Influences Beyond the Classroom: Examining Education Policies at the Local, National and Global Levels
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Influences Beyond the Classroom: Examining Education Policies at the Local, National and Global Levels


While education is often talked about as a standalone system, most people experience education as just one part of their broader lives. Schools do not exist in siloes, but serve as a place where people and policy overlap and intersect. The implication of this is that while what happens inside of school buildings is incredibly important, such as curricula, pedagogical choices, or leadership decisions, what happens outside of the school and classroom also matters. This dissertation is a collection of three studies, each investigating an example of an education policy related to, but not directly taking place inside of the classroom.The first study, a co-authored project, examines how school-bus taking habits are related to attendance behaviors for kindergarteners with disabilities. Using ECLS-K, a nationally representative dataset of elementary students, this study finds correlations between certain groups of students with disabilities based on diagnosis type. In particular, students with the most common diagnosis types have better attendance rates when they ride the school-bus. The implication is that outside services such as school transportation, often controlled at the local level, have the potential to impact what happens in classrooms, in this case attendance. The second study is a comparative look at the structure of teacher education programs in California and Denmark. Through interviews with teacher candidates (students enrolled in a teacher education program) and instructors, this study examines how participants experience three focus concepts in their programs: program structure, social responsibility of teaching, and the inclusion of culturally sustaining pedagogies in teacher education curriculum. This study finds that the programs in both locations had highly structured and collaborative programs, but that each differed in the other concepts. Danish participants tended to express a very cohesive view of the social purpose of teaching and schooling, especially as it related to the continued stability of Denmark’s democracy. Californian participants expressed high concern in prioritizing the broader integration of culturally sustaining pedagogies in their programs. This study shows how a higher-level policy (at the state level in California, and the national level in Denmark) such as teacher education influences how schools operate downstream from the policy. The third study traces the development of two frameworks for understanding international cooperation across education systems. Through an examination of the founding documents for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (commonly referred to as PISA) and the Futures of Education framework more recently offered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), this study compares the goals of both frameworks and what they mean for participating countries. PISA has largely dominated international education discussions for two decades, but with the emergence of Futures in the past few years, there may be an appetite for changing how countries compare their education systems and what they hope to gain from international comparisons in the first place. Combined, these three studies demonstrate the way education policy is interwoven with many systems and aspects outside of the classroom. Understanding the complexity and nuance of these overlapping systems can help policymakers as they navigate how to identify, define and then achieve the desired outcomes for students, families, teachers and school leaders. Recognizing and focusing on the way education systems impact participants beyond the traditional measures of student success is key to creating and sustaining just and equitable systems for all.

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