This paper describes conceptualizations of loose coupling developed in the 1970s and uses them to trace the tightening of two coupling mechanisms in the succeeding decades. Advocates for both kinds of tightening saw them as ways to increase student achievement overall and reduce achievement gaps in particular. The first is increase in both research and interventions to tighten cultural couplings in ways that were expected to create more collaborative, learning focused schools for both teachers and students. This approach does seem to contribute to student learning where it happens, but--for all the advertising of programs to create professional learning communities--its application is uneven at best. The second was the increase in (usually testing-based) external accountability, often linked to increased sanctions and rewards. Increasing accountability is more extensive, but its effects appear to be mixed. My own research has contributed to understanding how both these trends have manifested in schools and districts.

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