UW–Madison’s Turner edits special journal issue focused on critical policy analysis in education

By Laurel White

A new special issue of the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis underscores the influence of UW–Madison scholars in the development of the field of critical policy research in education. 

Erica O. Turner, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, served as a special editor of the issue. Turner says the special issue represents an important and growing recognition of the value of critical approaches to policy research, as well as an expanded vision for the journal. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis typically takes a “traditional” or economic-influenced quantitative, causal inference approach to policy analysis. 

Erica Turner

In the special issue’s introduction, Turner and her co-editors note many policy researchers have utilized critical policy analysis to examine and shed light upon injustices in education, especially in recent years. They note, however, that such analyses are still rarely seen in educational journals. They contend that should change.

“Rather than assess only the impacts of policy, or how policies are implemented, critical policy research centers power and inequality in its analysis,” they explain. “We hope to broaden and deepen readers’ understanding of how research can better address inequity and injustice by intentionally examining inequality, power, and systems of oppression in education policy.”

Turner co-edited the special issue with Dominique J. Baker, an associate professor at the University of Delaware, and Huriya Jabbar, an associate professor at the University of Southern California. 

As they explain the foundations of critical policy analysis in their introduction, the editors nod to the vital early contributions of current and former School of Education faculty members Tom Popkewicz and Michael Apple. Popkewicz is a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Apple is a professor emeritus in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Department of Educational Policy Studies. 

The editors also note the trailblazing work of Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor emerita in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Ladson-Billings’ scholarship helped infuse critical race theory into critical analyses of education policy, highlighting the enduring role of race in education. Turner says the inclusion of diverse theories, as demonstrated by Ladson-Billings’ work, provide essential tools for understanding our ever-evolving social world and help bring critical policy research to life.

“​​Critical policy research is enriched by a variety of theories,” Turner explains. “Those theories link education policy to broader social, cultural, economic, and political contexts, as well as to the power systems that form our society.”  

Turner says Anjalé Welton, the Rupple-Bascom Professor of Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, has also been an important figure in building the field of critical policy analysis through her recent work with colleagues synthesizing key research. Welton is also well recognized for her work supporting and building understanding of how educational leaders address race and racism in their school communities.

The special issue’s focus on critical policy analysis clearly resonated with researchers. Turner notes the special issue received nearly 400 submissions, more than the journal typically receives in a calendar year. The issue includes eight feature articles and three commentaries, including one commentary written by Michael Apple.

“We believe this enthusiasm is a sign of excitement and interest surrounding critical education policy research,” Turner says. “There is clearly a need for more educational journals to publish this work.” 

Turner and her co-editors hope the special issue will not only increase understanding of critical policy analysis, but serve as a resource to policy researchers interested in incorporating the approach in their work.  

A panel related to the special issue took place at the American Educational Research Association (AERA)’s annual meeting in April. On May 23, AERA will sponsor its first-ever webinar to promote the issue. More information about the webinar is available here

The special issue of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis is available online here

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