Educational Change and the Political Process: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Educational Change and the Political Process

1st Edition

By Dana L. Mitra


202 pages | 38 B/W Illus.

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Educational Change and the Political Process brings together key ideas on both the system of educational policy and the policy process in the United States. It provides students with a broad, methodical understanding of educational policy. No other textbook offers as comprehensive a view of the U.S. educational policy procedure and political systems.

Section I discusses the actors and systems that create and implement policy on both the federal and the local level; Section II walks students through the policy process from idea to implementation to evaluation; and Section III delves into three major forces driving the creation of educational policies in the current era—accountability, equity, and market-driven reforms.

Each chapter provides case studies, discussion questions, and classroom activities to scaffold learning, as well as a bibliography for further reading to deepen exploration of these topics.


'A unique blend of education policy analysis concepts with the underlying political structure and actors that influence the outcomes of policies. The broad scope and specific insights of the book makes it essential for both students, educators, and scholars.'

—Michael Kirst, president California State Board of Education, Professor Emeritus , Stanford University

'Educational Change and the Political Process' brings together issues foundational to educational policy with recent debates over such issues as education governance, funding and accountability in a well-written, accessible textbook. It clearly explains how education policy problems, opportunities, actors and instruments differ by location in the education policy system, raise different challenges of implementation and evaluation, and play out in terms of major touchpoints for policy and practice. A useful addition: each chapter concludes with questions and activities designed to engage students in concrete discussions of the chapter’s policy tradeoffs and perspectives. I know of no other textbook that affords thisall-inclusive, system-wide treatment of education policy making—and in-depth reference list. Mitra’s textbook provides an invaluable resource for instructors and students of education policy, and will be relevant for years to come.'

—Milbrey McLuaghlin, David Jacks Professor Emeritus of Education and Public Policy, Stanford University

Table of Contents


Table of Contents



Section I – The U.S. Educational System

Chapter One – Federal Education Policy

A Nation at Risk catalyzing education reform

The Governors catalyze stronger federal involvement

Obama administration and The Race to the Top’s avoidance of ESEA

Comprehension Questions

Discussion Questions


Further Readings

Reference List

Chapter Two –State Systems of Education

History of State Control

State Education Structures


Policy development across states: The Story of the Common Core

Pushback to the Common Core

Moving forward with the Common Core

Comprehension Questions

Discussion Questions


Further Reading

Reference List

Chapter Three – Local School Districts, Citywide Change, and Rural Dilemmas

Influencing the Local Level

District Consolidation

Community Control

School Boards

Compositions of school boards

School board responsibilites

Consolidation of power in cities: Mayoral Control

Policy Regimes and Civic Capacity

Comprehension Questions

Discussion Questions


Further Reading

Reference List

Chapter Four – Influential Policy Actors

National and state actors

Teachers Unions

Parents/Parent Teachers Association

The new major actors


Education Management Organizations

Business community

Think tanks

Research-Practice Partnerships

Comprehension Questions

Discussion Questions


Further Reading

Reference List

Section II – The Policy Process

Chapter Five: Public Policy and Power

Rational Decision Making Process

Policy as a Political Process

Policy as Power

Policy as Argument

Process Matters

The Importance of Ethical Policy

Defining the Policy Process

Comprehension Questions


Further reading

Reference List

Chapter Six: Problem formation, Agenda Setting and Framing

Problem Formation

Framing Ideas

Defining a Target Audience

Agenda Setting

Finding the Policy Window

Social media and framing

Behavioral Economics

Steady work

Punctuated Equilibrium

Public Idea

Framing a Problem

Policy Entrepreneurs


Comprehension questions

Discussion questions


Reference List

Chapter Seven – Policy Formation

Policy tools


Comprehension Questions

Discussion Questions


Future Reading

Reference List

Chapter Eight: Policy Implementation

Relating the top and the bottom

Loose coupling

Street-level Bureaucrats

Policy Feedback, Layered Policy, and Sensemaking

Will, capacity and fidelity

Intermediaries as facilitators of change

District as intermediary

Comprehension Questions

Discussion Questions


Further Reading

Reference List

Chapter Nine: Sustainability and Scale


Pillars of Institutionalism


A comprehensive model of scale

Improvement science

Comprehension questions

Discussion questions


Further Reading

Reference List

Section III – Ideals of the U.S. Educational System

Chapter Ten: Understanding U.S. Ideals



Societal control

U.S. Political Parties

Discussion Questions


Further Reading

Reference List

Chapter 11 - Market Driven Reform: The Foundation for the Accountability Movement

Market Theory

Rational Choice Theory

Critique of a Market Based System

Academic achievement in market models.

Equity and markets.


Research on vouchers.

Charter Schools

Funding of charter schools

History of charters

Research on charters

Comprehension questions

Discussion questions


Further Reading

Reference List

Chapter 12 - Equity


Critical Pedagogy

Critical Race Theory

Equity and accountability

Opportunity to Learn as a way to frame equity and accountability

Equity and the Courts

Race and the Courts

Social Class and the Courts

Student voice and the right to participate

Policy topics with an equity focus

Early-childhood education

Community Schools

Comprehension Questions

Discussion Questions


Further Reading

Reference List


About the Author


Dana L. Mitra is Professor of Education (Educational Theory & Policy) at The Pennsylvania State University.

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