Who and What Influences School Leaders’ Decisions: An Institutional Analysis of the Implementation of Universal Prekindergarten

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Educational Policy






School-community interactions facilitate connections between schools and their local surroundings; however, these relationships are subject not only to local political, economic, and social influences but also to broader political and institutional forces. Educational administrators’ decisions about programming and partnering can be considered in light of who influences these decisions and why, as well as why administrators make these decisions. Leaders make partnering decisions using either or both local input and institutional level beliefs (Arum, 2000). Why educational leaders make decisions, like with whom and why to partner, is often related to regulations, norms, or deep-seated beliefs in the school or local culture (Scott, 2001). Data from case studies of five rural school districts in New York State provides a window onto the decision-making process surrounding the implementation, maintenance, and partnering involved in the implementation of a new statewide Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program. Contrary to arguments that non-local professional influences are displacing local influences, out findings suggest that the local and normative forces are strong while the non-local and regulative influences are weak. Implications for the politics of education, institutional theory, state and national UPK policy, and the practice of educational administrators in rural communities are discussed.


policy implementation, politics of education, preschool education, public education, qualitative research, rural education