The Privatization of Education Policymaking: Politics of Market-Based Urban Education Reform

ED Talk logo


October 12, 2017


12:15pm - 1:30pm


SZB 324


Janelle Scott is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the Graduate School of Education and African American Studies Department. She earned a Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to earning her doctorate, she taught elementary school in Oakland, Calif. Her research explores the relationship between education, policy, and equality of opportunity, and centers on three related policy strands: the racial politics of public education, the politics of school choice, marketization, and privatization, and the role of elite and community-based advocacy in shaping public education. Her work has appeared in several edited books and journals, including the Peabody Journal of Education, Educational Policy, American Educational Research Journal, and Harvard Educational Review. She the editor of School choice and diversity: What the evidence says (2005, Teachers College Press). Janelle Scott received the American Educational Research Association’s 2014 Scholars of Color in Education Distinguished Scholar Award, and the 2017 Faculty Mentorship Award from the University of California at Berkeley.

Non-governmental organizations have grown in number and influence in educational policymaking in the United States and internationally. These intermediary organizations (IOs) are active in promoting, participating in, or opposing “incentivist” educational policies like charter schools, vouchers, “parent trigger” laws, and merit-pay systems for teachers that seek to encourage individuals and institutions to be more effective. The evidence on these reforms, and the extent to which policy makers attend to such evidence, stands to affect the educations of millions of U.S. children, making the political contexts under which effective research utilization takes place a key area for empirical investigation. The adoption and implementation of incentivist policies depends in part on the understanding or acceptance of their track record or potential by policy makers and other stakeholders such as parents, community organizations, and journalists or bloggers. And this acceptance is in turn informed by the promotion and translation of various forms of evidence through a number of knowledge mobilization and policy adoption strategies. In addition, the nature of policymaking is highly complex — made even more so by the entry of new policy entrepreneurs organizations which act as de facto policy makers even when they have limited official public authority to do so. This talk will draw from a multiyear study (2011-2018) to discuss the relationship between the increasing privatization of evidence and policymaking, and the implications of these findings for public education in an increasingly diverse, segregated, and unequal society.