Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Case Study of a School District's Commitment to Equity
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What happens when a school district commits to equity? The focus on the school district is driven by the use of a framework that defined the school district as an institutional actor in reform efforts. Accordingly, the school district plays a critical role in all reform efforts, especially when making value judgments. In order to understand the potential of a school district as an institutional actor, the research was conducted as a qualitative case study. This singular focus on an individual district enabled tools such as semi-structured interviews and document analysis to convey the intimate journey of a school district making a value commitment to equity. The review of literature began with the topics of neo-institutionalism, the central office and district leadership. Next, a description of Critical Race Theory was included to critically review the district’s role as an institutional actor. Following a recap of equity and social justice literature, current research regarding the use of professional development, especially professional development related to social justice, completed the literature review. A large suburban school district in Central Texas served as the research site. Several experienced leaders, representing central office, school board, and principal components of the organized collective, were individually interviewed. Documents created or influenced by this group of leaders during the 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2012-2013 school years were also reviewed. Restricting the case study to this time period allowed leaders to narrowly focus on a time of shared experience. Findings suggested that while various members of the organized collective may collaborate to support a district value that aligned well with their personal values, this did not guarantee emergence of the school district as an institutional actor. A CRT analysis revealed a district primed by interest convergence yet hampered by the slow pace of liberalism and the continuing impact of institutional racism. This study affirmed the value of using a CRT approach when designing and implementing reform aimed at increasing student achievement. It is recommended that this case study become one of many seeking to understand the importance of the school district as an institutional actor.
critical race theory
Warren, Rachelle LeAnn (2014). Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Case Study of a School District's Commitment to Equity. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from