• Georgia Rural District Leaders’ Experiences with the Strategic Waiver School System Flexibility Options: A Multi-Site Case Study

      Jenkins, Cheryl Lynn; Tift College of Education
      As part of the reform efforts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, flexibility waivers are allowed to enable local school leaders to create an environment tailored to unique school community needs. The purpose of this qualitative, multi-site case study was to chronicle and analyze the implementation of the Strategic Waiver School System (SWSS) flexibility option offered to Georgia school districts. Guiding this investigation were the theoretical framework of change theory, undergirded by an accountability framework for analyzing education reform. The main research question asked: How do successful school districts implement the SWSS flexibility option? Four ancillary questions that examined the school districts’ implementation in terms of commitment, coherency, congruence, and continuity also guided the study. The researcher sought to understand and describe school leaders’ perceptions regarding their experiences with implementing the strategic waiver initiative in selected Georgia school districts. The research participants were district level leaders from four small rural school districts. This research study implemented a qualitative method, which provided the flexibility to investigate this phenomenon in depth. This approach allowed the researcher the opportunity to capture the participants’ feelings and lived experiences with this new initiative. Use of content analysis and Nvivo 12 software of interviews, survey, and documents revealed five thematic codes. District leaders perceived that the initiative had allowed them the autonomy and flexibility necessary to improve educational outcomes for all students. Implications were to provide professional learning opportunities to address the limited knowledge of SWSS waivers held by district leaders and the creation of a monitoring system to track waiver usage and share ideas. Recommendations for future research included targeting suburban district leaders’ perspectives and conducting of a quantitative survey to gather perspectives or rate customer satisfaction.