Theses Doctoral

Global and Local (F)Actors in Environmental and Sustainability Education Policies: Three Articles on School Districts in the United States.

Verschueren, Carine

Multi-Layered Predictors of ESE Policy Adoption: A growing number of K-12 public school districts in the United States have begun to embrace the whole-school approach to environmental and sustainability education through the implementation of simultaneous efforts to green their facilities and provide related educational programming. This article explores the breadth of this critical approach in the 200 largest school districts in the country. In examining policy predictors at the district, municipal, and state levels, the study combines National Center for Education Statistics data and information from a systematic web scan of school district and municipal websites. Using logistic regression, the analysis reveals four main findings. First, school districts under mayoral control are more likely to have a policy. Second, the study underscores the interconnectedness of these policies with the sustainability efforts of the municipalities they are located in. Third, school districts located in large cities are more likely to have a policy. Fourth, support from state educational agencies plays a role in advancing a policy.

The Case of New York City Public Schools:
Within an educational system increasingly focused on test-based accountability, how can a local education authority adopt a holistic environmental and sustainability education (ESE) policy? What local and global factors and actors shape and inform the creation of such a policy? In answering these questions, this article examines the formulation of ESE policy in the New York City Department of Education. Based on an analysis of archival documents and 20 expert interviews, the study draws on the Advocacy Coalition Framework and extends its application by adding global and social movement perspectives. In doing so this study finds that external events enabled the initial enactment of the policy in 2009, while the practice and local pilots of ESE programs substantially informed the reformulation of the policy in 2012.

Taking the Expected Path vs. Forging Their Own: ESE Policies at DPS and PWCS:
How do similar environmental and sustainability education policies unfold in fundamentally distinct locations? This article compares and contrasts environmental and sustainability education policies in two school districts: Denver Public Schools and Prince William County Public Schools. Although the districts are similar in size and education governance (elected school board), the locale of the school district, public opinion, local sustainability efforts, and the support at the state level for environmental and sustainability education are quite different. Grounded in an extended Advocacy Coalition Framework, the study contextualizes the different global, state and local factors and explores the agency of actors that shape policy change over time. The research finds that the policy at Denver Public Schools is following an expected path influenced by external factors such as the city’s sustainability plan, public opinion, and state support in the form of an Environmental Literacy Plan. In contrast, gubernatorial influence, and joint action of the sustainability team, parents and students forged a pathway to an unexpected policy at Prince William County Public Schools. The study strengthens empirical research of subnational environmental and sustainability policies and shows how different pathways are possible.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Comparative and International Education
Thesis Advisors
Pizmony-Levy, Oren
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 4, 2021