Influence of federal legislation on district literacy policy development
The health of the United States depends on the education of its people. For almost 80 years, the federal government has enacted legislation to ensure all graduates are prepared for their futures, thus securing the economic landscape for the country. Researchers and practitioners have written about the acts increasingly impacting local school districts, yet with little known about the influence of federal legislation on district literary policies. The study of federal legislation in the field of education requires an understanding of the journey a concept travels from a bill’s introduction until regulatory action. The excursion does not end there, as educational law then moves to the state, which creates a policy that regulates the administration of the plan through the state Board of Education and regional service centers. From legal or local policies, regulations, and exhibits comes the creation of district literacy policies. This study was an exploration of the parts of district policy that address literacy. I defined literacy as reading, writing, listening, and critical thinking. Because policies attach to state-level standardized assessments, I narrowed the definition to grade-level-appropriate reading and writing skills. The creation of concise and targeted questions ensured the study’s design was appropriate and aligned to the intent. What executive school district leaders interpreted as the effects of federal legislation on district literacy policies formed the core question of study. The convenience sample of seven executive school district leaders in a large urban school district in Texas discussed how the enacted district literacy policy aligned with federal legislation. I examined how federal legislation impacted literacy policies in a large, urban school district. Answering the research questions entailed identifying the epistemology, methodology, and theoretical framework that formed the basis of the study. I selected a case study design as the best approach by which to interpret the realities that superintendents and their executive teams face when creating local literacy policy. The district functions and leadership competencies of school superintendents served as the theoretical framework through which to collect data. In one-on-one interviews, executive school district leaders who impacted policy development (superintendent, chief academic officer, officer of curriculum and development) described the effect of legislation and the enactment of literacy policies in a large, urban school district in Texas. A comparison of policies and other public materials addressing literacy policies underwent comparison to the executive school district leaders’ descriptions, creating a woven case study about the impact of federal education laws and how they manifest into local policy. Data collection and analysis contributed to a qualitative case study about what executive school district leaders in a large, urban setting interpreted to be the effect of federal legislation on district literacy policies. The exploration of how a large, urban school district develops local literacy policies while complying with outside mandates showed many things. When mandates supporting literacy development are in place, perhaps the intent of the legislation is not specific to bringing about literacy for all students. This study served as a bridge between research on federal educational legislation and local literacy policies. Among the study’s participants was the agreement that literacy is foundational to student success. Public policies addressing literacy were vague and compliant with outside mandates, whereas internal policies showed a shared commitment to specific beliefs, practices, and resources. The study was significant in finding that the alignment of law to policy must be both to the letter and to the spirit.