Education Policy: Research: Historical Overview: Preface:

Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009

Preface: Origin, Purpose, and Structure of the Essay

During the past half century, federal education policy has played an increasingly critical role in determining what happens in American classrooms-and ultimately in the minds and hearts of American students. As historians, policymakers, commentators, and citizens explore the development of federal education policy during this era of complex and dynamic change, important questions arise regarding the actions of states, on their own and in coalitions with other states, as they attempt to shape and respond to federal policy.

Reliable answers to these questions can be found only through research in the archival record—specifically, by reviewing the original documents, which reveal what the key players were thinking, saying, and doing. Yet a comprehensive documentary record of this topic does not yet exist as an available resource. Many of the relevant records are in archives or records storage facilities but are not yet accessible for research; many others are still in the offices and homes of their creators.

In 2003, the New York State Archives launched the States' Impact on Federal Education Policy Project (SIFEPP), to create a continually growing public resource of archival and published materials on the role of states in shaping federal education policy since the mid-twentieth century (see About the Project).

This essay is intended to be a resource for researchers and archivists working with education policy-related records and for scholars, teachers, students, policymakers, journalists, and others engaged with education who may not be familiar with the history of education policy.

Presidential administrations define the sections within the chronological flow of the essay. Although milestones in education policy do not always correspond with changes in administration, each new administration does bring a new cast of characters to both executive and legislative positions, and education-related entities may be created, restructured, redirected, or eliminated in the political transition. Therefore, the transition in national political leadership provides an appropriate structure within which to view the profoundly political process of education policy formation. (See a chronology of key developments in education policy since 1944.)


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Footnotes: The PDF version of this essay contains extensive footnotes that include numerous citations and supplementary text. For ease of reading, the footnotes are omitted from this version.