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Spring 2012 - 61965 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Education Policy Implementation Seminar

Instructor(s): Holme, Jennifer
Unique Number: 61965
Day & Time: M 1:00 - 4:00 pm
Room: SZB 376
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Course Overview

Topics for these policy seminars have included environmental and natural resources policy, health-service delivery policy, social welfare policy, transportation policy, science and technology policy, international affairs, national security, urban and regional growth policy, and political campaigns.


Section Description

This graduate course is designed to prepare students to critically analyze the process of policy implementation in education, and to understand the ways in which outcomes align --or fail to align --with the goals of policymakers. Over the course, therefore, we will be examining the educational policy implementation process by studying: the origins, assumptions, and goals (stated or implicit) of educational policies; the ways in which policies interact with diverse local contexts and levels of governance; how policies are interpreted by local actors; how “outcomes” are defined, who defines them, and for whom are outcomes expected; how issues of state and local capacity (knowledge, resources, norms and beliefs) are addressed within the context of educational policies, and how issues of capacity shape implementation and outcomes.

The trajectory between policy formation and implementation cannot be understood without examining the political and social contexts in which educational policies unfold. Through the course of the semester, therefore, we will examine three overarching themes to help understand educational policy formation, implementation, and outcomes:

1. Education and the social welfare state: The U.S spends far more on education than any other industrialized country; at the same time, we spend relatively less on other social welfare policies (social security, health care, and housing). These investments generate relatively greater expectations for public education in terms of facilitating social mobility.

2. Education for individual mobility and for equity: As a result of the immense hopes placed on education, educational policies are often intended to accomplish sweeping social goals that frequently come into conflict: on the one hand, public education is intended to accomplish social/democratic goals of educating a citizenry for democracy and for equalizing opportunities so that everyone has access to education; on the other hand, education is also intended to allow individuals to maximize their own capabilities. This very conflict is what makes democratic capitalism function (everyone has an equal opportunity, and anyone can go as far as they desire through individual effort); yet this conflict causes deep rifts that shape educational policies–and often undermine the implementation process (Hoschild &  Skorovnik, 2004).

3. Education as a function of the local, state, and national government: While most industrialized nations have a very centralized, state (Nationally) controlled educationl system in terms of curriculum, finance, and policy. The U.S., by contrast, has a very decentralized system, with intense historical involvement of states and localities in policymaking. The degree of influence of local, state, and national governments has shifted over time; it is these shifts, and the tensions involved between these levels, that shape both the form of educational policy and the implementation process.

In addition to exploring these major themes, we will also explore the education policy implementation literature throughout this course, to better understand the history of educational policy implementation as a field of study—and track how this literature changed as policy goals have shifted over time. We will study the ways educational policy implementation literature shifted from 1960-70s, 70s and 80s, 80s and 90s, and the 2000s.

Course Requirements and Grading:

  • Class participation: 15 % of grade
  • Reading reflections 15% of grade
  • Class project on a Federal Education Policy (School Improvement Grant Program or other TBD) (70% total) divided as follows:

1.     Federal and State level report – worth 20%

2.     District and school level report –worth 20%

3.     Final Report: Implementation analysis, synthesis and recommendations, worth 30%


For more detailed information please check attached syllabus.

Cross Listed with EDA 385G # 10060, the originating department.