Teach Gwinnett: A Case Study
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CitationWooten, Amy Lynn. 2014. Teach Gwinnett: A Case Study. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractAttempting to drive change through federal policy is a complicated business. On the one hand, legislation that is too prescriptive may result in unintended consequences. On the other hand, federal policy lacking substance or offering too much flexibility may not produce any actual change in behavior. Policies that offer sufficient flexibility to street-level bureaucrats, who have professional expertise and knowledge of their local context, may create the opportunity to implement change in ways that support the underlying goals of federal policymakers.
In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) fundamentally changed the role of the federal government in education. In addition to requiring that states accepting federal funds hold schools and districts accountable for student achievement, NCLB aimed to ensure that all students had access to “highly qualified” teachers. The landmark legislation introduced requirements that all teachers working in core subject areas meet three specific criteria: hold a bachelor’s degree, demonstrate content knowledge, and attain full state certification. Yet, the law offered several compromises intended to minimize burden on states, districts, schools and even some educators while encouraging innovation in teacher preparation.
The experience of Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) provides an opportunity to examine how the ambition of the highly qualified policy, coupled with its flexibility, influenced teacher preparation in one of the nation’s largest school systems. While attempting to address the requirements of the policy, GCPS experienced substantial growth of the student population, which added complexity to the process of implementing the policy. In response, the district developed its own district-based teacher preparation program, Teach Gwinnett. Initially, district leaders intended to use the program to recruit recent college graduates and mid-career changers with subject matter knowledge in areas of high demand. However, the program quickly became a strategy for certifying non-highly qualified educators already working in the school system. District leaders embraced the opportunity to retain teachers who lacked required certification but who were already working in the school system. Simultaneously, the district used this program as an opportunity to ensure and reinforce candidates’ assimilation into the district’s distinctive internal culture.
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