Educational improvement is fundamentally a local enterprise. The people who can bring it about are those who provide educational services—teachers, principals, perhaps local district administrators. Nevertheless, the federal government has sought a role for itself in stimulating and supporting improvement. Secretary of Education T. H. Bell remarked at this conference that an important federal task is to build state and local capacity in education. On the assumption that existing gaps in local capacity prevent greater educational effectiveness, the government has provided various kinds of resources with which it attempts to fill the gaps with knowledge and skills. The record of these efforts is mixed. None has worked exactly as intended, mostly because the people who are the targets of a federal improvement effort generally modify the federal plan to fit their own ideas and circumstances. Although this is to be expected and even welcomed if local initiative is crucial to educational improvement, it conflicts with the federal government's aim of making a visible and predictable difference with its programs.

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