engaged in what I call tri-level reform—school/district/government. As Finland, Singapore, Alberta, Canada, Hong Kong, and South Korea continued to demonstrate strong performance in literacy, math and science, Ontario joined the ranks with a systematic tri-level strategy which virtually immediately yielded results and continues to do so in 2009. The nature of these large-scale reform strategies is identified in this article. It can be noted that very little productive whole system reform was going on in the United States. Aside from pockets of success at the level of a few districts since 2000, and despite the presence of a ‘policy without a strategy’ in the form of No Child Left Behind the US failed to make any progress in increasing student achievement. In the final section of the paper I consider the early steps of the Obama administration in light of the ‘theory of action’ of whole system reform identified in this article and predict that there we will see a great expansion and deepening of large-scale reform strategies in the immediate future, not only in the U.S. but across the world.

Keywords

Large scale reform Capacity building Leadership for change Whole system improvement 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OISE/University of TorontoTorontoUSA

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