Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Goli Rezai-Rashti


In 2009, the Ontario Ministry of Education mandated that all school boards in Ontario develop and implement equity education policies, as specified in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119: Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools (2009). This dissertation documents the enactment of Ontario’s Equity Strategy in one district school board and three schools in Ontario.

Analysis of education policy in local contexts must account for the influence of globalized policy discourses including performativity, accountability, and marketization. Policy sociology and policy enactment theory served as a conceptual framework from which to understand the everyday actions of school board staff and school leaders engaged in equity policy work. Through a qualitative, case study approach, interviews were conducted with six staff members at the school board and four school leaders to document their work enacting the equity policy.

Findings revealed that a historical commitment to social justice and an organizational unit devoted to equity work facilitated the enactment of the equity policy at the board. The tenacious commitments of social justice-oriented school leaders made equity work possible at the school level. The analysis of policy documents and the case study at the school board and within schools illustrated an instrumental framing of equity, intrinsically tied to educational outcomes, embedded in student performance indicators. Ontario’s Equity Strategy is a symbolic policy that lacked accountability mechanisms and adequate resources necessary for systemic enactment. These policy barriers drastically narrowed the possibility for equity work.