Saving Schools: History, Politics, and Policy in U.S. Education

Mini-Course 1: History and Politics of U.S. Education

About The Course

*Note - This is an Archived course*

This is a past/archived course. At this time, you can only explore this course in a self-paced fashion. Certain features of this course may not be active, but many people enjoy watching the videos and working with the materials. Make sure to check for reruns of this course.

This is the first mini-course in a sequence of four mini-courses, releasing on September 8, 2014. This initial mini-course seeks to answer the following question: How did a school system, once the envy of the world, stumble so that the performance in math, science, and reading of U.S. students at age 15 fell below that of students in a majority of the world’s industrialized nations?

Exploring that question, we identify the personalities and historical forces—the progressives, racial desegregation, legalization and collective bargaining—that shaped and re-shaped U.S. school politics and policy. We visit the places where new ideas and practices were spawned, and we look at some of their unanticipated consequences. 

In the three subsequent mini-courses, we seek answers to a second question: What are the best ways of lifting the performance of American schools to a higher level? To explore these questions, we look at ideas and proposals of those who want to save our schools—be it by reforming the teaching profession, holding schools accountable, or giving families more school choices.  In interviews with reform proponents and independent experts, we capture the intensity of the current debate. In the end, we do not find any silver bullets that can magically lift schools to a new level of performance, but we do pinpoint the pluses and minuses of many new approaches.  These three subsequent mini-courses will launch later in the fall and continue into 2015.

Each mini-course contains five to eight lectures, with each lecture containing approximately three videos. The mini-courses also include assigned readings, discussion forums, and assessment opportunities.

This is the first mini-course in a four-course sequence. Mini-Course II: Teacher Policies can be found here. Mini-Course III: Accountability and National Standards can be found here. Mini-Course IV: School Choice can be found here.

WAYS TO TAKE THIS EDX COURSE FOR FREE: Audit This Course

Audit this course for free and have complete access to all the course material, activities, tests, and forums. If your work is satisfactory and you abide by the Honor Code, you'll receive a personalized Honor Code Certificate to showcase your achievement.

WAYS TO TAKE THIS COURSE FOR A FEE: Earn a Verified Certificate of Achievement

Looking to test your mettle? Do you plan to use your completed coursework for job applications, promotions or school applications? Then you may prefer to work towards an edX personalized Certificate of Achievement to document your accomplishment. It is a great way to document your accomplishment. You may switch into this option at any time before the mini-course finishes on October 20th. In order to achieve a certificate, however, you must complete the mini-course requirements by October 20th.

Earn Harvard Credit

Optionally, you can enroll in the traditional, semester-long course at Harvard Extension School. Courses are offered in fall or spring semesters, or both. You have the option to enroll for undergraduate or graduate credit and will receive grades on a Harvard transcript. Learn more about the course on the Harvard Extension School website.

Recommended Background

None.