EDD 704 – Political and Legal Trends in Education Policy

Instructor: Dr. David I. Backer
Office: Wayne 930
Course Hours: Monday, 425-710pm
Room Link: https://wcupa.zoom.us/j/2505224880
Professor e-mail: dbacker@wcupa.edu
Office Hours: Mondays 2-4 , Tuesdays 2-4, Thursdays 4-5.
University Emergency Number: 610-436-3311

Course Description 

Schools are impacted by diverse factors, not the least of which is law and political interests. This course provides an introduction to school law and the complex and often contested field of politics and education. The purpose of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, educational policy, with an emphasis on governance structures, stakeholders, public engagement, and current policy issues and political contexts. Within this context, this course seeks to examine the legal and governmental aspects, which increasingly influence public school policy, planning and administration.

Essential Questions

What is critical policy analysis, and how can we use it to understand contemporary educational policy, politics, and law?

General Content Objectives

  • Understand distinct theories of educational policy, politics, and law;
  • Examine specific policy and law trends in the United States ;
  • Examine policy and law trends relevant to students’ research areas;
  • Maintain an intersectional approach to analysis, texts, and subject matter (For my understanding of intersectionality see Ivy (2008).

Dissertation Skill Objectives

  • Doctoral-level analysis, interpretation, and close reading of difficult texts;
  • Practice clear and concise doctoral-level writing;
  • Improve facility with theory and theoretical frameworks;
  • Refine research question, source material, and presentation skills.

Required Course Readings

All readings can be as linked PDFs below.

Course Schedule

Note: Part of West Chester University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to switch the vast majority of instruction to remote.  This decision was made out of an abundance of caution to protect the health of all members of the WCU community.  Faculty have been asked to make every effort to adapt their courses to this novel situation while still meeting the critical learning outcomes of the course.  Students are asked to discuss any problems with the new course format and schedule directly with their instructors.  Patience and flexibility on everyone’s behalf are critical to our community’s navigation of this public health crisis. For this particular course, the following alternative modalities are being utilized:

Courses will meet (mostly) synchronously online at my evergreen Zoom link. We will meet synchronously for 1.5-2 hours and there will be a required 45 minutes of asynchronous Slack discussion.

Date Readings, Guiding Themes, Topics What’s Due
8/24 Syllabus introduction READ: Ivy – 2008 – Beyond the Intersection A New Culinary Metaphor for Race-Class-Gender Studies

Practice discussion question

Sign up for Slack and practice.

8/31

Part 1. Theoretical Framework

Critical policy analysis: basics

Henry, M., Lingard, B., Rizvi, F., & Taylor, S. (2013). Educational policy and the politics of change. Routledge, Chapters 1 + 2 (Chapter 3 optional). Taylor1-3 PDF

Policy example: Open the schools.

Discussion question
9/14 Critical policy analysis: perspective

Anyon, J. (2005). What” counts” as educational policy? Notes toward a new paradigm. Harvard Educational Review75(1), 65-88. 

Policy example: Defund the police.

Discussion question
9/21 Critical policy analysis: contemporary

Horsford, S. D., Scott, J. T., & Anderson, G. L. (2018). The politics of education policy in an era of inequality: Possibilities for democratic schooling. Routledge, Chapter 2.PDF: CPA – 2018

Policy example: The 1619 project.

Discussion question
9/28 Big picture: The State

Jessop, B. (2016). The State: Past, Present, Future. London: Polity.”The Concept of the State,” p. 20-52. PDF: Jessop PDF

Artifact: “At the Seams,” song by Kimya Dawson.

Discussion question
10/5 Big picture: Education, State, Law, Economy

Carnoy, M. (1982). “Education, economy and the state.” In Cultural and economic reproduction in education (p. 79-126). Routledge. Education, Economy, the State PDF

Backer, D. I. (2020). “Althusser on School Law.” Legal Form.

Discussion question
10/12 Bad Education, film + discussion. Theoretical Framework Paper: What is the relationship between education policy and the state, from a critical perspective, and how does this apply to your dissertation? Pick one text from the Critical Policy Analysis series and one from the Big Picture series and show how they fit together. 1500 words, doctoral-level writing, APA citation.
10/19

Part 2. Critical Policy Analysis Studio

How to start your critical policy analysis, Part 1

  1. Choosing a policy
  2. First-step reading list
Brainstorm a few policies relevant to your dissertation topic. Bring this list to class.
10/26 How to start your critical policy analysis, Part 2

  1. Drafting
  2. Crafting
Read your first-step reading list. Take notes, find key passages, and keep track of clues.

Draft your second-step reading list.

