Course Requirements

EDST 875-010

Introduction to Educational Policy

Spring Semester 1999

Thursday, 4:00pm – 7:00pm

The field of education policy refers to those aspects of education that are the way they are because of a law, regulation, custom, design and tradition and also to those aspects of education could be changed by a new or different law, regulation, etc.

Scholarship in the field of education policy has two primary aims:

1. To improve our understanding of the effects of education policy on any aspect of schooling and professional practice

2. To improve education policy and educational practice.

The field of education policy is inter-disciplinary, drawing on all segments of the discipline of education and related disciplines. While it is somewhat narrowly focused on the instruments of law, regulation, custom, and so forth, the field is broadly informed by any scholarly literature that can illuminate the causal and reciprocal relationships between policy and schooling. The heart of the field, and the focus of the course, is the decision an educational leader makes that results in an improved law, regulation, custom, tradition and policy.

The course is primarily for beginning doctoral students in the School of Education who are preparing to be research scholars in the field of education policy or who are seeking to improve their ability to make significant educational decisions. The principal goals of the course are the student’s formulation of a feasible education policy decision that is grounded in the scholarly and applied literature.


1. Class Schedule: Seminar Discussion Topics

Feb. 11 Overview of the course. Round table discussion of policy questions

Feb. 18 I. The Current Context of Educational Policy and Reform

    1. Beyond Reform Slogans (Murray)
    2. Daedalus (Sarason, Seashore-Lewis, Bromley, & Hampel)

Feb. 25 c. Daedalus pages 89-258

Mar. 4 d. The Manufactured Crisis, chapters 1-4

Mar. 11 e. The Manufactured Crisis, chapters 5-8

Mar. 18 Class presentations of paper I

Mar. 25 II. Policy Decisions

a. What Matters Most and Doing What Matters Most.

Apr. 1 Spring break

Apr. 8 b. The Psychology of Judgement & Decision Making, sections 1-3

Apr. 15 c. The Psychology of Judgement & Decision Making, sections 4-6

Apr. 22 American Educational Research Association meetings (no class)

Apr. 29 III. Leadership and Implementation

a. Leading Minds, chapters 1-8

May 6 b. Leading Minds, chapters 9-15

May 13 Class presentations of papers 2 & 3.

Finals: May 21-26th

Class discussions. Students are expected to participate in class in several ways – asking questions of clarification and extension, citing information from the readings and other sources, making brief presentations, responding to other’s questions, enriching the discussion with different perspectives, solving problems, and conforming to the conversational norms of scholars and researchers (the school colloquium series often provides guidance on the latter point). Class discussion is evaluated on the following grounds – whether comments are informed, relevant, responsive, balanced, and respectful of other perspectives.

We will devote the first third of each session to a discussion of the week’s issue of Education Week. On those occasions when there was an afternoon colloquium in the James Raths Mini-Colloquium Series on Teacher Education Reform, we will also devote some time to a discussion of the colloquium presentation and to questions of the speaker (when available).



The colloquium speakers currently scheduled are:

The James Raths Mini-Series on Teacher Education Reform

*2/18 Frank Murray and Robert Hampel, University of Delaware

*3/11 Arthur G. Powell, Brown University

*3/25 Emerson Elliott, former US Commisioner, National Center of Educational Statistics

*4/8 Judith Lanier, Michigan State Univiversity and former President of the Holmes Group.

*4/16 Seymour Sarason, Yale University

*4/29 Harry Judge, Oxford University

*5/6 Gerald Bracey, Bracey Associates

We will devote the remainder of each class session to an informed discussion of the substance and implication of the readings assigned for the session. In the case of Paper presentation session, we will devote half the student’s time to a presentation and the other half to critical examination of the points made by the student.


2. Readings.

1. Education Week. The first third of each class session will be devoted to an analysis of the week’s issue of Education Week.

2. Education Yesterday, Education Tomorrow. Daedalus (The Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences), Fall, 1998.

3. Berliner, D.C. The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools, New York: Addison Wesley, 1995.

4. What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future. Report of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, September, 1996.

5. Doing What Matters Most: Investing in Quality Teaching. National Comission on Teaching and America’s Future, November 1997.

6. Plous, S., The psychology of judgement and decision making. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993.

7. Gardner, H. Leading Minds. New York: Basic Books, 1995.


3. Papers. Three papers are required and the features and logic of each are described below:

The three papers are about three aspects of a decision you propose to take as an educational leader: (1) the pertinent academic literature; (2)the rationale for the decision, which often must go beyond the scholarly literature on the subject; and (3) the plan for the implementation of the decision.

If carefully and thoughtfully executed, the discipline required to write the papers should lead you to a correct or good decision because the best thinking of others would be represented in the first paper, and a rationale tailored to a specific case would be represented in the second paper. The third paper presents a plan that, if followed, would ensure, or at least increase, the likelihood that the decision would have the outcome the rationale and the literature promised. These three ingredients represent our best thinking about how the quality of educational decision-making could be enhanced -- awareness of the what others have thought and written on the subject, a clear-headed analysis of the local context for the decision, a reasoned statement of the decision that shows how it flows from the literature and the analysis, and a strategy for implementing the decision that shows how it will bring about the results the decision was meant to accomplish.

Paper I. This paper sets out the relevant academic literature about the domain of the decision.

This paper by itself would lead the author to an informed decision quite apart from whether it is a good or correct decision. By the very nature of the scope of educational decisions, the author may be required to master literatures from more than one academic discipline or field.

Paper II. This paper announces the decision and gives the author's reasons for advocating it. It might have the form of a memorandum or white paper to a board of directors or a school board in which the author explains why the board should adopt some policy, innovation, and so forth. The paper may reject aspects of the relevant literature on several grounds and the decision could very well run counter to the conventional or informed wisdom of the day. The paper may introduce new empirical findings about the local situation that would mitigate the findings in the first paper. The paper would contain a careful analysis of the local situation and show how its features match, or fail to match, those described in the appropriate literature on the subject. In any case, a well-reasoned argument is required in the successful second paper. By "well-reasoned" we mean that the decision can be derived from the analysis of the local context and the academic literature on the subject of the decision.

Paper III. After the decision has been announced in the second paper, it remains for the author to show how the decision would be implemented as it is one thing to know how a matter should be decided and quite another to actually do it and bring about the results one hopes for. The third paper outlines strategies the author intends to use and gives a case for their plausibility and estimates the likelihood of their success in the local context.

The test of a good set of papers is whether the decision advanced in the papers is correct, i.e., whether it would work and bring about what it was supposed to bring about. The ultimate test is not whether the decision was technically correct and reasonable, but whether it was wise, an elusive attribute to be sure, but one that should be evident in the decisions advocated at the doctoral level.

4. Grades

The relative weights of each course requirement and the contribution of each to the overall course grade are as follows: Papers 1 & 2 are 25% each; paper 3 is 20%; class presentations are 10% each; and overall class participation is 10%. There will not be a final examination if the participation in class discussions indicates mastery of the reading assignments.