School leaders become arbiters of educational opportunity by shaping how policies are implemented within their buildings. Yet the role that school leaders play in enacting policies designed to expand equity for historically marginalized groups of students such as English learners (ELs) has received little attention in the research literature. This study examines the role that school leaders play in enabling or obstructing social justice by examining how leaders implement one policy, that which dictates the process of exiting students from EL status and reclassifying them as English proficient. Research Method: We conducted qualitative case studies of eight elementary schools across four districts in Texas, each of which included an observation of the year-end meetings when committees review EL students' files and make reclassification decisions, as well as a semi-structured focus group interview. Findings: School leaders both enable and obstruct practices that reflect social justice leadership while implementing reclassification policy, but lack awareness that they are doing so. Policy understanding and approach to implementation mediated the ways in which school leaders were able to leverage policy implementation to enable social justice and promote equity. Implications: We draw upon research findings to provide a framework for helping school leaders leverage policy implementation to enact social justice in their schools.
State and Local Policy
Administration and Leadership