The eye of the beholder: The impact of a district implementation plan of state mandates as perceived by the implementers

Mary Margaret Underhill, Florida International University


The purpose of this inquiry was to investigate the impact of a large, urban school district's experience in implementing a mandated school improvement plan and to examine how that plan was perceived, interpreted, and executed by those charged with the task. The research addressed the following questions: First, by whom was the district implementation plan designed, and what factors were considered in its construction? Second, what impact did the district implementation plan have on those charged with its implementation? Third, what impact did the district plan have on the teaching and learning practices of a particular school? Fourth, what aspects of the implemention plan were perceived as most and least helpful by school personnel in achieving stated goals? Last, what were the intended and unintended consequences of an externally mandated and directed plan for improving student achievement? The implementation process was measured against Fullan's model as expounded upon in The Meaning of Educational Change (1982) and The New Meaning of Educational Change (1990). The Banya implementation model (1993), because it added a dimension not adequately addressed by Fullan, was also considered. A case study was used as the methodological framework of this qualitative study. Sources of data used in this inquiry included document analysis, participant observations in situ, follow-up interviews, the "long" interview, and triangulation. The study was conducted over a twelve-month period. Findings were obtained from the content analysis of interview transcripts of multiple participants. Results were described and interpreted using the Fullan and Banya models as the descriptive framework. A cross-case comparison of the multiple perspectives of the same phenomena by various participants was constructed. The study concluded that the school district's implementation plan to improve student achievement was closely aligned to Fullan's model, although not intentionally. The research also showed that where there was common understanding at all levels of the organization as to the expectations for teachers, level of support to be provided, and availability of resources, successful implementation occured. The areas where successful implementation did not occur were those where the complexity of the changes were underestimated and processes for dealing with unintended consequences were not considered or adequately addressed. The unique perspectives of the various participants, from the superintendent to the classroom teacher, are described. Finally, recommendations for enhancement of implementation are offered and possible topics for further research studies are postulated.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|School administration

Recommended Citation

Underhill, Mary Margaret, "The eye of the beholder: The impact of a district implementation plan of state mandates as perceived by the implementers" (1998). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9821648.