Education Policy & Social Analysis
The mission of The Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis is to engage in cutting-edge research and teaching to address critical problems affecting education and to contribute to informed analysis and action to promote educational achievement and equity.
EPSA starts out with a broad and inclusive view of the kinds of issues that its faculty and students might consider important to address. Explicitly, we are interested in both formal institutions of schooling and the political, bureaucratic, organizational, economic, and social factors that profoundly affect both schools and the broader educational enterprise. We are interested in the role that families, communities, and civil society can play in promoting education outside the school building walls. We have a special interest and capability in addressing issues from pre-K through higher education, in identifying ways in which laws and institutions affect education, and in understanding the growing role of private for-profit and nonprofit organizations in delivering education technologies and services. Issues relating to racial and socioeconomic equity are central to the research and teaching interests of many of our faculty members and students.
Students in this department will develop general skills of policy research and analysis, along with general perspectives on policy development and implementation that are widely applicable to other domains of public policy. We do hope to link education policy with other social issues and domains such as health policy. Social analysis grounded in disciplinary studies in sociology, political science, and economics should inform applied policy studies and vice versa.
For up to date information about course offerings including faculty information, please visit the online course schedule.
To participate in Systemic Improvement in Public Education, students must be enrolled in both the seminar (EDP 5001) and the skills and practicum (EDP 5301) components of the course.
Hosted at Columbia University Law School's Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL), this offering is a rigorous academic course in the design, governance, transformation, and democratic accountability of public- and allied non-profit organizations. Drawing on domestic and foreign case studies from the private, public, and non-profit sectors in domains reaching well beyond K-12 education but with a particular focus on that sector, students evaluate and apply a number of models for how institutions define objectives and measure success, produce and deploy knowledge, govern internal operations, supervise dispersed staffs, and make themselves accountable to key stakeholders and the public at large. Students explore a variety of tools modern organizations use for these purposes, including design and systems thinking, quantitative analysis, qualitative evaluation, balanced scorecards, structured team-based problem-solving, and cooperative “regimes” of public and private sector organizations.
This course is by application only. Prospective students should consult with their academic advisors before interviewing for the course. Application at: http://www.law.columbia.edu/public-research-leadership or by emailing email@example.com.
To participate in System Improvement in Public Educatino, students must be enrolled in both the seminar (EDP 5001) and the skills and practicum (EDP 5301) components of the course.
Hosted at Columbia University Law School's Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL), this course consists of experiential training through a professional research or consulting experience. Students, working in cross-functional teams with business, law and/or policy graduate student, support education organizations in studying and thinking through some of their most challenging strategic, operational, design, governance, and legal issues and developing actionable solutions. A small team of experienced education policy researchers and central managers, employed by the program, guide the consulting projects. The projects provide organizations with important short-term support and long-term access to exceptional professional talent. They offer students rich opportunities to test concepts encountered in the co-requisite course, unique insight into what a career in education leadership looks like, important career-entry opportunities, and a valuable network in the education sector.
This course is by application only. Prospective students should consult with their academic advisors before interviewing for the course. Application at http://www.law.columbia.edu/public-research-leadership or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Accepted students are strongly encouraged, but not required, to select the maximum allowable 6 credits for EDP 5301.
This is a year-long course for design and preparation of the doctoral dissertation. Open to doctoral students in SOCL, ELOL, POLC, and ECON majors. Students must register for 3 credits total between fall and spring semesters.
This course, designed for policy students, higher-education students, and practicing administrators, draws on multi-disciplinary sources to explore legal and law-related issues that arise in public and private postsecondary institutions in the U.S. Broad topics include free speech and academic freedom; safety and order; and the role of law in promoting educational equity. Specific topics include legal attributes of public and private postsecondary institutions; faculty free speech, academic freedom, and tenure; student rights of free speech and association; the catalog as contract; safety and order: institutional authority to regulate on- and off-campus student and staff behavior, tort liability (for suicide, hazing, drug and alcohol abuse), harassment and cyber-bullying, search and seizure, and due process; promoting educational equality: discrimination past and present, access to higher education, HBCUs and single-sex education, using race/ethnicity and gender to promote diversity, serving English-language learners and immigrant students, the needs and rights of individuals with disabilities.
