Abstract This multi-case study explores how local policy actors – teachers and administrators – interpret new state teacher evaluation policies developed in response to federal pressures. In the study’s first phase, local policy actors from six small school districts in two U.S. states were interviewed about their efforts to develop teacher evaluation systems to address new state policies. In the second phase of the study, interviews with state-level policy actors in the two states expanded on themes from the first phase. The study’s conceptual framework recognizes policy interpretation as a distinct phase in the policy process, and it addresses the context, influences, and multiple actors involved in policy interpretation. Using an open coding approach consistent with grounded theory, interviews were analyzed, and supporting documents were used to triangulate the data. The study finds that local actors embrace teacher evaluation as a means of professional growth, yet they hold serious concerns about including measures of student growth in teacher ratings. In addition, the study reveals that the density of collaboration at the local level influences the scope of policy interpretation; that local policy actors rely on state-level stakeholders – who are shown to serve as policy intermediaries – to aid in policy interpretation; that the messages of policy intermediaries influence local actors’ understanding of policy goals and attitudes toward implementation; that collaboration among policy intermediaries benefits local policy actors; and that state political culture influences policy activity at both the state and local levels. Since this case study was conducted in only two states and only a small number of local and state-level policy actors were interviewed within each state, a total of 35 participants across both phases of the study, the research is limited and findings cannot be generalized.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2015. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Karen Seashore. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 336 pages.
Interpreting Teacher Evaluation Policies: The Perspectives of Local and State-Level Policy Actors in Two U.S. States.
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