Top-Down, Routinized Reform in Low-Income, Rural Schools


  • Robert Bickel Marshall University
  • Terry Tomasek Marshall University
  • Teresa Hardman Eagle Marshall University



Educational Change, Elementary Secondary Education, Low Income Groups, Mathematics Achievement, Program Effectiveness, Program Evaluation, Rural Schools, Science Achievement


Since 1991, the National Science Foundation has funded fifty-nine state, urban, and rural systemic initiatives. The purpose of the initiatives is to promote achievement in math, science, and technology among all students, and to encourage schools and communities to secure the resources needed to maintain such outcomes. The Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative (ARSI) is a six-state consortium which focuses these efforts on low-income, rural schools. The primary means of accomplishing ARSI's aims is a one-day-one-school site visit, called a Program Improvement Review, done by an ARSI math or science expert. The centrally important Program Improvement Reviews, however, seem to be premised on unsubstantiated assumptions as to the static, easy-to-understand, easy-to-evaluate nature of educational achievement in rural Appalachian schools. As a result, the Reviews resemble exercises in early-twentieth century scientific management, and are unlikely to enhance achievement in science or math. Consequently, even if there is merit to the commonsense human capital approach to economic growth and development on which systemic initiatives are tacitly premised, this first- person account makes a case that desired payoffs are unlikely to follow from the work of ARSI.


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Author Biographies

Robert Bickel, Marshall University

Robert Bickel is a Professor of Advanced Educational Studies at Marshall University. His recent research is concerned with school size as a variable which moderates the relationship between social class and measured achievement, and with contextual factors which occasion the at-risk designation.

Terry Tomasek, Marshall University

Terry Tomasek has taught high school science, and is completing a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Science in Biology at Marshall University. Her thesis research focuses on the effects of valley fill construction on aquatic environments.

Teresa Hardman Eagle, Marshall University

Teresa Hardman Eagle is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Studies at Marshall University. A former high school math teacher, she is doing ethnographic research on women as administrators in educational institutions and social service agencies.




How to Cite

Bickel, R., Tomasek, T., & Eagle, T. H. (2000). Top-Down, Routinized Reform in Low-Income, Rural Schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8, 12.