The implementation puzzle: the FAIR Education Act (SB 48) in California high schools

Preceded by the many suicides in the LGBT youth community, along with alarming trends in assault and bullying of this population, The FAIR Education Act was passed into law in 2012. The purpose of this law was to mandate the inclusion of LGBT history into the K-12 curriculum of our public schools with the intent of creating safer school climates. This study considers the implementation of California’s curriculum inclusion law in a sampling of California high schools. With a focus on teachers as implementers the goal was to discover if teachers were implementing and if so, explore supports and barriers for teachers as well as a path forward towards fuller implementation. Using a mixed methods sequential approach, an initial survey was sent to gather data from social studies and history teachers in a sampling of high schools, to which 83 districts across Northern California responded. In-depth interviews further explored the process of implementation as it was found. Using the implementation model of James A. Banks (1990) implementation levels were assessed in both the survey and the interviews. Ernest House’s (1998) framework, borrowing from Transaction Cost Economics, was used as a means for measuring likely success of SB 48 and for looking at barriers to implementation from the teacher’s perspective. Finally, the lens of Sociotransformative Constructivism, a nascent theory blending Multicultural Education and Crtitical Pedagogy, was used as a social justice lens to create a path forward towards fuller inclusion and safer schools for LGBT youth. Results from this study add to the knowledge of not only why educational reforms often fail to create the intended change, but how we can create the necessary supports for teachers who are currently self-supporting their own implementation. A multiple regression analysis was performed which identified six independent variables that could account for 39% of the variance for the dependent variable Currently Implementing. Further findings point to shared characteristics of teachers implementing at all four levels, as well as primary barriers to be found in lack of time, resources and general knowledge. This study strongly suggests that while much of the responsibility for implementing this policy is within the responsibility of teachers, leadership will need to play a key role if this policy is to create the change as intended in school climates for LGBT youth.