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Evidence-Based Practices in US Schools: The California Context

Elizabeth Zumpe (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

The Emerald Handbook of Evidence-Informed Practice in Education

ISBN: 978-1-80043-142-3, eISBN: 978-1-80043-141-6

Publication date: 31 January 2022


This chapter examines the potential and barriers for evidence-based practices in Californian schools. In a large and complex school system, the state plays an important role in legitimating the use of certain types of evidence, but evidence-based practices are heavily determined by the resources, actors, and prevailing cultures in a local district environment. Until recently, high-stakes accountability policies mandated improvements in student test performance and intrusive interventions for failure. In recent years, the state has shifted to a different accountability approach that emphasizes local control and the use of multiple measures of school performance to pursue continuous improvement around locally developed goals and interventions. Amid this context, two stories arise about evidence-based practices in California. In one story, a set of major and highly touted districts have led the way in demonstrating evidence-informed continuous improvement district-wide. In these districts, the new state accountability approach, enabling leadership, long-term commitments to collective learning, networked opportunities to learn, and access to elite external expertise have contributed to fairly extensive practices of disciplined team problem-solving involving rich data. In a second story, schools and districts that face resource scarcity, high turnover, and conflict and in which past high-stakes accountability left a deep imprint on prevailing norms and routines, leaders and teachers have had difficulty establishing a conducive context for collective learning. However, given ingrained practices and limited absorptive capacity, it is not entirely clear how to enable productive evidence-based practices in such contexts.



Zumpe, E. (2022), "Evidence-Based Practices in US Schools: The California Context", Brown, C. and Malin, J.R. (Ed.) The Emerald Handbook of Evidence-Informed Practice in Education, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 17-33.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Elizabeth Zumpe. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited