Rural school district superintendents' perceptions of new legislative reform : a qualitative study

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Rentz, Crystal Alicia

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The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the perceptions of rural school district superintendents on the implications of new federal regulations being implemented due to the failure of NCLB to meet its intended targets. This study was guided by the following three research questions: (a) What are rural superintendents’ perceptions about current legislative reform as a consequence of ESSA and state education policy? (b) What are the challenges to implementing ESSA and state education policy in rural school districts? (c) What recommendations do rural superintendents have for ESSA and state education policymakers? The objective of this study was to investigate how superintendents from rural school districts of similar sizes and demographics received information concerning reforms such as ESSA and how they developed plans to implement organizational change. Ten superintendents from a representative sample of rural school districts were interviewed about their lived experiences in the current era of educational transition following the federal passage of ESSA. Data analysis yielded the following six themes: Inconsistent Message Delivery by Regulators, a Compliance Mentality, Financial Constraints, a Need for Differentiation by School District Size and Geography, a Lack of Human Capital, and the Importance of Service Centers. This study found that rural school superintendents were not adequately equipped with all the information and resources needed to implement organizational change effectively at the initiation of new legislative reform. Legislative action is either compliance driven or reform driven. Therefore, if legislation is truly designed to reform education, policymakers need to develop policies that are differentiated and realistic for all school districts and to arm superintendents with needed information to form effective implementation plans.


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