Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

To Walk the Walk: An Examination of Policy Implementation in a Large Urban School System
by Hill, Courtney Elizabeth, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2020, 212; 28000132
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation presented a descriptive study of implementation of a district-level mandate for mentorship in special education in Desert Harbor Urban School District (DHUSD). In the case of DHUSD, special education has long been a bane for the school system. An impetus for continual litigation and judicial oversight, special education practices and programs have impeded opportunities for students with disabilities more often than expanding them. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the implementation of this mandate, which was designed as part of a process of remedying these long-standing ills and improving both the professional experiences of special education teachers and the educational outcome of students with disabilities. As such, this study focuses on leadership for change through its exploration of how the mandate was and is interpreted, enacted, and responded to at both the district and school levels.

Via external publications, internal artefacts, and multiple focus-group and individual interviews, over two years of data were collected from school district personnel working in support of the mandate. Special education mentors Clara and Dane, school administrators Isobel and Oliver, and teachers Amaya and Harrison offered detailed accounts of their experiences on the ground during this period of transition for the mandate and the district, overall. In addition, the work of the Department of School Support (DSS) and Department of Special Education (DSE) was captured through memos, correspondence, and researcher journals, situating participant experiences in the behind-the-scenes efforts to operationalize the policy and support its continued implementation.

Applying the model of event analysis from Smith and Keith, these data are organized into four event periods: (1) Reauthorization of the Mandate, (2) Welcoming a New CEO, (3) Mid-year Adjustment, and (4) The Mandate Moving Forward. These four windows of time cover the events that transpired within the twenty-seven months encompassed by the study, including the revision and reenactment of the mandate for mentorship, changes in leadership at the district and department level, and plans for the future of this policy, so as to enable a close reading of the ways in which the mandate was understood and interpreted in practice among those administrators and mentors charged with implementing the mandate and the teachers who lived with it. Using for analysis the literature presented in the theoretical framework of this dissertation (Chapter Two) as well as the framework for studying change adapted from the RAND study (Berman & McLaughlin, 1978a; Berman & McLaughlin, 1978b) and the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) (Hall, Loucks, Rutherford, & Newlove, 1975), this study represents an effort to understand the impact of an innovation at the ground level where change so often happens. These research findings bring to the forefront issues concerning policy implementation, leadership, autonomy, support, and mentoring practices in education.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rust, Frances O.
Commitee: Ben-Porath, Sigal, DeFlaminis, John
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Education Policy, Educational leadership, Educational administration
Keywords: Leadership, Mentorship, Policy implementation, Special education
Publication Number: 28000132
ISBN: 9798664793055
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