This multi-case study explored how local policy actors in rural school districts interpreted new teacher evaluation policies and how state-level policy actors influenced local policy responses. In the first phase of the study, teachers and administrators in four rural school districts in two U.S. states were interviewed about new state teacher evaluation policies and their own local efforts to meet policy demands, while the study’s second phase investigated the work of state-level policy actors. Shedding light on the realities of tackling reform mandates in rural schools, the study finds that teacher evaluation policy efforts are challenged by the tension between the formative and summative purposes of teacher evaluation, that teacher evaluation policies allowing local control in system design require a significant commitment at the local level, that local actors rely on and value the work of policy intermediaries, and that interpreting teacher evaluation policy and planning for implementation can be particularly challenging in small rural school districts.

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