Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Zeena Zakharia

Second Advisor

Patricia Krueger Henney

Third Advisor

Christian Chun


The larger frame of this study contributes to the literature that examines how educators negotiate, contest, appropriate, and reconstruct federal and state-level policy in their classrooms. More specifically, the study contributes to the field of language education policy, and in particular to how educators make sense of, and implement, English Language Development (ELD) Standards. I focus on WIDA ELD Standards, as they are currently in use in 42 U.S. states, territories, and federal agencies as well as more than 500 international schools throughout the world. The literature review identifies a problem for standards-based education systems using the 2012 WIDA Standards Framework: various reports show that they are not sufficiently user-friendly in their design to be meaningfully operationalized by educators designing curriculum in practice, leaving many to either ignore them altogether or to ask for additional help from standards-setting organizations and state departments of education, and requiring a locally-created “extra layer” to be used. This study focuses on how one such locally-created “extra-layer,” the Next Generation English-as-a-Second-Language Project and its Collaboration Tool, might facilitate processes to promote the simultaneous development of language and content, a central aspect of the WIDA ELD standards. I approach this study through a critical democratic theoretical framework coupled with a conceptual framework that sees policy as a social practice of power. Together, these frameworks open up spaces to consider how educators maneuver power to creatively and intentionally engage with policy in their classrooms.

Findings indicate that educators would feel better supported in operationalizing WIDA ELD standards if they further specified language functions, features, forms, and genres from the context of disciplinary learning, and if they were presented in a more streamlined, actionable, and user-friendly way. Ultimately, the study underscores the importance of developing greater authentic dialogue and genuine democratic practices in policymaking, and underscores the importance of reflective spaces that support educators in unpacking sociocultural, sociohistorical, and sociopolitical aspects of education and the world surrounding it.

Implications of this study can inform policy processes, educator preparation programs, professional development offerings, and the design of future language development standards and related tools.