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Education Policy & Social Analysis

Welcome to Education Policy & Social Analysis

Dear Current and Prospective Students, Faculty, and Alumni,

Around the world, people count on education to help solve our biggest problem: How shall we organize ourselves to support the common good that transcends our individual interests? To date, education has not lived up to its promise. Can we design education systems that provide equality of opportunity for all? Are some ways of organizing education systems more effective and more efficient than other ways? Why do some educational innovations work better in some settings than others? How can we explain the yawning gap between the intentions of politicians and policymakers and what we see happening on the ground?

The Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis (EPSA), the newest of the ten academic departments at Teachers College, Columbia University, has united a corps of faculty, graduate students, researchers, and other staff which addresses questions such as these. EPSA draws on the tools and approaches of the disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology, as well as the distinctive attributes of legal reasoning, to foster a multidisciplinary approach to the study of education policy. We define education policy as the actions undertaken by governments that are intended to affect the behavior of the education system, including the individuals, organizations, and institutions within the system and those which border it. These actions can originate in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of government at the local, state, or national level, and typically take the form of laws, rules and regulations, and judicial rulings.   

EPSA houses four academic programs—Economics and Education; Politics and Education; Sociology and Education; and the interdisciplinary Education Policy program—each of which offers programs of study leading to master’s and doctoral degrees. Our graduates are prepared to work in federal, state and local education agencies; in foundations, think tanks, and non-profit research and advocacy organizations; and in schools, colleges, universities, and non-governmental organizations delivering services to children, youth, and adults. The analytic skills our students acquire through exposure to EPSA courses, workshops, seminars, and research projects enable them to identify education problems that are amenable to government action; to generate and evaluate alternative policy proposals and their likely consequences; and to work collaboratively with policymakers and practitioners to fashion solutions that are appropriate for the specific political, social, and economic context of the problem.  

Few topics are off limits, and our faculty and students have tackled some of the most controversial issues in education today, spanning early childhood education, the K-12 schooling system, and higher education, both in the U.S. and abroad. How much does money matter, and why? Do early childhood learning and development standards help prepare young children for kindergarten? Under what conditions are charter schools likely to produce higher academic achievement than traditional public schools? When children and parents get new information about schools, what do they do with it? How can we create racially-diverse schools in a racially-segregated city? Do college placement tests identify the students most in need of remediation? These are just some of the questions that our faculty and students are passionate about. You’ll see more about the people in EPSA, and the research in which they are engaged, as you explore our website.

If you are already part of the EPSA community, we’re delighted that you are connected, and hope you will stay in touch. And if you are thinking of joining us, please reach out with a question or a comment. We’ll be happy to respond.



Aaron M. Pallas

Arthur I. Gates Professor of Sociology and Education

Chair, Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis


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