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Course Details

Course Number: 90-826

Education Policy Analysis

Units: 6

This course brings to life the world of education policy research and analysis. This course is designed to introduce students to educational policy debates, with a particular focus on the major issues and challenges facing U.S. policymakers. This course explores how education policy is developed, implemented, and sustained or changed within a complex network of local, state, and federal systems. The first half of the course will first introduce students to the organization and history of the U.S. public education system: the players, the layers, its challenges, and its triumphs as a social institution. Next, we will delve into the variety of perspectives of how education should be shaped and reformed, covering economic, sociological, and political science theories as to how and why the U.S. education system works and does not. We will consider conflicting perspectives on why it has proven so difficult to improve America’s schools, particularly its urban schools. The second half of the course will examine in more depth recent education reform efforts at the federal, state, and district levels (such as, but not limited to, standards-based, market-driven, professionally-led, and networked models of reform). Together, we will discuss these models’ theories of change, implementation challenges, and the critiques leveled against these approaches.

The course will be interactive and student-directed; the bulk of each class will be a group discussion. Students are expected to participate in class, write two short “policy briefs,” and write a longer final paper on a topic of their choice that is expected to include policy recommendations. By the end of the class, students will have accrued critical knowledge, analytic skills, and know how to convey informed, objective, conclusions in writing. Through the weekly readings, class discussions, and writing assignments students will gain knowledge of the content and findings of policy research on important education topics, practice applying policy analysis skills derived from different approaches and perspectives, and develop the capacity to assess and critique important public policy approaches and perspectives. The instructor is a social scientist at the RAND Corporation whose work focuses on educational equity, human capital development, school-to-work transitions, and Middle East education reform.