Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A case study of Common Core implementation in a Linked Learning environment
by Biolchino, Erin Broun, Ed.D., California State University, Long Beach, 2016, 199; 10116179
Abstract (Summary)

California is in the midst of significant educational reform initiatives, especially at the secondary level. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted in 2010, and these new standards contain significant changes in the areas of math, English, and literacy across all subjects. Many districts are also implementing new initiatives to engage secondary students and increase their preparedness for life beyond high school. Linked Learning is one such reform initiative, and at least 29 districts across California are now implementing Linked Learning. Linked Learning combines rigorous academics with technical knowledge related to an industry sector to engage students in their high school experience while also preparing them for college and career. Teachers in districts implementing Linked Learning are implementing two major educational reform initiatives—Common Core and Linked Learning—simultaneously.

This qualitative case study focuses on one high school that is implementing both Common Core and Linked Learning. Hills High School (HHS) is a wall-to-wall Linked Learning high school in the Woodbridge Unified School District (WUSD) that opened in 2011, just as Common Core implementation in WUSD was beginning. This study examines the intersection of Linked Learning and Common Core at HHS by exploring teacher perceptions of the connection between Linked Learning and Common Core, the challenges that teachers faces while implementing both of these reform initiatives, and how the Linked Learning structure of HHS supports teachers.

This study is based on a conceptual framework that synthesizes three theories: Bolman and Deal’s structural frame, Fullan’s change in practice, and Reeves’s initiative fatigue. The combination of these three theories explains the context for the experiences of teachers and administrators who planned the structure of and are carrying out the work at HHS. The many different initiatives that educators face are a result of the structure of their school and district, so teachers are left to balance multiple initiatives while also balancing on the structures built by their school district and school site in an environment of change.

Data for this case study included teacher and administrator interviews, teacher observations, and document analysis. Participants in the study were 10 teachers at HHS and 5 administrators in WUSD. The teacher participants were from a variety of subject areas and experience levels and taught at HHS for at least 1 year prior to the 2015–2016 school year. All teacher participants were interviewed and observed twice in their classrooms. The administrator participants were site or district level administrators who were involved in the planning of HHS and/or the implementation of Linked Learning and Common Core at HHS; all administrator participants were interviewed. Documents collected and analyzed for this study include calendar, agendas, and minutes from professional development and Pathway collaboration meetings at HHS. Analysis of this data yielded significant findings and recommendations in relation to implementing Common Core at a Linked Learning school.

Findings from this study confirmed findings from the literature that, in order for teachers to seamlessly integrate Linked Learning and Common Core, the district must provide coherence between these two initiatives for teachers. Absent this coherence, teachers are unable to articulate a clear connection between Linked Learning and Common Core. Teachers expressed a significant need for professional development explicitly related to the intersection of Linked Learning and Common Core, rather than separate professional developments about these and other topics. This study also contains recommendations for teacher collaboration, professional development, and the master schedule as related to the implementation of Linked Learning and Common Core.

The need for coherence between multiple simultaneous reform initiatives is a critical finding that will continue to apply to school districts in California that are in the midst of several significant educational changes at one time.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Scott, James W.
Commitee: Dodoo, Ayele, Stallones, Jared R.
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: School administration, Secondary education
Keywords: Common Core, Linked Learning, Reform initiatives
Publication Number: 10116179
ISBN: 978-1-339-77647-7
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