Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

January 2004


Published in JOURNAL OF EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS PLACED AT RISK, 10(1), 1–9. Copyright © 2004, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Used by permission.


Though I have only just realized it, this special issue of Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR) did not originate at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in April of 2004, where four of the five articles shared here were first presented, although that forum obviously mattered to the creation of this issue. Rather, this issue began taking shape 14 years ago, in 1990, when, as an undergraduate, I took a seminar with the founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools, Ted Sizer, and his colleague, Rick Lear. At that time, I learned that the Coalition’s efforts were playing a modest but real role in the launch of a broader movement—comprehensive school reform (CSR)—that asserted most schools’ organizational structures were problematic and in need of a total and systematic overhaul, not just tweaking, changes for some students, or different efforts from some teachers. I also learned of the Coalition’s nascent partnership with the Educational Commission of the States (ECS), a project called RE:Learning, that sought to bridge policy and practice. That partnership acknowledged that comprehensive whole-school changes needed to be complemented by changes at some remove from schools themselves. These entailed making changes at the level of state education policy. ECS then (and now) existed to bring together major state-level education policymakers, like governors and education commissioners, to share ideas and strategies for educational improvement.