The Resurgence of ‘Equity’ in Education Policy

Zachary Griffen, University of California, Los Angeles
Michelle Spiegel, University of California, Irvine

For the past fifty years, scholars have documented the trend in education policy towards an emphasis on efficiency, escalating attempts by economists to shape education policy, and an increasing prevalence among experts and the public that education is primarily an economically productive system. This trend informed education policies that placed an emphasis on improving students’ test scores by holding teachers and schools accountable for meeting—or, as is often the case, not meeting—certain test score thresholds. This paper argues that there is another transformation occurring in education policy that has put emphasis back on inputs—as opposed to outputs—with a frame centered around equity instead of efficiency. The paper first quantitatively documents this trend towards equity. It then explores how equity is being defined, why—with special consideration of the role played by economic expertise—this is occurring, and what it all might mean for the future of education policy. To illustrate the concrete effects of these changes on education policy, we closely analyze two examples of this trend: one from the New York State Department of Education, and the other from the National Academy of Sciences, to elucidate how shifts in the values espoused by policy experts can become institutionalized in official documents that guide decision-making.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 42. Political Economy of Knowledge and Education: Political Process and Policy Outcomes (Part 1)