Author: Jennifer Lee

No Easy Answers in Education Policy Reform

This summer I worked for the non-profit organization The New Teacher Project (TNTP), which is in the middle of a five-year contract with the Houston Independent School District to reform the human capital system of HISD. The changes happening at HISD quietly place the district in the center of the most controversial debates in education policy – the use of value-added modeling to evaluate teachers and paying teachers in part based on how well their students perform. After studying the theories and reading all sides of the debate surrounding education policy, I hoped that working in a reform-minded district like HISD would help me settle my internal conflicts about education policy reform and come to a conclusion about the benefits and harms of these policies. I’m still searching for that answer, but I did learn some important general lessons about the difficulties of policy implementation. How to implement policy is the $64,000 question. Most of what we learn at LBJ falls into the buckets of policy analysis and policy development. But the truth is, at some point policy analysts must hand off their policies to a group of people to implement. This is a crucial stage and one I expect most policy graduate students are unprepared for. A policy analyst would like to think that a smart, well-designed policy will be implemented smoothly and faithfully. But even small changes...

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Valuing Diversity in Thought – and in Student Body

  Halfway through my first semester at the LBJ School, I have been impressed with the diversity of interests and strengths of my fellow students. I have felt challenged by my classes and supported by faculty and staff. At the same time, I have been disappointed in the amount of racial and ethnic diversity within the school. Based on statistics gathered by the admissions office, LBJ’s currently enrolled U.S. minority student population is 16 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian and 3 percent black. International students represent an additional 10 percent. These demographics do not reflect the makeup of the population that many of us are training to serve. In Texas, the population is 38 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian and 12 percent black. LBJ looks more similar to the United States as a whole with its Hispanic and Asian populations, but still under-represents blacks, which make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. As a school of public affairs, LBJ should affirm that our future policy leaders must understand and represent the diverse experiences of people living in the United States. In class, if we are discussing the disproportionate effects of a policy on different racial or ethnic groups, a diverse set of voices should be available to share their perspectives. And there should be enough of a presence that minority students do not feel as if they are expected to...

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