Curriculum Policy, Controversy, and Change: Minnesota's Profile of Learning, 1993-2003

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Curriculum Policy, Controversy, and Change: Minnesota's Profile of Learning, 1993-2003

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This historical case study of Minnesota’s Profile of Learning examines how and why the policy was created, implemented, and finally repealed. The Profile of Learning, Minnesota’s first attempt at a statewide standards-based curriculum policy, was developed beginning in 1993, officially adopted in 1998, and repealed in 2003. Intended to stimulate change through statewide high expectations for students and associated improvements in curriculum and instruction, it instead became controversial and contested. The study uses a conceptual framework that addresses the social and political context for the policy, the policy actors and their beliefs about the purpose of schooling and the knowledge that should be contained in the curriculum, and the policy levers of curriculum, instruction, and teacher learning. Through the use of primary and secondary source documents and interviews, a chronology of significant events in the life of the Profile was constructed. The story was then examined to determine probable causes for the policy’s failure. These included shifts in the state and national political contexts, varied policy stances on the part of policy actors and stakeholders, interest group activity from a group strongly opposed to the policy, conflicting beliefs about purpose and knowledge, and the use of ineffective policy levers. The case study suggests the need for improved attention to the policymaking process, particularly at the transition points between the policy ideas and formulation and subsequently between policy formulation and implementation. The lack of clear policy goals, appropriate policy instruments, and attention to feasibility contributed to later difficulties with the policy, as did the failure to use evaluative information to make adjustments during the implementation process. In addition, stronger collaboration between policymakers and practitioners is needed for the development of effective curriculum policy.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2008. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Nicola A. Alexander. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 331 pages.

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DeLapp, Peggy Reed. (2008). Curriculum Policy, Controversy, and Change: Minnesota's Profile of Learning, 1993-2003. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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