Networks and Discourses Around Third Grade Reading Policy: Neoliberalism and New Governance in the Classroom
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 06/01/2019
AbstractWhile top down federal policy processes continue to deliver policy as grand solutions to real and imagined problems within the nation’s public schools, states continue to churn out their own layers of educational accountability policy. But it is no secret that state and federal policies and programs like No Child Left Behind and Reading First have failed to achieve their objectives and, with each failure, new iterations of these reforms become more punitive to schools, teachers, and students. This dissertation critically engages one such policy, Arizona’s Move On When Reading third grade reading law. The study contextualizes the policy process at the intersection of neoliberalism, new governance, and the legacy of NCLB’s scientifically based reading instruction to understand the contributions of a state level ad hoc policy committee charged with reviewing and recommending revisions to the state law. Drawing conceptually on comparative case study (Vavrus & Bartlett, 2006), critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 2012; Koyama, 2017), and network ethnography (Ball, 2012), I applied Ball’s (1993) theory of the policy cycle to understand the policy’s network and discourse as it was discursively shaped within the contexts of influence, text production, and practice effects. Consistent with vertical case study design (Vavrus & Bartlett, 2006), data were collected and analyzed at the text, practice, and broader socio-cultural level to provide macro, micro, and local level views of policy contexts, processes, and effects. Answering Gillborn’s (2005) critical policy study questions about policy drivers, policy rhetoric and reality, and policy winners and losers, the study illustrates how the state’s policy has been produced and continues to be perpetuated by networks of influence and neoliberal and managerial discourses despite status quo effects for children. Study findings reveal that Arizona’s Move On When Reading statutes, as amended, reflect the dominant narratives of testing and accountability, science, and learn-to-read then read-to learn that grew within conservative and neoliberal ideologies made popular by the No Child Left Behind Act and the National Reading Panel and which continue through the Every Student Succeeds Act. These narratives combine and travel through networks and discourses and sanction, via state statute, the punitive, harmful, raced, and classed practice of retention that decades of research has warned against, leaving the opportunity gap unchanged and critical implications for local educational leaders. Keywords: third grade reading policy, new governance, neoliberalism, discourse, networks, critical theory, policy cycle, vertical case study
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Educational Leadership & Policy