Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Joseph W. Check

Second Advisor

Lilia Bartolomé

Third Advisor

Joan Becker


On November 6, 2002, voters in Massachusetts approved a ballot referendum that transformed the way schools in the Commonwealth educated English language learners. The vote occurred in a political and historical context with roots going back to the founding of the nation. Throughout the history of the United States, politicians, academics, educators, and the community at large have engaged in an ongoing conversation about the role of the native languages of immigrants and English in education and society. This long conversation about language policy and specifically the role of English often intersects with other important social issues, including race, class and opportunity.

This study examined how former transitional bilingual education teachers understood and implemented a new law, Question 2, at the classroom level. The study employed a qualitative approach, using teacher interviews to explore teachers' responses to and implementation of the new law. The study also focused on the unique challenges to implementation posed by ballot based reform measures that do not follow the normal policy development process.

The research revealed several aspects of policy implementation that expanded on previous literature. The teachers in the study reported a range of implementation dispositions and actions that included resistance to the policy and relying on experience in order to make decisions. The teachers in the study were strongly opposed to using a ballot initiative to impact pedagogical decisions. The study reinforced the understanding of teachers as the ultimate arbiters of education change.


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