An introduction to the higher education policy making process. Main topics: the general nature of policy making with examples and readings from higher education; key actors, institutional structures and processes in the federal, state, and local higher education policy arenas; and the origins and consequences of key policy enactments affecting college access and success, instruction, performance accountability, and student diversity.
The course will provide students an overview of the concept of comprehensive educational opportunity, which seeks to provide meaningful educational opportunities for children from poverty backgrounds and will analyze the feasibility of its implementation. Topics will include the impact of poverty on children's opportunities to succeed in school, the role of early childhood learning, out-of-school time, health factors, and family and community support on school success; the history of past attempts to overcome socioeconomic disadvantages; the current attempts of large-scale "collective impact" initiatives to deal with these issues, and the economic, political, administrative, educational, and legal issues that must be considered to advance this concept on a large scale.
Examination of the judicial and legislative involvement in school finance reform, taxation, and the equity and efficiency of local, state, and federal finance policies and systems.
What are the various stages of the policy process, from the recognition of certain problems as public issues to the adoption of policies to address those problems and the implementation and evaluation of those policies? This course touches on all these stages but focuses on policy origins: problem recognition and agenda setting, consideration of possible policy solutions, and policy adoption. The course examines policy origins through the lenses of various theoretical perspectives drawn from political science, sociology, economics, and law, including policy entrepreneurship theory, the advocacy coalition framework, punctuated equilibrium theory, diffusion theory, institutional theory, and the theory of the state. These perspectives are grounded by looking at the origins of particular policies concerning early childhood, K-12, and higher education.
Explores the issues of policy (or reform) implementation in schools and districts by focusing on the political reactions and organizational buffers to policy change and the ways that policies become adapted and changed to fit locally defined problems. Distinctions between implementation issues in bottom-up and top-down policy change are explored.
An introduction to understanding, designing, and conducting empirical research for education policy and the social sciences. Students explore philosophical foundations of research, the relationship between theory and evidence in research, and the mechanics of designing and conducting research, including strategies for sampling, data collection, and analysis. Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches to research are addressed.
This survey course focuses on legal issues that arise in public and private schools. Topics include governmental regulation of public and private schools; church-state issues (prayer, vouchers, evolution); free-speech rights of students, teachers, and extracurricular groups; who controls the curriculum; the school's authority to make and enforce rules governing student and staff conduct on and off school grounds; the duty to protect the safety of students and others; child abuse; search and seizure; and due process. The course draws on the multidisciplinary perspectives of law, policy, research, and educational practice.
The purpose of the Federal Policy Institute is to examine three themes: the enduring values of American education, contemporary issues in national school reform efforts, and the role of the federal government. During a week-long program in Washington, students will have the opportunity to identify a policy issue of personal interest and to explore that issue with the nation's senior policymakers. Introductory and concluding sessions meet at the College.
For students wishing to pursue independent study and/or research on topics not covered in regular courses. Requires faculty member's approval of a study plan, reading list, and final paper or other products or projects. Permission required from individual faculty.
This is an intermediate‑level course in non‑experimental quantitative research methods, especially those related to education policy. The class examines such topics as residual analysis, modeling non‑linear relationships and interactions using regression, logistic regression, missing data analyses, multilevel models, and principal components analysis. Prerequisite: Students should have completed at least one graduate‑level course in applied statistics or data analysis (e.g., EDPA 4002) and have experience with Stata software.
Historically, many barriers to educational equality and many important efforts to overcome such barriers have involved the law. This course examines major efforts to use law to attack discrimination and to ensure high-quality education for all children. Topics include: addressing racial segregation and concentrated poverty; the standards movement and high-stakes testing; the right to an adequate education; sex and gender discrimination; harassment; services for English-language learners; special education; and affirmative action. The course draws on the multidisciplinary perspectives of law, policy, research, and educational practice.
