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Spring 2021 Course

Education Law and Policy

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This course will survey several contemporary legal and policy issues in American elementary and secondary public education, including school finance; school discipline and the “school-to-prison” pipeline; racial (re)segregation and isolation; immigration and bilingual education; sex, sexuality and gender; family and student voice and engagement; bullying prevention and intervention; testing, accountability and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); special education; workforce diversity and inclusiveness; and the school choice movement; among others.

To help us understand the dimensions of these current education reform issues, we will begin the course by familiarizing ourselves with several “lenses,” or theoretical perspectives, that we can use as tools to inform our analysis, including: the “democracy lens,” the “critical race theory lens,” the “historical/structural lens,” the “trauma lens,” and the “school culture lens.” Along the way we will consider the roles that a variety of legal authorities (e.g., the First Amendment, the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, compulsory education laws, federal civil rights laws, state constitutions, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDES), and many others) play in shaping the structure and process of public education in the United States. We will also read and discuss non-legal texts in a variety of media by educators, journalists, social scientists, and others.

Several recurring themes and questions will guide our analysis, including: What are the purposes of public education in a democratic society? What is learning, and what conditions allow students to learn effectively? What makes a school a “good” school? How should law and policy allocate authority for deciding how students should be educated and what they should learn? What constitutes equal educational opportunity and what measures should we use to determine whether or not it exists? Similarly, how should we measure student achievement and remedy gaps that exist between the achievement levels of various subgroups? How does education policy get made and what role can and should law and lawyers play in designing solutions to problems in education policy? What are effective legal and policy arrangements for ensuring that those impacted most by the education system—students, caregivers, educators—have a meaningful voice in its governance?

Assignments for the course will include contributing to a class blog on Canvas, planning and delivering a “lesson” on a topic of your choosing, and completing a research project at the conclusion of the course. Class participation will also be a major part of the course grade. There is no final examination in this course.

Note: This course is jointly-listed with HGSE.