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The Politics of Data Use


by Jeffrey R. Henig — 2012

Background/Context: Many contemporary education reformers present themselves as reformers who, armed with data and evidence, are locked in battle against politics, the weapon of choice for entrenched defenders of the status quo. Although studies of school reform increasingly recognize that politics is inevitably intertwined with reform efforts, the conceptualization of politics is thin and largely divorced from the broader literature in the discipline of political science.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study reviews political science theories and findings to inform our understanding of how politics affects efforts in order to increase data usage in education policy and school reform and to lay a foundation for future research on the issue.

Research Design: This is a review and analytical synthesis of literature that for the most part has not looked at the education policy arena in order to derive insights relevant to contemporary efforts to infuse education policy with greater attention to data.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Rather than block the door to politics, those who hope to promote informed policy making might consider ways to use politics to protect and defend high-quality data and their informed application.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 11, 2012, p. 1-32
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16812, Date Accessed: 9/16/2014 9:30:54 PM

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About the Author
  • Jeffrey Henig
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    JEFFREY R. HENIG is a professor of political science and education at Teachers College and a professor of political science at Columbia University. He is an author or editor of nine books, including, most recently, Spin Cycle: How Research Gets Used in Policy Debates: The Case of Charter Schools (Russell Sage, 2008) and Between Public and Private: Politics, Governance, and the New Portfolio Models for Urban School Reform, coedited with Katrina E. Bulkley and Henry M. Levin (Harvard Education Press, October 2010).
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