by Ullik Rouk

Policymakers Build Bridges


Policymakers hear often from lobbyists and education activists, but other citizens communicate with them less frequently, if ever. Some policymakers have been trying out a new policy tool to help them connect with constituents on important education issues.

Policymakers pull information from many sources to help them understand and weigh education issues. In developing a position on school choice, education finance, curriculum content, or achievement standards, they consider the knowledge and opinion of experts, what they see or hear in the media, what their colleagues tell them, and what constituents say. But most policymakers will tell you that they have yet to find an in-depth and ongoing way to communicate with constituents.

Image of workers building a bridge.

This issue of Insights on Education Policy, Practice, and Research reports what happened when policymakers interacted with the public in a public engagement program SEDL helped implement in 1998, "Calling the Roll: Study Circles for Better Schools." It is the last in a series of Insights on SEDL’s investigation of the potential use of study circles to engage the public and state-level decision makers in discussions about education. The first Insights of the series, published in October 1999, introduced the concept of "deliberative community dialogue," a form of public engagement of which study circles are a part. That edition suggested how this method might benefit policymakers, educators, and the general public as they seek to improve public education. In December 1999, Insights followed that discussion with the results of interviews with selected state legislators in Florida, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania about the potential of deliberative dialogue as a way to gather information from the public for setting education policy. This Insights goes one step further. It examines the results of SEDL’s research on the implementation of the "Calling the Roll" program and discusses what policymakers who participated in study circles in Arkansas and Oklahoma had to say about this method of connecting with their constituents.

Next Page: The Calling the Roll Program

Published in Insights on Educational Policy, Practice, and Research Number 13, November 2000, Policymakers Build Bridges