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Education Policy (M.P.P.)

Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Program Overview

The Education Policy master's degree is a nationally recognized, top-ranked program that fosters knowledge of the social, economic, political, and historical contexts for education policy and practice. As a part of the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, the M.P.P. program sits at the crossroads of public policy and education policy, allowing you to dive deep into policy decision-making and the impact of those decisions on today's educational systems.

Through the two-year program you will:

  • Understand the world of education policy and how policymakers solve problems.
  • Learn how to make systemic changes to education in ways that have a positive impact on students.
  • Develop specific modes of quantitative and qualitative analysis to evaluate educational issues and craft innovative solutions.
  • Explore how theoretical frameworks and analysis can be applied in real-world policymaking at the local, state, and national levels.

Students enroll in our graduate program from a variety of backgrounds, but all share a common interest in education policy and how it intersects with their work. You'll form strong connections with fellow students through a cohort-based model and become a part of Vanderbilt's extensive alumni network. There are three tracks within the program that allow you to tailor your classes to meet your specific interest. These tracks provide an in-depth look at either K-12 education policy, higher education policy, or quantitative analysis in education. We also have joint degree programs with both Vanderbilt Law School and the Owen Graduate School of Management.

Why 2 years?

Our goal is to have you prepared for your profession immediately after graduation. We also know that part of coming to graduate school is having an opportunity to explore your interests and find the right fit for how you want to make your impact on education. Instead of having to apply to jobs a couple months into the program, we allow students to investigate their passions through classes and hand-on policy experience. Because our core classes are scheduled in the late-afternoon and evening, most of our students also gain hands-on experience by working full- or part-time during the program in in policy-related jobs that match their interests. You'll learn in a supportive environment and come out of Vanderbilt with experience on your resume.

Why an M.P.P. degree instead of an M.Ed?

A Master's of Public Policy carries a high value within organizations that are thinking about large-scale changes. Vanderbilt's M.P.P. program is unique in its policy focus specifically on education, but the degree (in comparison to the M.Ed. degree) signals analytical and policy analysis skills that are in high demand on the job market.

Our Commitment

Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The MPP program addresses questions of justice, equity, and inclusion as key elements of its core courses. Throughout the curriculum, students learn about the role that race has played in policies related to education.

Selected Courses Related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

EDP 6130: American Education History and Policy - This course examines the history of American education and K-12 policy and considers the ways in which educators, reformers, political leaders, foundations, and parents have historically used public schools as both a pathway to individual betterment and an enduring tool of broader social reform. It explores the social, political, intellectual and historical context of core educational policy areas, including school choice and the charter school movement, mass testing, preschool education, bilingual education/English language learning, special education, and the push for accountability with special attention to issues of race, class, and ethnicity.

EDP 6220: Urban Education and Social Policy - This course explores the interaction between contemporary social issues and education policy, It examines the complex relationships between schools and American society by: 1) analyzing the role of socio-economic and racial factors in schooling; 2) exploring the differential impact of schooling on individuals; and 3) unpacking the influence of neighborhood characteristics and housing policy on school outcomes.

Selected Faculty Research Related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Joanne Golann, assistant professor of public policy and education
Trained as a sociologist and an ethnographer, Professor Golann seeks to understand how culture shapes educational policy and practice. She is currently working on a book project, Scripting the Moves: Class, Control, and Urban School Reform, based on 18 months of fieldwork inside a high-performing “no-excuses” charter school. In the book, she considers what it takes—and what it costs—to equalize opportunities for low-income students of color.

Matthew Shaw, assistant professor of public policy and education
Professor Shaw is a sociologist of law whose research focuses on educational institutions and the students, educators, and communities who engage with them. His current projects are on laws which shape the experiences of undocumented youth as they transition from high school to college, Title IX as directive on educational institutions, and funding challenges experienced by Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Success Stories

The M.P.P. program serves as preparation for a variety of careers in education policy and policy analysis. In addition,  Peabody Career Services offers you an array of career resources, programming, and group/individual sessions throughout the academic year.

Current graduates have found jobs in state and federal education agencies, legislatures, and school district offices; public, charter, and independent schools; colleges and universities; foundations, nonprofits, and think tanks. Others pursue doctoral study in education or the social sciences.

92% of job-seeking Education Policy graduates were employed or attending graduate school within four months of graduation

Click here to see a list of recent career placements:

Recent graduates with an M.Ed. in Education Policy have gone on to the following positions, among others:
  • Associate Legislative Research Analyst, Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Director of Policy, Texas Aspires, Austin, Texas
  • Director of School Partnerships, OneGoal, New York, N.Y.
  • Evaluation Consultant, New York City Department of Education, New York, N.Y.
  • K-12 Data and Policy Analyst, Education Trust, Washington, D.C.
  • National Policy Associate, Centerstone, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Ph.D. Candidate, Health Policy and Management, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Principal in Residence, RePublic Middle School, Jackson, Miss.
  • School Governance Liaison, Atlanta Public Schools, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Vice President of Policy, Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Nashville, Tenn.

