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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Teacher Professional Development Organizations’ Interpretation of Educational Language Policy in California

  • Author(s): von Vacano, Claudia von Vacano
  • Advisor(s): Fuller, Bruce
  • et al.
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Strong networks of professional development organizations serving teachers of English learners in California may enhance civil society as these organizations can democratize the policy implementation process. However, little is known about how they interpret and attempt to implement the state’s language policy. This two-part study addresses this research gap by first examining California English Language Development and English Language Arts Standards and Framework, asking how California’s official language policy has changed over time, perhaps reflecting an ideological shift towards culturally relevant literacy practices for English learners as compared to previous education language policy. Second, this research explores structures that enable or hinder professional development organizations’ ability to critically interpret and implement these education language policies and whether these structures are changing over time. Through interviews with leaders of these organizations and leading policy makers, this study provides a comprehensive analysis of state infrastructure for professional development that is crucial at a time of divestment. Methodologically, few comparative policy studies utilize an entire corpora—a large set of policy texts—pushing the boundaries of content and text analysis. This empirical case study employs content and text analysis of policies, organizational documents, surveys, and interviews of teacher professional developers through critical policy lenses.

Professional developers in this study interpreted and implemented California’s Standards and Framework in various ways: (a) some professional developers were part of the process of authoring the current set of Standards; (b) others partnered with the state and therefore used their agency to interpret and implement these policies in nuanced ways; and (c) a smaller set of organizations advocated for primary language and bilingual education among other practices. Although these organizations are doing rigorous and important work, the statewide infrastructure for professional development has been weakened during a period of divestment in professional development. This is resulting in the loss of comprehensive evaluation of this work and a loss of efficiency and economies of scale. Importantly, across all organizations there were reports of increased time spent on revenue generation, which diminished time spent on developing and implementing robust professional development programs. Recommendations include incentivizing a coalition or network across these organizations to strengthen each organization and the overall system of professional development.

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This item is under embargo until April 2, 2021.