Spring 2014 - 63440 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Advanced Education Policy Practicum

The practicum will be organized around a timely problem of practice: How might states better align their K-12 college readiness and higher education remediation policies to increase the numbers of residents with degrees, certificates and licenses that have labor market value?

The great majority of states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an internationally benchmarked set of curriculum specifications designed to ensure––among other goals––that students graduate from high school "college-ready" in mathematics and English/Language arts.  At the same time states are adopting policies designed to increase the efficiency of higher education.  One common element of these state higher education policies is the redesign of remediation––an enterprise broadly perceived by state policymakers to be a failure.  There is strong evidence that college students referred to remedial coursework are more likely to end up with debt than with a degree.  For this and various political reasons, there is a growing movement in some states to limit financial aid to those students who begin their postsecondary studies "college-ready." Such policies would likely have dire consequences for equity.

Multiple estimates suggest that roughly two-thirds of students will fail to meet the college readiness benchmarks on new state CCSS-aligned assessments slated for implementation in 2014-2015.  Presumably, these students will need some form of special support to succeed in postsecondary education and a different senior-year high school experience than most such students now typically receive.  Currently about eighty percent of students from families in the top quartile of income earn a Baccalaureate degree by age 24.  Fewer than one-in-ten students from families in the bottom quartile of income earners do so.  Thus, a central challenge for states and for our society is to ensure that their are viable and reliable educational pathways that lead to upward social and economic mobility for low-income students.

In spring 2013, my advanced education practicum helped develop a model state policy framework for the Education Commission of the States (http://www.ecs.org/) to provide guidance to legislators and other policymakers seeking to better align their K-12 and postsecondary systems. See: http://blueprint.ecs.org/the-blueprint/.Students worked with state teams and with policy entrepreneurs from Complete College America ( http://www.completecollege.org/ ) and Education First (http://www.education-first.com/) to develop the key recommendations.  That work will continue in this year's practicum with an elaboration of the recommendations and the development of associated resources for states.

In addition to the direct work with policy organizations and state leaders, students will be introduced to practical tools for sensemaking in the crucible of everyday policy work and will develop an understanding of the historical forces shaping today's policy debates.

There will be much reading and writing, group work, and field work.  In addition, the practicum is set up to help support the career development of students with an interest in policy development, advocacy, and public service. The practicum typically draws second-year MPAff and MBA students, third-year law students, and doctoral students in mathematics, mathematics education, journalism, and educational policy and leadership.  Feel free to contact Professor Treisman if you have an interest in this course.