Practical Experience

As an M.P.P. student, you'll apply what you learn in the classroom to field-based placements, engaging in hands-on policy work. In addition to policy work during the academic year, students engage in a full-time practicum experience in the summer between Year 1 and Year 2 of the program. You'll be able to complete your practicum in a range of education policy-related organizations such as state-level departments, educational agencies, foundations, and think tanks, among others.

Recent M.P.P students:

• Analyzed focus group and survey data while researching education policy issues at the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a nonprofit that ensures student success across Tennessee
• Conducted research on teacher preparation, literacy, and transportation's influence on school choice through Stand for Children Colorado
• Onboarded new and returning teachers at Achievement School District in Memphis, Tennessee
• Audited the policy manuals of school districts across Tennessee for compliance with federal and state law through the Tennessee School Boards Association.

Practicums are designed to focus on practical experience. A sample of placements has included:

• Education Trust (Washington, D.C.)
• Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools (New York City)
• Urban Leaders Fellowship (various cities)
• North Carolina Board of Education (Raleigh, N.C.)
• State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) (Nashville, Tenn.)
• Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) (Nashville, Tenn.)
• Tennessee Board of Regents (Nashville, Tenn.)
• Tennessee Department of Education (Nashville, Tenn.)
• Tennessee State Board of Education (Nashville, Tenn.)

Program Curriculum

The Education Policy master’s degree includes a sequence of core requirements and a suite of courses in research and data analysis. You will take specialized courses, based on your interests, plus a field-based practicum in which you’ll address a meaningful policy problem.

The program is a 36-hour, two-year program of study with a policy core, broad foundations, policy making, research methods and data analysis, and elective courses to build a concentration that aligns with your chosen career path.

Concentrations in Education Policy
  • K-12 Policy
  • Higher Education Policy
  • Quantitative Methods in Education Policy

A graduate degree in Education Policy may be pursued concurrently with studies for the J.D. in the Vanderbilt School of Law  and the M.B.A. in the Owen Graduate School of Management. Applicants must apply separately to each degree program.

Degree Requirements

K-12 Policy or Higher Education Policy Concentration

Education Policy Core: 12 hours

  • EDP 6110 Politics and Policymaking
  • EDP 6120 Education Policy and School Reform*
  • EDP 6130 American Educational History and Policy*
  • EDP 6140 Economics of Education

*Students specializing in Higher Education Policy may substitute a Higher Education Policy course with advisor approval.


Required Methods and Data Analysis:  9 hours

  • LPO 7860 Research Design and Data Analysis I
  • LPO 7870 Research Design and Data Analysis II
  • EDP 7880 Education Policy and Program Evaluation

Practicum and Policy Writing: 3 hours

  • EDP 7950 Practicum in Education Policy

Policy Electives: 12 hours

The following represents a sample list of elective courses. You’ll work with your advisor to identify courses that best align with your intellectual and professional goals. Transfer hours can be applied only toward elective credit.

  • EDP 6210 Teacher Policy
  • EDP 6220 Urban Education and Social Policy
  • EDP 7500 Education Law
  • LPO 7200 Grants Policy and Administration
  • HEA 6010 College and University Management
  • HEA 6300 Postsecondary Access and Opportunity
  • HEA 6310 College and University Finance
  • IEPM 6120 International Issues in K12 Policy Reform
  • IEPM 6130 Comparative Issues in Higher Ed. Policy**
  • ELP 8210 Resource Allocation and Deployment (Ed.D.)**
  • ELP 8220 Ed. Accountability and Assessment (Ed.D.)**
  • HLP 8220 Public Policy and Higher Education (Ed.D.)

** Ed.D.-level weekend courses. Students must secure advisor and instructor approval before enrolling in Ed.D. courses.


Quantitative Methods in Education Policy Concentration

Education Policy Core: 12 hours

  • EDP 6110 Politics and Policymaking
  • EDP 6120 Education Policy and School Reform
  • EDP 6130 American Educational History and Policy
  • EDP 6140 Economics of Education

Required Methods and Data Analysis: 15 hours

  • LPO 8810 Research Design/Methods of Education Policy
  • PSY GS 8861 Statistical Inference
  • LPO 8851 Regression I
  • LPO 7810 Causal Inference
  • LPO 8852 Regression II

Practicum: 0 hours

  • EDP 7950 Practicum in Education Policy

Policy Electives: 9 hours

The following represents a sample list of elective courses. You’ll work with your advisor to identify courses that best align with your intellectual and professional goals. Transfer hours can be applied only toward elective credit.

  • EDP 6210 Teacher Policy
  • EDP 6220 Urban Education and Social Policy
  • EDP 7500 Education Law
  • LPO 7200 Grants Policy and Administration
  • HEA 6010 College and University Management
  • HEA 6300 Postsecondary Access and Opportunity
  • HEA 6310 College and University Finance
  • IEPM 6120 International Issues in K12 Policy Reform
  • IEPM 6130 Comparative Issues in Higher Ed. Policy**
  • ELP 8210 Resource Allocation and Deployment (Ed.D.)**
  • ELP 8220 Ed. Accountability and Assessment (Ed.D.)**
  • HLP 8220 Public Policy and Higher Education (Ed.D.)

