MPPL 631: Government Policies in Education: Modern History and Philosophy as Context
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MPPL 632: Innovation and Choice in Today’s Schools
This course sets the stage for a student’s understanding of the challenges of the modern education enterprise by helping them understand how the sector got to where it is today. The course will provide a brief comparative exploration of the history of education policy where many of the principles, philosophies, and goals of the sector were established. Its focus will be on the contemporary debates of the last few decades where the real challenges that contemporary practitioners face emerge in their modern forms. Specific threads of the course will focus on changes in school finance, the impact of government policies on disadvantaged communities, and the complex political and social complicators that allow many poorly-performing schools to continue to fail their students for decades.
The course will examine the role that the federal government has played in this narrative, as well as the responses of state governments and local school systems. It will examine in detail the ramifications to educational leaders of unionization as well as the impacts of political initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. It will examine how the pendulum swings in public policy around major issues such as racial and social justice, school choice and charters, and the politicization of school board elections impact schools and the students they serve. After this course, students will have a deeper understanding of the factors that have shaped and driven significant parts of the modern educational landscape.
MPPL 633: Governance and Finance of Today’s Schools
Despite valiant efforts over the past several decades, students from the United States still perform far below other developed countries. This course looks at the history of the Education Reform Movement exploring its successes and failures over the past two hundred years. Students will study the various approaches taken by leaders and innovators of the past to reshape, advance, and improve education, both in the United States and abroad. They will build on these lessons of history to both understand more deeply the modern policy context and to be able to identify possible avenues for creativity and innovation. They will not only learn from the actions of leaders (both past and present), but also examine how their approaches, styles, and actions advanced or endangered their strategic goals.
The class will also look globally at the successes and failures in other developed nations to fully appreciate what is possible. Some of the major current reforms the class will address include online education, school choice, and vouchers, the charter school movement, contracting, homeschooling, and magnet schools.
MPPL 634: Managing Advocacy and Politics in K–12 Education
Today’s public governance landscape for schools is a mixture of federal, state, and local controls mandating a wide-ranging and constantly shifting portfolio of regulations, performance standards, and goals. Historically, most of the control over the education function has been at the state and local levels. Fueled in part by a public finance model that is heavily local and state-focused, the control of much of education policy has historically been at the state level with selected pieces devolved to local boards and governments. Legislative and judicial initiatives to equalize school spending within states diverted even more control to statehouses. Recent years, however, have seen an expansion of the federal role in education. Whether President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” or President Obama’s “Race to the Top,” the goals and formulas of school governance and finance have been increasingly sliding toward more federal control. This course will examine the various models for school finance at the state, district, and school site levels, examining the processes and practices that define where education dollars eventually go.
This course will also examine the range of innovations that are being used to better align the public interest, as defined by the parents and residents of a school’s community, with the places where school dollars are spent. It will examine the tools available to school leaders at the site, district, and state levels to foster the right incentives that focus on student learning and success. Particular attention will be paid to decentralized models, such as districts of choice, charter schools, and vouchers, that have had the most success in creating innovative education delivery models, even when frequently fiscally disadvantaged relative to other, more traditionally governed schools in the same district.
Perhaps in no area of public policy is the power of “special interests” more pronounced than in K–12 education. The interests of parents, teachers, children, administrators, elected officials, union leaders, and community leaders all collide at the schoolhouse door—true politics in its rawest form. Left behind far too often are the children for whom this entire institution was built, even as they are used as leverage to advance the agendas of the actors involved. This course looks at this collision of priorities to help students understand the actors, the politics that drive the system, and the skills needed to navigate this highly charged landscape. This course focuses especially on the realm of advocacy and understanding how to advance a given leader’s interests in this dynamic and complex landscape.