Teacher Sense-making and Policy Implementation: A Qualitative Case Study of a School District's Reading Initiative in Science

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In response to No Child Left Behind federal legislation and Maryland's Bridge to Excellence Act, a school district created a strategic plan that included a program initiative for improving reading in secondary schools. The initiative involved the implementation of Reading Apprenticeship, a program that required content teachers to infuse reading instruction into their practice by modeling reading behaviors and utilizing tools designed to promote metacognitive conversations with their students. This qualitative case study used a cognitive perspective to explore the sense-making of a team of middle school science teachers who received training and sought to implement the program in their instructional practice during the 2004-2005 school year. The findings revealed that policy implementation varied for the different members of the team and was adversely affect by other policies and resistance by students. At the same time, policy implementation was enhanced by teacher participation in the communities of practice associated with the initiative. Implications from the study advocate that school districts actively engage in sense-giving activities and support the communities of practice that are established when new policy measures are introduced. The study calls for further research on how students respond to policy initiatives and how they shape their teachers' sense-making. This study contributed to the sparse body of literature in this new field of education policy implementation research.