Dissertation

Impact Analysis of Policy Reforms in N.J. Educational Practice Based on School Performance Outcomes

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In New Jersey the neoliberal reform agenda in education policy manifested in funding cuts to schools, changes in teacher evaluation mechanisms, and revisions of pension and health care plans. Educational discourse resides in the political space and is a platform upon which many politicians launch promises of societal growth through reform agendas. These reform agendas are often counter to the values of democratic education and often exacerbate social and economic problems like segregation and funding inequity. How did these policy changes impact educational quality in New Jersey? This study examined the impact of neoliberal policy changes to education practice in New Jersey using school-based outcomes as a measure of efficacy. Data gathered from graduation rates, student-teacher ratios, and test scores were compared over time between school districts of varying socioeconomic status. Findings revealed statistically significant changes in school performance outcomes between high- and low- socioeconomic school districts. However, these changes could not be tied directly to the specific policy shifts. Despite the lack of a causal connection, correlations emerged between policy adjustments and changes in school outcomes, suggesting the need for further analysis and the idea that this type of policy analysis can lead to more effective school-based reform. Superintendents’ salary caps were lifted after the completion of this dissertation, which does not reflect this change.

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