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POLSC431: Public Policy Process

Unit 8: Education Policy   One of the most frequently debated areas of American public policy in recent decades has been education policy, which has traditionally been made on the local and state levels, but in the wake of studies showing that U.S. students lag behind their international peers, there have been increasing calls for a national education policy.  There is a vast field of literature devoted to studying how best to educate American students, and a wide range of policy initiatives are regularly tested out in schools across the country.  One major issue seems to be whether students in the United States are learning the material they are assigned at each grade level or are instead promoted for social reasons despite having failed to grasp the knowledge needed to truly move forward.  Another set of issues relate to the relationships between communities and schools, the relative responsibilities of parents and teachers in making sure that students are properly educated, and whether public schools can serve all students or if magnet, charter, and private schools should be publicly supported options for parents and students to choose among.
 
Many who advocate for alternative schools point to a perceived lack of accountability in public schools, where teacher tenure and institutionalized practices make change difficult to institute.  Various critiques of the tenure system, which makes it difficult for teachers with several years of experience to be fired for performance issues, continue to be hotly debated across the country.  Meanwhile, a desire to hold teachers and schools more directly responsible led to the passage of No Child Left Behind, which set up a system of high-stakes testing in which all American students are required to pass a series of multiple-choice exams to show that they have acquired the necessary content knowledge to move up to the next level and eventually proceed to college.  This has set up a flurry of debates between policymakers, which seems likely to continue in the coming years, over such issues as whether state tests are really equivalent to a national exam and whether teachers are required by the law as it is currently written to “teach to the test” to the detriment of focusing on the critical thinking skills that students truly need to succeed in college. 
 
Higher education policy has become an issue in recent years as the federal government has begun to play an increasing role to help students pay for college with students loans.  This has led to an interest in keeping down college costs, which have historically tended to rise far faster than the rate of inflation, and a renewed debate over whether a college education is worth the investment, especially when many professionally careers are more than ever becoming available only to those who possess postgraduate degrees.  The desire to keep down costs has led to an explosion in community college enrollment throughout the country as well as an even greater number of partnerships between county colleges, which traditionally tend to offer two-year and vocational degrees, and universities, allowing students to obtain degrees closer to home.  These schools have also attempted to increase enrollment through online education programs, which provide an alternative to the private online colleges that offer degrees of questionable reliability.  Indeed, it seems that community colleges are increasingly coming to occupy even more niches within the educational system for traditional and nontraditional students, which will no doubt lead to an even greater focus on the public policy decisions affecting these institutions.

Unit 8 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 8.75 hours to complete. 

☐    Subunit 8.1: 2.75 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.3: 2.5 hours 

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Identify vital issues and specific areas of concern for contemporary American policymakers within the broad field of American education policy. - Identify key actors and agencies involved in education policy formulation. - Identify the unique challenges faced by urban public schools in America. - Describe various decision frameworks used by policymakers in identifying, formulating, implementing, budgeting, and evaluating education policy. - Identify key debates in contemporary education policy as well as the issues at stake and the arguments advanced by each side of the debate. - Identify key issues in higher education policy in the United States. - Discuss the role of community colleges in the United States. - Explain the context, evolution, and linkages between certain education policies and within the broader context of American political history.

8.1 Public Education: Promoting Community Involvement in Urban Schools   8.1.1 Debating Social Promotion   - Reading: Public Policy Institute of California: Jill S. Cannon and Stephen Lipscomb's: “Early Grade Retention and Student Success: Evidence from Los Angeles” Link: Public Policy Institute of California: Jill S. Cannon and Stephen Lipscomb's: “Early Grade Retention and Student Success: Evidence from Los Angeles” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the “Full Report” link to read this entire PDF (24 pages) about urban education policy in California.
 
This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
  
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.1.2 Stories of Public Engagement   - Lecture: Learner.org: Critical Issues in School Reform: Episode 1: “Stories of Public Engagement: Patrick O’Hearn School,” Episode 2: “Stories of Public Engagement: Pattonville School District, Missouri,” and Episode 3: “Stories of Public Engagement: B.U.I.L.D.” Links: Learner.org: Critical Issues in School Reform: Episode 1: “Stories of Public Engagement: Patrick O’Hearn School” (Adobe Flash), Episode 2: “Stories of Public Engagement: Pattonville School District, Missouri” (Adobe Flash), and Episode 3: “Stories of Public Engagement: B.U.I.L.D.” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links above, and select the VoD icon next to each episode to watch it (approximately 28 minutes per video).  These videos discuss community involvement in urban public schools.
 
Viewing these videos should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

8.2 No Child Left Behind: The Debate over School Testing   8.2.1 State Education Standards   - Reading: The Public Policy Institute of Delaware: The Rodel Foundation: “Opportunity Knocks: Assessing Delaware’s Educational System” Link: The Public Policy Institute of Delaware: The Rodel Foundation: “Opportunity Knocks: Assessing Delaware’s Educational System” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and then select the “Opportunity Knocks: Assessing Delaware’s Educational System” link to read this entire PDF (48 pages) about state education standards in Delaware.
 
This reading should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete.
  
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.2 National Education Standards   - Lecture: Learner.org: School Testing—Behind the Numbers: Episode 1: “School Testing—Behind the Numbers” Link: Learner.org: School Testing—Behind the Numbers: Episode 1: “School Testing—Behind the Numbers” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and then select the VoD icon next to “School Testing—Behind the Numbers” to watch this entire video (approximately 57 minutes) on educational testing.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.3 Case Studies in American Higher Education Policy   8.3.1 Teaching Teachers in Texas Today   - Reading: Texas Public Policy Foundation: Dr. Joseph M. Horn's: “A Critical Look at Texas Colleges of Education” Link: Texas Public Policy Foundation: Dr. Joseph M. Horn's: “A Critical Look at Texas Colleges of Education” (PDF)
 
IInstructions: Please click on the link above, and then select the “A Critical Look at Texas Colleges of Education” link (at the bottom of the page) to read this entire PDF (26 pages) about higher education policy in Texas.
 
This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

8.3.2 Contemporary California Community Colleges   - Reading: Public Policy Institute of California: Ria Sengupta and Christopher Jepsen's: “California’s Community College Students” Link: Public Policy Institute of California: Ria Sengupta and Christopher Jepsen's: “California’s Community College Students” (PDF)
 
Please click on the link above, and then select the “Full Report” link to read this entire PDF (24 pages) about community college education in California.
 
This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.