Implementing State Educational Policy in Iowa: Voices from the Field
Moore, Leslie Ann
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The problem: The problem of this qualitative policy implementation study was to describe and analyze what implementers understood as the intent of Iowa's Accountability for Student Learning Act as well as the processes and strategies used by small public school districts to implement this policy. This study also sought recommendations from implementers regarding improved design for future educational policy. Procedures: In-depth, one-on-one, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 29 teachers and administrators in three small, rural K-12 Iowa districts actively implementing HF 2272. Interview data were transcribed, coding schemes developed, and the constant comparative method was used to categorize data. Field notes and districts' relevant documents were reviewed. Data were analyzed by first developing a site report for each district. The researcher then looked across the site reports for themes. Discussion of the findings includes a consideration of the literature on accountability, standards-based reform, and policy implementation. Findings: 1) 2272 did not impact community relations, 2) the perceived intent was increased accountability to raise student achievement, 3) districts increased their use of data, 4) districts developed more formal assessment systems, 5) barriers included lack of time, unclear policy expectations, and the external nature of the mandate, 6) supports included their AEA and a culture of professional development and distributed leadership, 7) unintended consequences included increased educator workIoads, increased stress levels, and a sense of losing local control, and 8) educators recommended policymakers involve them in policy decisions. Conclusions: 1) active districts' culture/infrastructure assisted in implementation, 2) voluminous public reporting does not increase community engagement, 3) state and legislative consideration of implementation was lacking, 4) AEAs were crucial in capacity building, and 5) implementation was an intense, stressful, and not always productive process. Recommendations: 1) support Iowa's AEAs, 2) design flexible policy, 3) build capacity, 4) learn about policy instruments, and 5) involve educators in decisions that affect them.
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