The Prospects of State Directed Reform in Education
The problem. To improve policymaking in Iowa, the intent of this study was to inform legislators and others in the policy process about the implementation of this state's accountability legislation. This study was one of seven funded by the FINE Foundation in support of this goal. Specifically, the problem was to analyze factors that assisted in translating policy mandates into action at the local level. The perceptions of those responsible for implementing were described and recommendations made for future educational policy design. Procedures. Qualitative methodology was chosen because of the contextual perspectives it provides. Twenty-seven teachers, administrators, and board members were selected from three active school districts and asked five research questions. Through open-ended interviews and document review, the role of implementation variables and policy consequences were analyzed to develop conclusions, implications, and recommendations. Findings. Six themes emerged from the interviews and document reviews. They included: (a) a culture of ldcal change that existed prior to the state policy; (b) perceptions of policy intent; (c) how the policy impacted the school; (d) barriers to implementation; (e) unintended consequences of the policy; and (f) recommendations to legislators. Conclusions. Six conclusions became evident: (a) the intent of HF 2272 was decidedly unclear; (b) all of the districts in this study were beneficiaries of prior leadership in change; (c) regardless of intent, the policy increased bureaucracy and decreased professionalism; (d) the policy failed to increase citizen participation; (e) the policy redefined success; and (f) if legislators intend to provide continuous improvement in Iowa education, they need to be more attentive to their policy-making role. Recommendations. Recommendations to policymakers included: (a) don't abandon schools: create feedback systems between statehouse and the schoolhouse; (b) create a legislative response to accommodate the varying capacities of Iowa schools; (c) increase the likelihood of long-range planning or turn the responsibility over to someone who can; (d) honor capacity where it exists and create capacity where it does not exist.
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