Journey From the Statehouse to the Schoolhouse: A Study of the Implementation of State Policy
Thuente, Kimberly A.
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The problem: The problem of this study was to identify and analyze factors that assist in the creation of meaning at the local level of state school improvement mandates and determine what assisted in implementation at the classroom level. Procedures: Qualitative methodology was chosen because of the naturalistic and contextual perspective it provides. Twenty-eight teachers and administrators were selected from two nominated districts and asked three research questions. Case study methodology was chosen as the research design because it provides a picture of what is happening and can capture the individual differences from one site to the next. Findings: While the efforts of the two school districts to implement the school improvement mandates were different, six common themes emerged from the interviews with administrators and teachers and the classroom observations. The common themes included: (1 ) district culture and structures, (2) characteristics of information provided and received, (3) support provided to staff and the broadbased involvement of staff, (4) the impact at the classroom level, (5) the multiple dimensions of time, and (6) suggestions for legislators/policy makers. Conclusions: Five conclusions were drawn from this study: (1 ) Leading school reform is everybody's business. (2) Good policy design is worth the effort. (3) Useful policy design reflects the complexity of implementation reality. (4) Time matters. (5) Rewriting the rules is not cool! Recommendations: 1 . Bring educators into the process when decisions about design, funding , and implementation strategies are being discussed because these are the issues that most concern them. 2. Consider the processes, strategies, and timelines needed for successful implementation because effective change does not occur overnight nor in an atmosphere of frequent modification of the rules. 3. Link mandates to existing work in the district and previous improvement efforts to reduce fragmentation and overload. 4. Establish and support structures in the district to encourage professional learning, risk-taking, and open communication.
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