Legislating Learning: What Happened in the Process?
Richardson, Carole J.
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The Problem: The intent of this qualitative research is to explore policymakers' perceptions of lowa's House File 2272 (1998), the Accountability for Student Learning Act, This study describes the policy process as it applied to enactment of HF2272, and is guided by three central questions: What factors led legislators to pass HF2272? What did policy makers hope to accomplish with HF2272? How do policy makers perceive the legislation four years later? Procedures: Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 26 policymakers at the state level, as well as through review of documents related to the Act (HF2272). The document reviews and interviews were transcribed, coded, analyzed, and findings developed. Findings: Policy makers identified several factors that led to the need for educational accountability legislation, but they were not in agreement about the intent of the bill. In hindsight, policy makers expressed several impressions - both negative and positive - about the policy process and the impact of HF 2272. Conclusions: Analysis of the findings led to four conclusions. First, factors outside of lowa had significant impact on the lowa educational policy climate. Second, when threatened with the danger of losing lowa's reputation as a leader in education, policy makers responded with a bill they felt would help to restore lowa's educational status. Third, educational policy making isn't just about education. Fourth, policy makers spent more time analyzing the impact of HF 2272 after its enactment than before voting to support the bill. Recommendations: Suggestions for improving the policy process included the need for accurate information in policy design, as well the need for foresight regarding theories of action and possible impacts of policy. Increased communication with policy implementers would assist policy makers in developing educational accountability legislation that can more effectively meet educational goals.
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