Constraints, Values, and Information

How Leaders in One District Justify Their Positions During Instructional Decision Making

Published in: American Educational Research Journal (2021). doi: 10.3102/0002831221993824

Posted on RAND.org on March 02, 2021

by Alice Huguet, Cynthia E. Coburn, Caitlin C. Farrell, Debbie H. Kim, Anna-Ruth Allen

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Using over 350 hours of observational data from district-level meetings, we investigate how leaders support their interpretations of problems and proposed solutions during closed-door negotiations around three policy decisions, and how they invoke race, class, and language in the process. District leaders primarily cite constraints from stakeholders, practical realities, and policies during deliberations. They also draw on beliefs, values, and—to a lesser extent—information like research and data. Race, class, and language discourses were layered with values-based reasons, and most often addressed structural challenges to equity. The balance of attention to these factors depended on the configuration of participants and the nature of the policy decision itself, particularly decision makers' perception that it would be controversial among certain groups.

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