Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Research

First Advisor

Kathleen Gershman


The Common Core State Standards mark the latest state-led efforts to standardize K-12 education in the United States. The initiative aims at providing a clear and consistent framework to inspire students to develop strong foundational knowledge and deep conceptual understanding, skills considered critical for shaping students’ college and career readiness and successes. Given the continuing importance of educators’ role in translating the new content standards into achievable goals, it was useful for stakeholders to understand how educators in rural districts in the state of North Dakota were developing the local capacity to navigate the changes.

This qualitative study used a grounded theory methodology to understand the perspectives of teachers and administrators in rural school districts about their efforts to garner local instructional strategies and curriculum resources to implement the Common Core. Consistent with the study framework, 22 participants (14 teachers, 2 instructional coaches, 5 principals, and a superintendent) from five rural school districts participated in two separate sessions of interviews. Non-participant observation was used to contextualize the interview data. Strauss and Corbin’s (1998) systematic approach to concept and category development was used as a lens to analyze the data. Open and intermediate coding techniques were used to identify and refine codes, concepts, and categories for the development a proposed theory.

The study findings showed that the alignment process signified a profound shift for educators. While schools used local and regional professional learning communities to provide training for educators, specific guidelines and Common Core-aligned curriculum materials to gauge successful implementation were lacking. Teachers explored multiple sources to supplement the already existing materials. The implementation process required a significant amount of time, which put pressure on teachers’ instructional and planning time. In addition, both administrators and teachers felt the pressure from the anticipated drop in students’ test scores, based on the comparative rigor emphasized by the new state assessment criteria. Recommendations for additional time for teacher training and collaboration are discussed.