11/2 Workshop and individual meetings Focus A:

Focus B:

Focus C:

11/9 Workshop and individual meetings Focus A:

Focus B:

Focus C:

11/16 Workshop and individual meetings Focus A:

Focus B:

Focus C:

11/30 Workshop and individual meetings Focus A:

Focus B:

Focus C:

12/7 Final discussion Critical Policy Analysis Write-up: Do a critical analysis of a policy relevant to your dissertation topic. 1500 words; 5 sources (at least two related to law); Doctoral-level writing, APA citation. 

Suggested CPA structure: Use Horsford, Scott, and Anderson’s (2018) guiding framework for your CPA. Make sure to discuss at least three of these themes:

  1. Traditional notions of power, politics, and governance in the policy
  2. The policy as discourse and spectacle
  3. Perspectives of the marginalized and oppressed on the policy
  4. Distribution of power and resources viz. the policy
  5. Accountability for outcomes of the policy

Evaluation

I will send out a grade proposal survey at the midpoint and end of the semester. Students will take the measure of their own learning with this survey and propose a grade, with which I will agree or disagree.

While no given assignment will be worth any amount in particular, the percentages below are suggestions to help you think about self-evaluation as part of this process.

  1. Theoretical Framework Paper                                                    35%
  2. Focus Presentation                                                                        20%
  3. Critical Policy Analysis Write-up                                                30%
  4.  Discussion questions/slack time                                                 15%

Assignments

Focus Presentation: Present the status of your critical policy analysis. ~10 min overview focusing on what you’ve done and where you’re going next/what you’re working on.

Theoretical Framework Paper: What is the relationship between education policy and the state, from a critical perspective, and how does this apply to your dissertation? Pick one text from the Critical Policy Analysis series and one from the Big Picture series and show how they fit together. 1500 words, doctoral-level writing, APA citation.

Suggested paper structure:

  1. Introduction
  2. Summary of Critical Policy Analysis text (Henry et al, Anyon, Horsford)
  3. Summary of state theory/law text (Jessop, Carnoy, Backer)
  4. Discussion of how the two texts are consistent.
  5. Conclusion: brief example from your research.

Critical Policy Analysis Write-up: Do a critical analysis of a policy relevant to your dissertation topic. 1500 words; 5 sources (at least two related to law); Doctoral-level writing, APA citation. 

Suggested CPA structure: Use Horsford, Scott, and Anderson’s (2018) guiding framework for your CPA. Make sure to discuss at least three of these themes:

  1. Traditional notions of power, politics, and governance in the policy
  2. The policy as discourse and spectacle
  3. Perspectives of the marginalized and oppressed on the policy
  4. Distribution of power and resources viz. the policy
  5. Accountability for outcomes of the policy

Slack Time: Students will join a closed Slack group for the course and spend 45 minutes discussing themes, questions, and ideas with colleagues asynchronously each week. The 45 minutes should translate roughly into:

  1. Starting at least one thread and participating in that thread.
  2. Participating in at least one thread someone else starts.

Discussion questions: When reading, please prepare a discussion question before class to use during class discussion. A discussion examines features of the text for collective interpretation and understanding. Discussion questions are neither factual questions (asking about definitions or easily verifiable things) nor evaluative questions (asking about personal beliefs, perspectives, or opinions on an issue). Discussion questions should be open to interpretation, thematic, and get conversation going. There should not be a clear answer. Discussion questions can have the following forms:

Overall, I think the argument of this text is [interpretation]. Is that right?

When the author says [passage], does s/he mean [one interpretation] or [another interpretation]?

On the one hand, the author says [passage], but then elsewhere s/he says [different passage]–is that inconsistent?

Before reading this text I thought [thing], but now I’m thinking that [a different thing]. How could that be?

Is the real meaning of what the author is saying in this text [your thought], or is it something else?

When I read [passage], I think it means [your thought]–but I’m not sure because [doubt]. Am I right?

In one reading, I thought [something] was true, but in this reading the author says [passage]. Is [something] really true?

Course Attendance Policy

I think of attendance as fluid. I only ask that if you’re going to be absent please let me know via email either well before or just before class begins.

Incompletes

Rarely, students need incompletes for extraordinary reasons.  I will not grant an incomplete at the end of the semester without prior discussion with the student and a firm deadline the student proposes for completing the work.

