First Advisor

William D. Greenfield

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Administration


Educational Leadership and Policy




Education and state -- Oregon, School superintendents -- Oregon



Physical Description

4, vii, 241 leaves 28 cm.


The focus of this research was on the subjective meaning for the school superintendent of policy experienced as controversial, and the associated implications for the policy process in school districts. The study examines controversial policy of a particular type, social regulatory (Tatalovich and Daynes, 1984). Such policy tends to have the effect of turning: " ••. political issues into moral polarities, claims into rights, legislation into litigation, grays into black and white, and campaigns into causes and crusades" (Lowi, 1988). The primary goals were to (1) identify examples of controversial policy in education, (2) assess the usefulness of the Tatalovich and Daynes framework in the educational policy arena, (3) provide definition and description of controversial policy in education, (4) begin to describe the implementation process associated with controversial policy of a social regulatory nature, and (5) develop propositions about the meaning of controversial policy for school superintendents and the associated implementation processes. Information included in the study was gathered from a pilot study which involved a review of the prescriptive and empirical literature in the field of education and political science, six interviews with district and building level administrators, open-ended surveys of twenty superintendents throughout the state, and a set of final interviews with eight superintendents from Oregon school districts of varying size and wealth. The researcher worked within the phenomenological research tradition using symbolic interactionism as the theoretical framework for data collection. Information that identifies, defines, describes, and suggests is based on experiences and beliefs from the field, from the day to day experiences of a key actor in the policy process-the district superintendent. The symbolic interactionist values the individual’s point of view and attempts to see things from that person’s perspective (Blumer, 1967). Based on the experiences and beliefs of school superintendents, the results include examples of policy perceived as controversial, detailed definition and description of controversial policy in the educational policy arena, suggested influences on the implementation process and outcomes, a summary of strategies considered effective for the implementation of controversial policy, and implications for policy, administrative practice, and research. In brief detail, Tatalovich and Daynes describe controversial policy of a social regulatory nature as characterized by ideological warfare, the involvement of single issue groups, and an activist judiciary. This study affirms these characteristics and expands description of the phenomenon in the field of education. Controversial policy is complex, unpredictable, dynamic, and challenging. Policy can be controversial in content or become controversial at anytime in the policy process, even after the policy or resulting program or curriculum has been in place for some time. Policy perceived as controversial is described as having two dimensions: factual and emotional. Constituents, assign a perceived risk to the policy, a hazard component, and respond emotionally, an outrage component. The data confirm Sandman's (1988) assertion that both the hazard and the outrage component must be addressed with the outrage taking priority. Several factors which lead to the emotional response are identified strategies perceived to be effective for addressing both dimensions are summarized and discussed. A theoretical framework and several propositions organizing knowledge about controversial policy and its implementation are proposed.


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