Williams, Mia K
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
This dissertation examines the implementation year of an inter-district collaboration between 10 rural public school districts in Colorado. In the spring of 2013, the superintendents of these 10 districts met and began a discussion of how their small rural districts could collaborate with each other in an effort to cope with the implementation of the new mandates required by the Colorado State Legislature: new Colorado State Standards, the Educator Effectiveness Act, and the new assessment system—Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Three specific questions guided my research: Q1 What historical, cultural, and political phenomena led to the formation of the Northeast Consortium for Student Achievement and Growth? Q2 What were the perceptions of two specific stakeholder groups, administrators and teachers, regarding the Consortium’s formation, leadership, and potential outcomes? Q3 In what ways did the characteristics of rural school communities influence stakeholders’ perceptions of the implementation of the inter-district curriculum collaborative? Historically, collaborations between schools districts in rural settings have been rare, other than some collaborations for financial reasons. This study interviewed 12 teachers and six administrators, randomly selected from the participating districts to gain their perceptions of the collaborative effort. In addition, I sent a Likert survey to all participants, who I asked to share their ratings on 10 statements and to voluntarily add their personal comments. I attended many meetings, from the early planning stages through the implementation year. As a superintendent of one of the participating districts and a member of the steering committee, I had great access to all meetings and persons involved in the collaboration. Therefore, my role was as a participant observer. Recurrent themes emerged from the data pertaining to research question number two that influenced that acceptance or resistance of the collaboration among the two stakeholder groups listed in research question two (teachers and administrators) including: (a) suspicion that the effort would fade away over time as had others; (b) a longing for teacher agency (concern regarding a perception of lack of control over their profession); (c) perception that their district’s administrative leadership was vital in any kind of initiative if it was to be successful; (d) that the purpose of any collaboration as perceived by the teachers was an important factor in their acceptance or resistance; and (e) that, generally, teachers had a positive outlook regarding the opportunities for collaboration, even though many concerns about its purpose existed. Rural culture affected teachers’ perceptions as three major themes emerged through the interviews, observations, field notes, and artifacts pertaining to research question number three: (a) a perception of individual independence, of which most were very proud; (b) a perception of isolation, which affected their actions; and (c) a perception of competition between districts that was, at times, stronger than a cooperative spirit. The study is significant in that it may provide a guide for future collaboration plans between small rural districts. District administrators who decide cooperation with each other is preferable to isolated efforts when it comes to providing a quality educational system for their teachers, and students may use the information that emerged in this study for guidance.
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