** Ed.D.-level weekend courses. Students must secure adviser and instructor approval before enrolling in Ed.D. courses.

Program Curriculum

Faculty

M.P.P. program faculty conduct research and engage with policymakers in areas such as teacher policy, school finance, school leadership, education law, education evaluation, and politics of education governance.

Ryan Balch
  • Program Director, Education Policy
  • Senior Lecturer, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Christopher Candelaria
  • Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Marisa Cannata
  • Associate Professor of the Practice, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Program Director of the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program.
Sean P. Corcoran
  • Associate Professor of Public Policy & Education, and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Shaun M. Dougherty
  • Associate Professor of Public Policy & Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Joanne Golann
  • Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Jason Grissom
  • Faculty Director, Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA).
  • Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Public Policy and Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Carolyn J. Heinrich
  • LPO Dept. Chair; Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Public Policy and Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Professor of Health Policy (secondary appointment), Department of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Catherine Gavin Loss
  • Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professional Education, Office of the Dean
  • Associate Professor of the Practice, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Matthew Patrick Shaw
  • Assistant Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School.
  • Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Claire Smrekar
  • Associate Professor, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Program Highlights

Peabody Reflector

November 11, 2019
Building capacity for educational research in China
For more than 10 years, Peabody College has been partnering with institutions in China to create more opportunities for faculty and students to collaborate and make a stronger impact globally.

Vanderbilt Magazine

August 20, 2019
Education Evolution
Vanderbilt scholars are working to align higher ed policy with 21st century needs. Christopher Loss is featured.

In the Media

March 12, 2020
Study: Career and Technical Education Yields Not Just Higher Earnings, But Higher Test Scores
The impressive returns to technical education may help explain the sustained demand for trade and vocational schools, even during a time when the rate of college enrollment for American students is steadily climbing. Research by Shaun M. Dougherty is described. Forbes.

February 20, 2020
Can you get rid of your student loans by filing for bankruptcy?
Paying back student loans is not an easy thing to do. One out of every 5 borrowers with outstanding student loan debt has fallen behind their payments. This piece was co-authored by Brent Evans and Matthew Shaw. The Conversation.

February 14, 2020
Trump's big bet on career and technical education
President Donald Trump has proposed one of the largest increases in funding for career and technical education in recent history. Shaun M. Dougherty authored this essay. The Conversation.

January 10, 2020
Better learning methods for Tennessee's students sparks participation
A recent study by Jason Grissom on differentiated instruction is mentioned. The Tennessean.

November 7, 2019
1 in 3 Nashville public school students opt out of neighborhood schools
Claire Smrekar, an expert on school choice, is quoted. The Tennessean.

October 15, 2019
Principals, Do You Know What Your Teachers Really Think of You?
Jason Grissom is quoted. Education Week.

October 14, 2019
A Study Suggests Kansas Schools Rely On Data At The Expense Of Teacher Knowhow
Jason Grissom is quoted. KMUW.

October 10, 2019
New Study Finds Gifted Programs Favor Wealth Over Ability
A new study, co-authored by Jason Grissom, confirms that lower-income elementary students are far less likely than their wealthier counterparts to be placed in gifted programs. Nashville Public Radio.

October 8, 2019
How Warren's Year as a Young Teacher Could Factor in the 2020 Campaign
Ryan Balch is quoted. Education Week.

October 4, 2019
Money over merit? New study says gifted programs favor students from wealthier families
Jason Grissom, one of the authors of the study described is quoted. Chalkbeat.

September 30, 2019
For male students, technical education in high school boosts earnings after graduation
Job prospects for young men who only have a high school diploma are particularly bleak. They are even worse for those who have less education. When young men experience joblessness, it not only threatens their financial well-being but their overall well-being and physical health. Shaun Dougherty co-authored this piece in The Conversation.

September 4, 2019
Demands on urban school chiefs keep tenures short
“Where the board rated its own functioning lower, the superintendent was much less likely to be there three years later,” said Jason Grissom, an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University. Grissom said superintendents generally hold onto a job for three to four years. Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

August 29, 2019
Some no-excuse charter schools say they are changing. Are they really?
Joanne W. Golann co-authored a portion of this blog post about problems associated with the disciplinary practices at no-excuse charter schools. The Washington Post.

August 7, 2019
Nashville keeps growing as its students keep struggling
Claire Smrekar is quoted. The Tennessean.

Honors

Jason Grissom and Carolyn Heinrich were among eight Vanderbilt scholars, including four from the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations, named in the 2020 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, an annual ranking of the top 200 university-based scholars shaping educational practice and policy.

Carolyn Heinrich has been named a George Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford University. She will reside there in 2022-23.