A history of a policy-level curriculum change in California

Nathaniel Trigoboff, Florida International University


With the publication of A Nation at Risk (1983) educational reform has had a prominent place on the agenda of virtually every one of the sovereign states. As in many other states California focused much of its reform effort on the teaching of reading. In a political battle over the reading curriculum, California went from the English/Language Arts Framework of 1987, widely viewed as giving the state's imprimatur to whole language (an approach rooted in the learner's experience), to the English/Language Arts Frameworks (a more traditional or basic approach) of 1998 that called for the inclusion of phonemic awareness as the building block of reading instruction in all elementary schools. This study examined the historical record to determine the major forces behind this curriculum change. The results of this study are helpful to those who wish to better understand the relationship between political forces and curriculum change in the current age of educational reform. This study utilized qualitative research methods and is presented as humanistic historical research (Landes & Tilly, 1971). The organizational framework for the study is taken from the work of M. Frances Klein (1991) which identifies seven different levels of curriculum decision-making. In this analysis particular attention was paid to the interaction of academic, formal, and societal levels, as the problem under consideration casts curriculum decision-making in the political realm. Three sources of information were used to provide the historical record. They include articles from popular newspapers and magazines, government documents, and interviews with individuals directly involved in the political process. The results of this study demonstrate the power of societal forces over formal authority in making curriculum policy decisions.

Subject Area

Education history|Teacher education|Public administration

Recommended Citation

Trigoboff, Nathaniel, "A history of a policy-level curriculum change in California" (2002). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3076654.