A case study of the early history of the New Hampshire Alliance for Effective Schools and its school improvement program: The emergence of a state policy initiative

Date of Completion

January 1990


Education, Administration|Education, History of




This dissertation is a case study of the early history (January, 1986, through January, 1988) of the New Hampshire Alliance for Effective Schools and its primary project, the New Hampshire School Improvement Program (SIP). The key question asked by this study is "Why was this Alliance and its SIP an idea whose time had come?" To investigate this question, the researcher utilized the focused synthesis approach of policy analysis outlined by Doty (1982) and Majchrzak (1984) which involves a selective review of relevant written materials and existing research as well as a synthesis of unpublished documents, memoranda and miscellaneous materials, anecdotal stories, discussions and interviews with key players.^ The study describes seventeen key players' visions of improved schools and their perceptions of individuals' roles, commitments and contributions to the development of the Alliance. It suggests that this idea for education reform emerged because of a policy window created by a change in political climate and leadership, and the availability of an analogous solution--not because there was an explicit problem to be solved. The study concludes that the Alliance initiative developed and was placed on the public agenda as a result of state and national interest in educational improvement; available expertise, resources and political support; and the key players' history of success with collaboration on state-wide projects. In addition, powerful and/or knowledgeable people were interested in "making their mark on history"; these individuals were willing to become actively involved in this project which they envisioned as potentially successful, long-lasting and highly visible.^ Further, the study verifies Polsby's notion (1984) that policy innovation is the result of the intersection of three forces: (1) the interests of various groups; (2) the intellectual convictions of experts and policymakers; and (3) comparative knowledge of the ways in which similar problems have been handled elsewhere. ^