The course examines policymaking efforts by the federal and state governments to facilitate the movement of students from high school to college and their effective preparation to meet college requirements. The policies reviewed include student financial aid, the TRIO and GEAR UP programs, state common core curriculum standards, accelerated learning programs, and state longitudinal data systems. The course examines the content of these policies, their political origins and implementation, and their impacts. The aim is to help students develop a broad and deep understanding of the main directions of – but also limitations to – national and state policymaking with respect to high school to college transition.
For the past century there have been debates over the proper role of social-science evidence in judicial proceedings, especially in the context of education reform litigation. This interdisciplinary course will start with Brown v. Board of Education and trace the evolution of the use of social science by courts, focusing on decisions in such vital areas of education policy as school desegregation, student testing, special education, language services for English-language learners, education finance, and affirmative action. It explores how social science evidence has influenced judicial decision making; how judicial decision making has influenced the directions of social science research; how courts have influenced the development of educational policy in statutes and regulations; how courts, legislatures, and administrative agencies engage in social science fact finding; and how courts use presumptions, burdens of proof, and other legal mechanisms that may reduce their need to consider social science evidence.
Beginning with the school desegregation decrees issued by the federal courts in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, the federal and state courts have been called upon to consider a range of asserted educational rights and to oversee far-reaching institutional reforms that bear little relationship to traditional judicial remedies. This course will examine the legal and political justifications for the courts' role in making educational policy and reforming public institutions, as well as the courts' capacity to undertake these functions. The course will give particular attention to school desegregation, bi-lingual education and special education cases in the federal courts, education adequacy litigations in the state courts, and whether and how courts might induce schools to act more effectively in fulfilling their constitutional obligations to prepare all students to become capable voters and to function productively as civic participants.
(Restricted for Education Policy program students.) Policy analysis requires its practitioners to evaluate available information; to weigh the possible impacts of alternative policies; to understand political, legal, and/or economic ramifications; and to produce plans for action that are organizationally feasible and publicly valuable. This seminar is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate a theoretical and analytical understanding of the practical problems inherent in conducting policy research.
Intended for students interested in learning about the policy analysis process-- identifying a public problem, researching solutions to the problem, weighing costs and benefits of various alternatives, and developing policy recommendations aimed at addressing the public problem. The particular emphasis in this course is on how policy analysts think and what they do. What kinds of problems receive government attention -- how and why? The course is organized to help students understand and become more informed about the nature of education policy in the United states at the federal, state, and district levels.
Explore important, timely issues of education law, including issues of race and poverty in education; serving English-language learners; the legal rights of students with disabilities; the right to an adequate education; and issues of safety and order (harassment, child abuse, tort liability, search and seizure, and cyber-bullying). For more information, visit SLI website at http://www.tc.edu/schoollaw, and/or contact Professor Jay Heubert at email@example.com.
This advanced master's course addresses a key issue in evaluating education programs and policies: determining whether a policy causes an impact on student trajectories that would not have occurred in absence of the policy. The course will cover experimental and quasi-experimental techniques used to attribute causal relationships between educational programs and student outcomes. Students will become sophisticated consumers of quantitative educational research and will practice statistical techniques in problems sets. There will be an exam and a final project. Prerequisites: Successful completion of 4002 and 5002 or equivalent and familiarity with the Stata statistical software package. No prior exposure to causal inference methods is expected.
First section of a two-semester course with students participating in both semesters. Focuses on diverse perspectives framing the field and in so doing will present the most critical issues that require policy attention. Building on this background, the second semester will address steps that have been taken to ameliorate these issues, focusing heavily on research. By design, then, the first semester will present an array of issues and perspectives in order to provide the conceptual foundation for an exploration of salient strategies to address them in the second semester. By looking at early childhood development and learning from this stance, students will not only be exposed to diverse ideas about the content but will also be armed to address pressing challenges the field faces with them all in mind. (The second semester course is HUDK 6013, taught by Professor Jeanne Brooks-Gunn in the Department of Human Development.)
