The Social Side Of Education Reform: A Research Primer

About a year and a half ago, the Albert Shanker Institute began a blog series on what we have termed the “social side” of education reform. The series seek to shine a light on recent research suggesting that school improvement has a collective, social dimension that is often overlooked in education policy. Most essays in the series focus on teachers and teaching; the central idea is that educators’ work -- their development and effectiveness -- is shaped by their social-organizational circumstances – e.g., their colleagues, supervisors, and the broader school system and community surrounding the school. 

The publication below pulls together six important research essays from the series. Collectively, these  essays describe compelling evidence that the school environment influences teacher effectiveness (Kraft & Papay, essay 1), that teachers’ social capital is a vehicle to increase schools’ instructional capacity (Leana & Pil, essay 2), and that teaching can be improved through effective professional collaboration (Ronfeldt, essay 3). We must look at the mechanisms and specific conditions that encourage the development of professional relations within and across schools (Spillane, essay 4). Stable, trusting relationships are key to implementing complex change (Finnigan & Daly, essay 5); and it is important to anticipate when policies may be eroding such relationships by examining their unintended consequences on the social fabric of schools (Johnson, essay 6).