How do district and school contexts relate to teachers' opportunities to learn? Multilevel analysis of the 2000 SASS database
"Teachers' opportunities" to learn (TOL) has emerged as one of the most important policy issues in the context of standards based reform. Consequently, policy and school contexts that influence TOL are clearly the next critical issue on the agenda. This dissertation investigates the relationship between district and school contexts, and TOL, based on a conceptual frame that derives from the multi-perspective embedded context model developed by McLaughlin and Talbert (2001). This conceptual approach contributes to a better understanding about the relationship between multiple and embedded "real" school contexts and TOL, through conceiving of "context" as a complex and interactive construct.
Using a series of HLM/3L (3-level Hierarchical Linear Modeling) statistical analyses of a large dataset that is nationally representative, the 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, this dissertation provides several noticeable findings regarding the relationship between embedded district and school contexts and TOL. First, this study found that a substantial proportion of the variation in TOL is attributed to two multi-level district and school contexts. In particular, district contexts apparently contribute more to the variability of TOL than school contexts. Furthermore, it may be that district administrative contexts relate to the effects of professional learning communities on TOL. Second, the findings of this study show that diverse social system contexts, administrative and organizational contexts, and institutional contexts factors at the school and district level have complex and interactive relationships with TOL. Finally, this study found that institutional contexts identified in this study by three factors---community circumstances, parents' socio-economic conditions, and diversity of students' race---are significantly related to TOL.
For policy researchers, this dissertation suggests that adopting the multi-perspective embedded context model as a conceptual framework would provide a more complete understanding of how multiple and embedded contexts shape TOL. This dissertation also provides three implications for policy makers and educational leaders. First, district units have to be given more attention in terms of the improvement of TOL. In addition, the importance of institutional contexts must be recognized and discussed. Finally, some specific contextual factors thought to influence TOL in the literature are suspect. There is a need for cautiously verifying the effectiveness of these contextual factors on TOL.
0530: Teacher education