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A Social Constructionism Study Using Discourse Analysis of Rural Elementary Principals' Perceptions of a State Law on Reading Literacy by Grade Three
AuthorJames, Bridget R.
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Successful implementation of a new law begins with administrators and their perceptions of the law. As stated by the U.S. Department of Education (2015), “Principals are at the center of most new State-level system reforms” (p. 14). In 2015, Nevada lawmakers passed a new law titled Read by Grade 3 (RBG3) (Nevada Department of Education, 2016a). RBG3 required all students to be reading-literate by the end of third grade or risk retention. Elementary principals were tasked with leading their staff members through the process of implementing the various mandates of the law. As such, elementary principals from three rural school districts in Nevada were invited to participate in this research study which sought to explore their perspectives on the reading literacy law. As Preston, Jakubiec, and Kooymans, (2013) stated:Leadership in rural schools is multifaceted, place-conscious, and relationship dependent; the needs and priorities of students, parents, and community members require a leader who is knowledgeable about educational policies, yet receptive to the distinctive needs, perceptions, and culture of educational stakeholders of that rural community. (p. 11) Even though many states have passed reading literacy laws as far back as 2001 (Huddleston, 2015), research on rural elementary principals’ perspectives on implementing these laws was inadequate at the time of the study. This study sought to answer the questions:1. What perceptions do rural elementary principals hold about the Read by Grade 3 (RBG3) law?2. What factors contribute to these perceptions?Rural elementary principals were interviewed about their perceptions of a new state reading literacy law titled the Read by Grade 3 (RBG3) Act. Social constructionism was used with discourse analysis to determine the significant findings of the data. Further analysis of the data was conducted to discover possible contributing factors to the perceptions. Three main themes were identified: the benefits were pretty great; RBG3 was not perfect; and RBG3 was all about the students. Subthemes were identified under the main theme, the benefits were pretty great: the law afforded principals the opportunity to meet their needs as leaders and the resources were beneficial. Subthemes were also identified under the main theme, RBG3 was not perfect: the consequences of retention, the time required to implement, and the concern about teacher stress. For state level stakeholders, the results of this study provide a launching point for a variety of discussions on the development or modification of state reading literacy laws and, quite possibly, state education laws in general. Furthermore, district and site level administrators may use the findings to begin their own discussions on how they approach the implementation of new initiatives. The finding that the rural elementary principals overall perceived the law favorably for a variety of reasons may encourage other states to explore the possibility of the benefits of state education laws. Keywords: Reading literacy, initiative, initiatives, state education legislation, state education laws, retention, Read by Grade 3, RBG3, response to intervention, RTI, multi-tiered system of supports, MTSS, educational leadership, implementation, retention, social constructionism, discourse analysis