Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

October 2005


Published in The High School Journal – Oct/ Nov 2005. © 2005 The University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission.


Maine and Vermont have been national leaders in state-level coordination of high school reform. Both recently developed almost interchangeable, new, voluntary, statewide frameworks that describe multiple ways high schools should change. Both frameworks— Promising Futures (Maine Commission on Secondary Education 1998) and High Schools on the Move (Vermont High School Task Force 2001)—were published in book form and include extensive bibliographies grounding their claims that they are research based. Both frameworks recommend principles and practices for improving high schools for all students. Both frameworks were drafted primarily by leading local educators with only modest support from experts based beyond the state’s boundaries. Despite these similarities, the strategies for implementing these frameworks in each state have varied and, because of this, the two frameworks’ prospects of having enduring favorable impact also appear to vary. Using historical and ethnographic methods to conduct two policy implementation case studies, this paper describes both framework’s development and then focuses on early implementation. Together the cases illustrate how more than an adequate whole-school reform framework is necessary to raise the prospect of enduring high school improvement. They also illustrate the potential of anthropological inquiry to the study of educational policy development and implementation.