Date of Award

5-2001

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Gordon A. Donaldson Jr.

Second Committee Member

Anne-Marie Read

Third Committee Member

David Brown

Additional Committee Members

George Marnik

Nancy Yoder

Abstract

In the 1990s, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador enacted education reform legislation. As with school reform in general, these statutes sought to establish principles for restructuring and conditions for improving learning for every child in the province. However, research indicates that many reform strategies fail to improve student achievement significantly, if at all (Newmann & Wehlage, 1995).

This study examined the potential of the province’s laws for improving the quality of teaching and learning. Specific questions were: 1) how frequent and in what patterns are instructional components and enabling strategies embedded in education statutes and regulations? 2) are these instruments organized according to essential elements of policy to improve the quality of teaching and learning? 3) what do the frequency, pattern and level of policy support of instructional components embedded in the legislation mean for the likelihood of improving teaching and learning?

These questions were addressed by using the literature to design and structure a content analysis of the current legislation to surface the patterns of instructional components and enabling strategies that positively affect teaching and learning and key elements of policy that are critical for implementation. The components and strategies were: content standards, student assessments, professional development, policy alignment, curricular materials, accountability and restructured governance. The policy elements were: goals, financial resources, supporting rules and implementation structures.

The study found that instructional components were not embedded in legislation in a way that would improve achievement in schools. The statutory language focused mostly on governance. Moreover, instructional components were implicitly expressed and embedded in the duties of local administrators or school councils. Schools and boards were left with the responsibility of improving the quality of student learning but with few supporting rules and no direct financial support or implementation structures. Under such circumstances, it is unlikely that student achievement will improve.

These findings will expose ways that statutes in education can and cannot be designed to affect policy implementation at the local level, help provincial policymakers reflect on the goals and potential impact of reform, and establish new directions that can help the province to improve student achievement.

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