Within the field of education, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of context in understanding various aspects of education (Phillips & Burbules, 2000), and systems approaches to understanding change have become increasingly common. Yet, the simple linear algorithm implicit in current policy such as the Adequate Yearly Progress provision of No Child Left Behind (U.S. Department of Education, 2002) fails to take into account the complex and dynamic nature of education and represents an inappropriate oversimplification of educational outcomes and their measurement. This article postulates that the ecological systems model of Urie Bronfenbrenner represents a useful theoretical framework for understanding the processes and interactions involved in student achievement, and that the dynamic, non-linear changes within these systems can be effectively understood by applying the mathematical models of complexity theory.



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