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At the Crux of a Systemic Reform: California Partnership Academy Lead Teachers in Comprehensive High Schools in a Linked Learning District


The purpose of this exploratory case study is to focus a lens on lead teachers of California Partnership Academies (CPAs), who are responsible for overseeing the operation and coordinating the components of a complex, contra-normative secondary reform model. This study examines the stresses experienced by four CPA lead teachers at two different sites in a district committed to placing the Linked Learning model in the center of its secondary school reform strategy. Previous research has identified stressors inherent in the lead teacher role, and in the career academy reform studied here. This research assess the impact of those stressors, strategies lead teachers employ and conditions that facilitate lead teachers' work by looking at the dynamics of their role, the context in which they work, and patterns of leadership distribution through three key relationships, each focused on a particular routine.

This study found that the primary role-related stressor these CPA lead teachers experienced was overload, which may have implications for the sustainability of the model, particularly as it is scaled up. The contra-normative nature of this reform was evident in the conflicts that arose for lead teachers in each of the three relationships examined. In their relationships with administrators focused on the master schedule, traditional patterns of student placement into AP and non-AP tracks conflicted with the effort to create pathways for all students to access both college and career. Teachers struggled to create strategies for addressing this issue. In lead teachers' work with their peers on interdisciplinary curriculum, the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the reform conflicted with the autonomous, individualistic and subject-oriented nature of teacher culture. Where collective co-performance defined school-wide patterns of leadership distribution, lead teachers were better able to influence collaborative teacher norms. Lead teachers' relationships to community and industry partners facilitated integration of work-based learning into the CPA instructional program, accessed new resources and challenged the traditional segregation of academic and vocational education. This work was greatly facilitated by district support but limited by the capacity of site administrators who were often unaware of these partnerships, and were not developing systemic ways to include them in the school's vision or program.

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