Cognition and policy implementation: District policymakers and the reform of mathematics education

James P. Spillane*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


Using a cognitive lens, this article explores school districts' response to recent mathematics reforms. Analyzing the ideas about instruction that district leaders construct from the mathematics reforms, I identify dominant patterns in their understandings. Whereas district leaders in the study understood the mathematics reforms as representing change for their mathematics policies and programs, their understandings tended to miss the full import of the reforms. Focusing on the forms of the mathematics reforms rather than their epistemological and pedagogical functions, district leaders' understandings tended to focus on piecemeal changes that often missed the disciplinary particulars of the reforms. Based on this analysis, I argue for the inclusion of implementers' interpretation of the reform message, along with the more conventional variables such as local resistance to reform and limited local capacity to carry out reform proposals that dominate in the literature in models of the implementation process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-179
Number of pages39
JournalCognition and Instruction
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cognition and policy implementation: District policymakers and the reform of mathematics education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this