Doctor of Philosophy
Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D.
Christine Lee Bae, Ph.D.
Katherine Mansfield, Ph.D.
Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Ph.D.
A WATERSHED MOMENT: IMPLEMENTING STATE ENVIRONMENTAL LITERACY POLICY INTO A CENTRAL VIRGINIA SCHOOL DISTRICT
By Melinda J. VanDevelder, Ph.D.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Virginia Commonwealth University, 2018
Director: Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Educational Leadership
Policy goals may be impossible to achieve at the classroom level (Ravitch, 2014), as policy depends on those who implement it (Lipsky, 1980). The purpose of this research was to investigate how the voluntary environmental educational executive order, EO42, was implemented and executed in a Central Virginia Public School district. The requirements of EO42 were former Virginia Governor MacAuliffe’s response to a multi-state policy he signed called the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which called for all Virginia public education schools to implement Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) with students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Interviews of state educational and environmental policy-makers indicated EO42 was a hurried process that came without funding and which was done, in large part, to make a political statement. An interview of the Central County Public School’s science specialist portrays the practices used with local environmental outreach educators in order to prepare 64 middle and high school science teachers to implement MWEE lessons required by EO42 for the 2015-2016 school year. A 2 x 2 Chi-squared analysis done on data collected from teacher surveys indicated a statistically significant difference [Chi-squared (1 d.f.) = 4.17, p < 0.05] between teachers’ professional development attendance and teachers’ perceived ability to complete a MWEE lesson with their students. Analyzed teacher survey data also indicates that teachers who had attempted MWEEs in prior years were more likely to attempt a MWEE with their students [t (61) = -2.846, p = 0.006] than were teachers who had not. Though 83% of teachers reported completing a MWEE with the majority of their students, analysis of teacher-reported lessons indicated that only 22% of teachers completed the four components required of a MWEE (environmental issue definition, an outdoor field experience, an action project, and project synthesis and conclusion). Results indicate that there is much work to be done when introducing new policy into secondary schools (Ball, Maguire, & Braun, 2012).
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