Food and Housing Security

When students face challenges securing food and/or housing, it can be difficult to learn. If you are in this situation, please contact the Dean of Students. If you feel comfortable, please also let me know, and I will do what I can to connect you with appropriate resources. Our campus offers various services and supports for students; know that you are not alone in dealing with these issues.

Childcare

Many students have care responsibilities for a child in their life, whether as a parent, an older sibling, cousin, etc. If your childcare needs ever come into conflict with the course schedule, please don’t feel as though you need to miss class. I understand that sometimes plans fall through. If this happens, you are welcome to bring a child to class with you. I simply ask that you bring materials to keep them busy (e.g., a book, drawing materials, etc.), and remain mindful of your classmates. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Common West Chester Syllabus elements:

RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES

All students have a right to expect that the University will reasonably accommodate their religious observances, practices and beliefs.  In accordance with this policy, I expect you to notify me in writing if you intend to be absent for a class or announced examination.

ACADEMIC & PERSONAL INTEGRITY

It is the responsibility of each student to adhere to the university’s standards for academic integrity. Violations of academic integrity include any act that violates the rights of another student in academic work, that involves misrepresentation of your own work, or that disrupts the instruction of the course. Other violations include (but are not limited to): cheating on assignments or examinations; plagiarizing, which means copying any part of another’s work and/or using ideas of another and presenting them as one’s own without giving proper credit to the source; selling, purchasing, or exchanging of term papers; falsifying of information; and using your own work from one class to fulfill the assignment for another class without significant modification. Proof of academic misconduct can result in the automatic failure and removal from this course. For questions regarding Academic Integrity, the No-Grade Policy, Sexual Harassment, or the Student Code of Conduct, students are encouraged to refer to the Department Graduate Handbook, the Graduate Catalog, the Ram’s Eye View, and the University website at http://www.wcupa.edu.

Academic Dishonesty:  Academic dishonesty is prohibited at this University and will not be tolerated in this class.  It is a serious offense because it diminishes the quality of scholarship, makes accurate evaluation of student progress impossible, and defrauds those who must ultimately depend upon the knowledge and integrity or the institution, its students and faculty.  Students should review the academic dishonesty policy stated in the University catalog.

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

If you have a disability that requires accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), please present your letter of accommodations and meet with me as soon as possible so that I can support your success in an informed manner. Accommodations cannot be granted retroactively. If you would like to know more about West Chester University’s Services for Students with Disabilities (OSSD), please visit them at 223 Lawrence Center. The OSSD hours of Operation are Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Their phone number is 610-436-2564, their fax number is 610-436-2600, their email address is ossd@wcupa.edu, and their website is at http://www.wcupa.edu/ussss/ossd.

REPORTING INCIDENTS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

West Chester University and its faculty are committed to assuring a safe and productive educational environment for all students. In order to meet this commitment and to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and guidance from the Office for Civil Rights, the University requires faculty members to report incidents of sexual violence shared by students to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, Ms. Lynn Klingensmith. The only exceptions to the faculty member’s reporting obligation are when incidents of sexual violence are communicated by a student during a classroom discussion, in a writing assignment for a class, or as part of a University-approved research project. Faculty members are obligated to report sexual violence or any other abuse of a student who was, or is, a child (a person under 18 years of age) when the abuse allegedly occurred to the person designated in the University protection of minors policy.  Information regarding the reporting of sexual violence and the resources that are available to victims of sexual violence is set forth at the webpage for the Office of Social Equity at http://www.wcupa.edu/_admin/social.equity/.

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

All students are encouraged to sign up for the University’s free WCU ALERT service, which delivers official WCU emergency text messages directly to your cell phone.  For more information, visit http://www.wcupa.edu/wcualert. To report an emergency, call the Department of Public Safety at 610-436-3311.

ELECTRONIC MAIL POLICY

It is expected that faculty, staff, and students activate and maintain regular access to University provided e-mail accounts. Official university communications, including those from your instructor, will be sent through your university e-mail account. You are responsible for accessing that mail to be sure to obtain official University communications. Failure to access will not exempt individuals from the responsibilities associated with this course.

APSCUF

I am a member of APSCUF, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. We uphold the highest standards of teaching, scholarly inquiry, and service. We are an organization that is committed to promoting excellence in all that we do to ensure that our students receive the best education. Ask me for more information on what APSCUF does for students, and see http://www.apscuf.org or http://www.facebook.com/APSCUF.