Education Policy Reflection Paper

Education Policy Reflection

Education policy aims at improving the quality of education in various institutions. Over the course of America’s education history, the government has enacted various policies to improve the quality of education. The government has also increased its role in ensuring access and equity to education among all citizens. Access and equity aim at ensuring that those who are disadvantage get equal access to education. The first part of this paper examines the policies that the Federal Government has enacted over time to address quality concerns in the K-12 education system. The second part examines the Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 case law and its overall impact.

Question 1

What policies has the federal government enacted to address quality concerns in the U.S. K–12 system? Describe the ESEA, NCLB, and National Assessment of School Progress. Explain the proposals to reform education

The Federal Government has enacted a number of policies to address quality concerns in the K-12 education system. One of the earliest policies is the enactment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The major purpose of this law was to enhance equal access to education among students from different socio-economic backgrounds (Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), 2015). The ESEA provides for the development of state-sponsored programs in particular schools or localities. These programs help in catering towards the specific needs of students with various challenges including disability, learning difficulties, English language difficulties, and those from poor backgrounds (VCU, 2015). The act provides for funds to help in purchasing of instructional materials, enhance professional development, promote parental involvement, and in supporting of various educational programs. The act also seeks to improve standards of education and accountability at both the elementary and secondary levels.

In 2002, the Federal Government introduced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was an update of the ESEA Act of 1965. This act was introduced following the realization that the American education system had waned in international competitiveness. The key role of the act was to ensure that the Federal Government took more interest in encouraging schools to be more responsible for the success of the students. The new act also emphasized on the need for increased collaboration between states and schools to ensure academic progress of particular groups of students including English-language learners, the poor, minority learners, those in special needs education, and the minority. The NCLB law required that states introduce reading and mathematics tests in grades 3 to 8 and even in high school. These tests were for tacking the progress of the students and including the various subgroups of students.

Related: The Americans with Disability Act of 1990

Under the NCLB Act, different states had to set proficiency levels for various groups of students. This system is known as the adequate yearly progress (“Education Week”, 2015). Schools that failed to achieve their goals or proficiency levels for over two consecutive years faced a number of sanctions including offering free tutoring. Another sanction is that the schools could allow learners to transfer to other schools within the same state. Under serious circumstances where a school continued missing targets, the state had the legal mandate to intervene and take over the school (“Education Week”, 2015). In case the state took over the school, there were different options available including closing the school, apply a different strategy, or transform the school into a charter institution. Under the NCLB Act, teachers must have the necessary qualifications and certification by the appropriate bodies. The act also ensures that there is fair distribution of teachers in different schools basing on their qualifications.

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) is a national assessment program for students across the nation. This is the most recent program that aims to address the quality concerns in the K-12 education system. This program aims at evaluating students’ knowledge level in various topic areas. The assessments cover different areas such as reading, arts, writing, mathematics, geography, economics, engineering literacy, and among others (National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), 2017). This program is currently assessing students’ core competence areas including reading, writing, and mathematics, with additional subject areas to be included in 2018 and 2019. The program utilizes similar metrics and assessments across the entire nation. As such, this assessment provides a uniform measure of competency levels in all students across the nation (NCES, 2017). This program enhances the tracking of students’ progress over time. The program is the first of its kind that attempts to track students’ progress across the nation and applying a scientific approach.

The education proposals are increasingly focusing test scores as quality indicators. The No Child Left Behind Act requires that states conduct assessments in grade 3 and 8, and another assessment in secondary levels. The assessments focus mainly on mathematics, science, and language. The three subjects are the key pillars covered by the assessments. In the recent period, various states have begun placing mandatory tests at high school levels before awarding of the high school diploma. Majority of students are in schools conducting high school tests before the diploma certification. These education reforms are meant to ensure that the country’s educational standards are at par with standards in other countries. Most high schools are proposing an increase in required courses to include English, mathematics, and science. Another proposal is to increase the number of students who are conversant in foreign languages that critical to the security of the nation.

Related: Public Policy

Question 2

 In 1962, the Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 invalidated a state rule requiring prayer in public schools. In subsequent rulings, the Court invalidated silent prayer (See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38) and the posting of the Ten Commandments (see Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39) on the grounds that the policies violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Stage 1 of the Kraft & Furlong policy process model (Kraft, Chapter 3), calls for “agenda setting” and State 5 calls for “policy evaluation”. What was the “problem” in Stage 1 that the policy makers (in this case the Supreme Court) were attempting to address, and in Stage 5, did the policy work?

Kraft and Furlong’s (2015) Policy Process Model consists of six different stages that apply in policymaking. The policy development process is a continuous process, contrary to the view that it is a one-time process. Under the model, the first process in policy development is agenda setting. This stage is the most critical one in the Policy Process Model. The agenda setting stage involves defining the policy problem that various actors should focus on. At this stage, there is identification of the problem facing the citizens. This problem must be serious enough to warrant the involvement of the government. On most occasions, the private sector cannot adequately solve this problem. According to Kraft and Furlong (2015), the problem should be well defined in order to encourage various players to pay attention.

In Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 (1962), the problem was the reciting of Regents’ prayer by the School District. Some parents felt that the school’s practice of reciting the prayer was not in line with their religious beliefs. In addition, reciting the Regents’ prayer contravened the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which advocates for religious neutrality of the state and all its arms. Although the state law had authorized the reciting of the Regents’ Prayer, this contravened the constitution, which advocated for religious neutrality. Subsequently, the Supreme Court invalidated this law. Stage 5 of the Policy Process Model involves evaluating the success of the program. The policy did work because it helped in curtailing the established of prayer in public institutions. Although the prayer seems innocuous in that, it does not exclude other religious denominations, failing to curtail this requirement could have provided the leeway for the establishment of other prayers that could encourage religious segregation. As James Madison pointed out, “it is important to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties” (Findlaw, n.d).


Education Week. (2015). No Child Left Behind: An Overview. Retrieved from summary.html

Findlaw. (n.d). United States Supreme Court ENGEL v. VITALE, (1962): No. 468. Retrieved from

Kraft, M. E., & Furlong, S. R. (2015). Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives. Los Angeles: Sage/CQ Press.

National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). (2017). NAEP overview. Retrieved from

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). (2015). Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Retrieved from education-act-of-1965/

Evaluative Criteria in Policy Making