This course looks at early childhood education policy through an international lens, addressing often neglected—but highly salient—policy questions, including: What have been the real effects of the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All goals on education systems in general and on early childhood education in particular? How have poverty, gender, and the needs of marginalized populations/cultures shaped early childhood policy in diverse countries? What are the unique policy properties that must be considered when developing policies for young children and their families? To what extent do the policy contexts of nations differ, and how do these differences impact early childhood policies directly? To what extent can lessons learned in one context be faithfully transported across national boundaries? Based on readings and discussions of these issues, students will demonstrate their understanding of the role of policy in shaping early childhood education in a given country though the final paper, a situation analysis. Building on sequenced assignments, this paper will provide the platform for students to use policy tools and make recommendations for concrete early childhood policy improvements.
An introduction to organizational theory as it applies to a variety of institutions with particular attention to the potential of educational activities as a force in formal organizations.
(Required for all Education Policy program students. Restricted for Education Policy program students.) Over the past century, educators have experienced wave after wave of reforms intended to address the latest education “crisis”. This perpetual cycle of school improvement stems in part from the competing and often contradictory demands placed upon public education. In response, school improvement efforts have alternated between a focus on equity and excellence, progressive and traditional pedagogical approaches, centralized and decentralized governance, and private rights versus public needs. Students in this course will explore the social and political roots of these pendulum swings and examine the historical forces that fuel America’s desire for continual school reform. Issues of race, religion, class, and language--which are intimately tied to these tensions--are woven into the readings, discussions, and course-work.
For students wishing to pursue independent study or original research as they prepare for their doctoral certification examination and/or dissertation proposal. Permission required from individual faculty.
Individual advisement on the doctoral dissertation. Requires ongoing consultation between the student and dissertation sponsor. The fee equals three points at the current tuition rate for each term. Permission required from individual faculty.
A survey of intermediate microeconomic theory combined with applications of relevance to the economics of education. At the theory level, the course covers utility maximization, income and substitution effects, labor supply, the analytics of market equilibrium, consumer surplus, cost minimization, production and cost functions, the determinants of the demand for factors of production, labor demand and the demand for skilled labor, market imperfections, monopoly pricing, monopolistic competition, externalities and public goods. Applications are included for each of these topics in the area of education.
Educational privatization and school choice raise fundamental questions about the purposes of education, the nature of community, and the boundaries of the market. Through close reading of court decisions and legislative acts as well as works in economics, sociology, history, political science, pedagogy, and investigative journalism, students in this course address these questions. Requirements include four essays and one research paper.
Permission of advisor required. Supervised training in diverse settings designed to gain work experience and/or research skills related to economics of education.
The purpose of this course is to introduce students familiar with causal methods to the design and implementation of field experiments in economics and education. In the first part of the course, students will study experimental design. In the second part of the course, students will focus on the practical aspects of running an experiment. The course assignments will lead up to a completed proposal outlining the theory, design, and implementation of a field experiment. In addition, students will complete an IRB application for human-subjects approval and present their proposals.
Through presentation and discussion of their research studies, students learn research skills and improve their understanding of various issues in the research process from the initial stage to dissemination.
In each of the areas within the department, advanced students may register for intensive individual study of some aspect of their specialization. Registration is only by permission of the instructor under whose guidance the work will be undertaken. Times for individual conferences will be arranged. Enrollment may be for 1 or more points each term, and registration is not limited to one or two terms.
Individual advisement on doctoral dissertations. Fee to equal 3 points at current tuition rate for each term. For requirements, see section in catalog on Continuous Registration for Ed.D./ Ph.D. degrees.
The politics of education in settings outside the U.S. topics, including the role of education in political development, political socialization, and student politics.
Analyzes the political underpinnings and consequences of centralization versus decentralization at various levels of governance with special but not exclusive attention to educational decision-making.
Politics in the nation's largest cities with a particular focus on educational politics and policy.
