William A.

Profile: William A. Firestone

Distinguished Professor

I have been interested in how political and organizational forces influence teachers’ work since I lived in South Dakota to conduct an ethnography of a school district implementing a major federal program in the 1970s. Since then I have studied the effects of leadership, professional development, student testing, and most recently teacher evaluation on how teachers teach. As Director of the New Jersey Mathematics-Science Partnership and Associate Dean for the initiation of the revised Ed.D. program, I applied what we know about educational change to improving teaching in New Jersey’s schools and institutions of higher education.

I teach courses on qualitative methods and educational policy in the Ph.D. program and leadership and change in the Ed.D. program. I especially like designing courses that allow students to develop projects that are useful to them or some external audience. A recent class developed a handbook on principal evaluation for New Jersey principals and their evaluators. 

Professional Affiliations:

American Educational Research Association (Vice-President for Division L (Politics and Policy Making) 2010-2013)
American Sociological Association
Politics of Education Association

Recent Grants

New Jersey Department of Education: Evaluation of Implementation of New Jersey’s Standards for Professional Development for School Administrators. $85,000 (October, 2005-September, 2006)

New Jersey Department of Education: Evaluation Of The Implementation Of New Jersey’s Standards For Required Professional Development For Teachers. 2003-2004 ($162,641), 2004-2005 ($179,000)

National Science Foundation: New Jersey Mathematics-Science Partnership, 2002-06 ($8.2 million)

Laboratory for Student Success, Temple University: State Testing And Improved Teaching: Focus On Professional Development, 1999-2005. (Approximately $1,000,000)

National Science Foundation, Supporting and Measuring High Quality Instructional Practice: Exploring Strategies in New Jersey’s State Systemic Initiative, 1999-2002, (#9980458, $857,483).

National Science Foundation, Study of Systemic Reform, Math and Science Education, and Equity in New Jersey, 1998-2001, About $935,000 (# 9804925, With Gregory Camilli)

Spencer Foundation, Study of Learning in an Urban Professional Development School, 1998-2001, $149,000.


Ph.D. University of Chicago, Education and Sociology, 1974

M.A. University of Chicago, Education and Sociology, 1970

B.A. Antioch College, Psychology, 1969

Expertise & Research Interest

Educational Policy

Education Administration and Supervision (K-20)


Qualitative Research Methods

Research Use

Educational Leadership

Research Work With Students

I am currently evaluating New Jersey's pilot teacher evaluation program. 25 school districts piloted teacher evaluation programs to help the New Jersey Department of Education design its new teacher evaluation regulations. Our study used survey and interview data and an analysis of teacher observation data to analyze the implementation process in those districts. I am currently planning a study of how teachers and principals use teacher evaluation data for improvement purposes. 

Recent & Selected Publications

Firestone, W.A. (2014) Teacher evaluation and conflicting theories of motivation (2014). Educational Researcher published on line 27, January 2014 DOI: 10.3102/0013189X14521864 (link to report)

Firestone, W.A., Nordin, T.L., Shcherbakov, A., Kirova, D., Blitz, C.L. (2014) New Jersey pilot teacher evaluation program: Rutgers Graduate School of Education, Year 2 Final Report. New Brunswick, Rutgers Graduate School of Education (link to report)

Firestone, W.A., Blitz, C.L., Gitomer, D.H., Kirova, D., Shcherbakov, A., Nordin, T.L., (2013). New Jersey Teacher Evaluation, RU-GSE External Assessment, Year 1 Report. New Brunswick, NJ: Center for Effective School Practices. (link to report)

Firestone, W.A., Nordin, T.L., Kirova, D., Shcherbakov, A. (2013). Strategies for Training on a Teacher Practice Evaluation Instrument: Advice from New Jersey's Teacher Evaluation Pilot Districts. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Graduate School of Education (link to report)

Gonzalez, R.A., Firestone, W.A. (2013) Education tug-of-war: Internal and external accountability of principals in varied contexts. Journal of Educational Administration. 51. 3,

Manno, C. and Firestone, W.A. (2008) Content is the subject: How teacher leaders with different subject knowledge interact with teachers. In Mangin, M.M. and Stoelinga, S.R. (eds.) Instructional leadership roles: Using research to inform and reform. (pp. 36-54) Teachers College Press.

Firestone, W.A. and Gonzalez, R.A. (2007) Culture and processes affecting data use in school districts. In Moss, P.A. (Ed.) Evidence and decision making: 2007 Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. (pp. 132-154) Chicago: NSSE.

Firestone, W.A., Mangin, M.M., Martinez, M.C, Polovsky, T. (2005) Leading coherent professional development: A comparison of three districts. Educational Administration Quarterly. 16(3), 413-448.

Firestone, W.A., Riehl, C. (Eds.). (2005). A new agenda for research in educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press.

Firestone, W.A., Schorr, R.Y., & Monfils, L. (2004) The ambiguity of teaching to the test. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates.

Firestone, W.A., Mayrowetz, D., & Fairman, J. (1998). Performance-based assessment and instructional change: The effects of testing in Maine and Maryland. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 20(2)95-113.

Firestone, W.A. & Pennell, J.R. (1997). State-initiated teacher networks: A comparison of two cases. American Educational Research Journal, 34(2), 237-68.

Firestone, W. A., & Pennell, J. (1993). Teacher commitment, working conditions, and differential incentives. Review of Educational Research, 63(4), 489-526.

Firestone, W. A. (1993). Alternative arguments for generalizing from data as applied to qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 22(4), 16-23.

Firestone, W. A. (1989). Educational policy as an ecology of games. Educational Researcher, 18(7), 18-24.

Honors & Awards

William Davis Prize from the University Council for Educational Administration

Fellow: American Educational Research Association