The Georgia Project: A binational attempt to reinvent a school district in response to Latino newcomers

Edmund Tappan Hamann, University of Pennsylvania


Within the research domains of Latino/Hispanic education, educational leadership, and school/community relations, this ethnographic case study documents the creation and early development of the Georgia Project, a collaboration between Dalton (GA) Public Schools, the Universidad de Monterrey (of Mexico), and local Dalton leaders that was intended to help the schools and larger Dalton community negotiate a dramatic influx of Hispanic newcomers. This study situates the Georgia Project within the socio-historical and cultural domains of schooling and ethnic and class relations in both local and the regional contexts of Appalachia, Georgia, and The South. Then it examines the roles, beliefs, and actions of the six leaders most responsible for designing and implementing the Georgia Project, scrutinizing their evolving understandings and the actions that those understandings precipitated through mid-1998. The study follows Nader's (1972) ‘studying up’ orientation regarding who should be studied—i.e., decision makers—and her recommendation that ‘multiple and eclectic’ field research methods should be employed. Analysis of the Project relies on Hatch's (1998) delineation of how different partners bring different theories of action to educational collaboration and is enhanced by Argyris and Schön's (1975) distinction between espoused theories and theories in use—two types of theories of action. The study concludes that, as of the end of the field research, the Georgia Project stood as a promising, multifaceted attempt to confront multiple obstacles that have limited Hispanic school success and socioeconomic mobility elsewhere. Crucially, it challenged existing distributions of power, which Sarason (1990) said was an essential condition of viable educational reform. However, the Georgia Project risked not realizing its promise for several reasons: (1) Its proponents who superficially agreed on its goals still embraced different theories of action; (2) It challenged the status quo and existing lines of authority (thus provoking defensive reactions); and (3) All its leaders had additional non-Project related tasks and obligations that could contradict their Project-related efforts and intents. An unannounced curriculum and school governance battle pitting Georgia Project-embraced bilingual education and enhanced practitioner control over the curriculum against the importation of the Direct Instruction model epitomized such contradictions.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Cultural anthropology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|School administration

Recommended Citation

Hamann, Edmund Tappan, "The Georgia Project: A binational attempt to reinvent a school district in response to Latino newcomers" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9926134.