Cross, Anna Carollo, Jamie Brett Chisum, Jill S. Geiser, and Charles Alexander Grandson IV. “Turning Around Schools”. EdD, Boston College, 2014. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/3813.
This single case study examines how stakeholders of a local education agency (LEA) understand and implement state turnaround policy for its chronically underperforming schools. While there is ample research on how to improve chronically underperforming schools that research becomes limited when looking at turnaround implementation actions that are in response to policy mandates. This qualitative study uses the theory frame of policy sense-making to identify how implementers come to understand turnaround policy and to explore how that sense-making impacts their implementation decisions. This individual study examines how school board members make sense of their roles as policy implementers. Findings resulting from interviews, observation and document analysis highlight how the role of the turnaround school board has become ambiguous and misunderstood particularly as their historical roles have evolved, state activism has increased and the authority of the superintendent has expanded. Results indicate that board members tend to make sense of their turnaround policy implementation role primarily through their budgeting and financial oversight responsibilities. In so doing, they depend on the social and political capital they have accrued as experts of the local context which allows them to serve as resource facilitators, resource bridge builders and resource navigators. Communication between school board members and internal/external policy implementers emerged as an influencing factor in board member sense-making. Findings indicate that school board members identify the superintendent as the primary conduit for communication, and interpretation of their internal turnaround policy role. Communication from external agents such as state monitors had a mixed influence on board member policy sense-making. An unexpected finding was the role of a "dissenting voice" on school board sense-making. Recommendations are made for clarifying and strengthening the role of school boards in turnaround districts to increase the effectiveness of policy implementation.