Policy Evaluation

Policy Evaluation

A Chapter by Debbie Barry

An essay about public policy in education. Written for EDU 108: Introduction to Policy & Education.


Policy Evaluation

December 17, 2009


It is essential for education leaders to understand policy evaluation because the results of evaluations can affect what policies are and are not adopted in a district or state.  By understanding policy evaluation, education leaders can prepare for the results of evaluations and can avoid being blindsided when a policy fails because it does not take important factors into account, as happened in "The Middle school Proposal Goes Down in Flames" (Fowler, 2009, pp. 329-330), or when an undesirable policy is passed.

It is necessary for education leaders to not only understand policy evaluation in general, but also to understand the differences among the several types of evaluations.  It is one thing to go through a summative evaluation of a long-standing policy, to maintain funding or authorization; it is another thing entirely to go through a politically controlled study to determine whether it is politically expedient to continue a policy, or to go through a public relations evaluation, in which the results "must be positive, [and] must add luster to the public image that has already been created" (Fowler, 2009, p. 317).  If an education leader is undergoing a public relations evaluation but believes he or she is actually going through a summative evaluation, the leader might easily cause the evaluation to go in a way other than the way the commissioner of the evaluation wants it to go.  An education leader who knows and understands the several types of evaluations will be better able to facilitate the creation of the type of results that are needed for the particular policy evaluation.  In addition, if an education leader understands policy evaluation, he or she may guard against "the standard approaches to derailing a successful study" (Fowler, 2009, p. 322).  This vigilance is necessary due to "the inherently political nature of policy evaluation" (Fowler, 2009, p. 321).

In our case study, the panel that recommended the switch to a middle school organization failed to address the needs of certain stakeholders, thus failing in the area of feasibility (Fowler, 2009, pp. 315-316), when it did not address the "leadership ... [of the] sixth-grade students" (Fowler, 2009, p. 329) that the elementary school would lose, or the "potential over-crowding" (Fowler, 2009, p. 329) of the high school if the proposed policy was adopted.  If the education leaders who made up the panel had been more familiar with policy evaluation, they might have considered the concerns and addressed both the concerns and possible responses to the concerns in their recommendations.




Fowler, F.C. (2009). Policy Studies for Educational Leaders: An Introduction (3rd ed). Boston:    Allyn & Bacon.

© 2017 Debbie Barry

Author's Note

Debbie Barry
Initial reactions and constructive criticism appreciated.

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Added on November 10, 2017
Last Updated on November 10, 2017
Tags: essay, educatio, policy, policy evaluationb, public policy

A Journey through My College Papers


Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI

I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..