Examination of the impact of race and ethnicity on the formation and implementation of policies such as desegregation, affirmative action, bilingual education, and choice.
Continuous participation required of doctoral students until their dissertation proposals are accepted. A critical review of important works in politics and education, discussions with invited guests, presentations of work in progress.
Political and economic perspectives on contemporary problems of public policy and education.
Permission required. Selected topics in the politics of education.
Permission required. Independent study.
Permission required. Development of doctoral dissertation proposals.
Examination of the federal role in K-12 education policy over the course of the 20th century and its impact on states and districts.
An examination of the link between education and social inequality in Western societies, questioning whether schools are a mechanism of social mobility, enabling poor and disadvantaged children to get ahead in life, or whether schools perpetuate the hardships faced by poor and minority populations. Topics include the importance of quantity and quality of schooling for adult success; the ways in which race/ethnicity, sex, and social class background structure students educational experiences; the role of tracking and ability grouping within schools; and the link between schooling and the economy.
Sociologists define the life course of individuals by when, and in what order, people assume key social roles, such as becoming an adult or moving from the workforce to retirement. This course looks at the sociology of the life course. Focusing on how historical and societal factors combine with the personal characteristics of individuals to produce unique life course patterns.
Introduction to concepts, theories, and research in the sociology of organizations and the related interdisciplinary field of organization studies, as they apply to schools and other organizational settings in education. Topics covered will include internal organizational dynamics, organizations and their environments, organizations as contexts for human identity and agency, and organizational learning and improvement.
This course covers four broad topics of interest to sociologists of education, as well as to other education practitioners, researchers, and policy makers: (1) how the occupations of teaching and leadership are socially organized within schools and school systems; (2) how the work of teaching and leadership in schools and school systems is affected by, and in turn affects, social forces in the larger social environment; (3) the social dynamics of diversity in teaching and leadership; and (4) the impact of teachers and leaders on school outcomes. The course will explore how the knowledge base about the sociology of teaching and leadership has evolved – how the research questions have changed over time, what the body of theory and empirical evidence looks like, including the methods used to study teaching and leadership, and what the cutting-edge knowledge frontiers are.
Relationship between research problem and study design, choice of population, sampling methods, instrument construction, interviewing, data processing, and analysis.
Analysis of local and national education systems through application of sociological perspectives and organization theory, with special attention to problems of equity, effectiveness, and the embeddedness of education systems in their larger contexts.
The sociology of knowledge analyzes the process by which "reality" becomes constructed within a social context. With a focus on education and social welfare policies, this class will explore the "reality" of public policies with real material consequences and how this reality has been constructed around a set of assumptions defining the "problems" that need to be solved. This course helps students step back from a focus on "implementing" educational reform and examine instead how such a reform movement became the focus.
This course is designed to assist students in conceptualizing and designing research projects – for Master’s Theses or Doctoral Dissertations – that examine, interrogate and evaluate public policies in the fields of education and social welfare through methodological approaches we commonly think of as qualitative. The curriculum emphasizes the benefits and limitations of qualitative methods for studying particular policy issues and programs with the goal of defining when a qualitative approach is most helpful. We will explore qualitative case studies as a research design as well as several different data collection methods employed by qualitative researchers, including interviews, observations, ethnography, and document analysis. The class also addresses what sort of research questions can best be answered through qualitative data collection, and how qualitative researchers can frame their inquiry in a manner that speaks to public policy debates and issues. Furthermore, the course will require students to appreciate the significance and meaning of a more contextual approach to education policy analysis. This course, therefore, fulfills the qualitative research methods requirement for the Sociology and Education Program and other programs across the EPSA Department and College.
An introduction to the evaluation of social and educational programs. Topics include evaluation to inform program conceptualization and design; measuring program implementation; impact assessment, including randomized experiments; cost-effectiveness analysis; and the social and political context of program evaluation.
Students wishing to complete a master's integrative project instead of taking the master's exam will design a study, provide a relevant literature review of theory and research, collect and analyze data, and write a comprehensive report of their work.