Comprehensive School Improvement Mandates : The Challenge For Iowa's Small Schools
The problem. The problem of this study was to describe how educators from Iowa's small districts understood the intent of House File 2272 and how they implemented that legislation. Further, this study sought recommendations from educators for legislators to consider in making future policy. This was one of seven studies of 2272 sponsored by the FINE Foundation. Procedures. Qualitative methodology was selected for this study to gather contextual perspectives. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, data transcribed and coded, and district documents collected and reviewed. Site reports were provided to participant districts to serve as a member check. Findings. Cross-site findings included; (1) while accepting the intent of increased accountability, educators suspected legislative biases against small schools; (2) leadership provided the supports to facilitate successful implementation; (3) HF 2272 did not hinder community relations and perhaps enhanced them; (4)assessment became more formalized and districts more data-driven; (5) barriers of time and money existed, but change issues and teacher turnover were also formidable; (6) unintended consequences included increased educator workloads, a narrowing of curriculum, and a perception that policymakers disrespected educators; and (7) a call for greater voice for educators in future policy decisions was heard. Conclusions. Conclusions drawn: (1) efforts prior to 2272 paved the way for successful implementation of that law, (2) central office leadership was key to implementation, (3) going beyond compliance required addressing barriers skillfully, (4) legislative intent and suspected motive sent conflicting messages to educators, (5) adaptation was a way of life in small schools, and (6) policymakers must provide resources if deep reform is the goal. Recommendations. In the broadest terms, educators wanted legislators to understand that if the legislature was to reform education in Iowa, they had to first gain a significantly more refined understanding of schools and the governance of the system that they wish to change. As important, to make a convincing effort that their efforts were not just politically motivated, they had to show support for the reform effort.
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