The Collective Mediation of a High-Stakes Accountability Program: Communities and Networks of Practice

  • Paul CobbEmail author
  • Kay McClain
Part of the Mathematics Education Library book series (MELI, volume 48)


This article describes an analytic approach for situating teachers’ instructional practices within the institutional settings of the schools and school districts in which they work. The approach treats instructional leadership and teaching as distributed activities and involves first delineating the communities of practice within a school or district whose enterprises are concerned with teaching and learning and then analyzing three types of interconnections between them: boundary encounters, brokers, and boundary objects. We illustrate the analytic approach by focusing on one urban school district in which we have conducted an ongoing collaboration with a group of middle school teachers. In doing so, we clarify the critical role that school and district-level leaders can play in mediating state and federal high-stakes accountability policies. We conclude by discussing the implications of the analysis for the process of upscaling and the diffusion of instructional innovations.


Community of practice Boundary encounters Brokers Boundary objects Upscaling Networks of practice 



The analysis presented in this article was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants REC-0231037 and REC-0135062. The opinions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the position, policy, or endorsement of the foundation.

We are grateful to the teachers and administrators in the Washington Park district for opening their schools and classrooms so that they became sites for our learning. We are also grateful to the reviewer of the manuscript for the helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Madison School DistrictPhoenixUSA

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