Educational Policy and the Structural Dimension

Sanderson (2000) has different thoughts about educational policy evaluation. He contends that traditionally, educational policy evaluation was concerned more with methodological emphasis. He argues that the focus should be on the theoretical bases of policy making. His contention is that combined with ‘new institutionist’ process and recent work on policy implementation structures, policy makers can address ‘cross-cutting’ social problems. He states the educational policy can also have a place in social science and the way the evaluation is approached is key to the success of the policy reformation.

The structural dimension which includes institutional structure, government arrangements, systems, and processes, also must be included in the evaluation processes of the educational policy. The very structure in which the educational system is setup may also dictate policy when it comes to assessment, instruction, and curriculum (Cooper, Fusarelli, & Randall, 2004). The structure of both educational and social organizations should be smaller and more intimate to suggest a less bureaucratic role to a more diplomatic one according to Strike (1982) as cited by Cooper, Fusarelli, and Randall (2004).

Odden (1991) argues that changes in educational policy in the structural dimension creates more complexity and builds upon the bureaucratic base that needs to be broken down instead of built upon. By changing structure, the administrative apparatus which controls implementation is greatly increased which allows for more control but also more avenues for weaknesses. These complexities appear at both the school and district level, but it seems that as the structure of the policy is increased, so does the amount of bureaucratic red tape. The administrative duties create evaluation, assessment, and implementation issues that may have not been present had not the structure been realigned.

Odden also states that changes in policy should be done using incremental steps. By using incremental steps, the people who are directly affected by the change, teachers, students, and administrators, can adjust easier to change and allow the change to be evaluated in small pieces versus waiting for the entire change to end and then evaluate. Even when incremental steps are uses, the author warns, when the steps are aggravated, the jerk knee result is to increase structural changes and to increase implementation policies. As assessment of the change is evaluated, the structural changes can be quite large such as the creation of middle schools, the realignment of grades to buildings, and even the creation of new buildings that will help the policy be implemented more easily.

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