Factors impacting teacher efficacy in policy implementation: the case of the reading first initiative
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Implementation of educational innovations is a complex endeavor influenced by any number of individual and organizational factors (Berman, McLaughlin, Bass, Pauly, & Zellman, 1977; Elmore, 1978, 1979; Guskey, 1988; Huberman & Miles, 1984). Even as implementation research findings indicate policy success is most directly impacted by two broad factors -- local capacity and will (McLaughlin, 1987), "policy-directed change ultimately is a problem of the smallest unit" (McLaughlin, 1987, p. 171). Inasmuch, however, as individuals have influence over factors impacting implementation so too do organizational dynamics affect how individuals act in response to policy initiatives (Elmore, 1978; 2004; Huberman & Miles, 1984). Considerable resources have been expended over the years to build individual and organizational capacity to implement change (Guskey, 2000). Little is understood, however, about what it takes to influence the individual and organizational will to do so. Federal agencies, seeking to change "institutional behavior" at state and local levels "by offering... financial assistance on the condition that [subordinate agencies] undertake certain prescribed activities" (McDonnell, 2005), have tightened control over disbursement of categorical program funds by linking payout of federal monies more closely to learning outcomes. At the same time that such strenuous requirements may serve to shift the political will at state and local levels, federal funds have been allotted for the purpose of building individual and organizational capacity for implementing change in school and classroom practices. Milbrey McLaughlin's (1987) claim that "policymakers can't mandate what matters" is particularly salient in the current atmosphere of high stakes accountability created by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The focus of this study, implementation of the Reading First initiative funded under Title I of NCLB, offers a complex context in which to examine the impact of environmental factors on the individual will to change teaching practices aligned with program requirements. This study is framed by the literature on teacher efficacy as I examine factors perceived to either enhance or undermine individual capacity and commitment for meeting policy goals. As the focus on implementation of federal education policies shifts from compliance with state and local requirements to the provision of technical assistance for supporting both teacher and student learning outcomes, it is imperative that research efforts focus on individual perception of environmental factors impacting such outcomes. In that sense, teachers may act as "informants and guides" to more effective policy design and implementation (McLaughlin, 1990, p. 15).