Educational Expertise, Advocacy, and Media Influence


  • Joel R. Malin University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Christopher Lubienski University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign



agenda setting, decision making, educational policy, expertise, information dissemination, political influences, politics


The efforts of many advocacy organizations to advance their preferred policies despite conflicting evidence of the effectiveness of these policies raise questions about factors that shape successful policy promotion. While many may like to think that expertise on an issue in question is an essential prerequisite for influence in public policy discussions, there is a traditional disconnect between research evidence and policymaking in many fields, including education. Moreover, the efforts of many policy advocates suggest that they see advantages in other factors besides research expertise in advancing their interpretation of evidence for use in policymaking processes. We hypothesize that some of the most influential education-focused organizations are advancing their agendas by engaging media and drawing on individuals who possess substantial media acumen, yet may not possess traditionally defined educational expertise. Thus, we hypothesize that media impact is loosely coupled with educational expertise. In fact, in analyzing various indicators of expertise and media penetration, we find a weak relationship between expertise and media impact, but find significantly elevated media penetration for individuals working at a sub-sample of organizations promoting what we term “incentivist” education reforms, in spite of their generally lower levels of expertise. We find these organizations are particularly effective in engaging new media forms by going directly to their audience. We consider the policy implications in the concluding discussion. 


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Author Biographies

Joel R. Malin, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Joel R. Malin is a Doctor of Philosophy student in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership and Curriculum Specialist at the Pathways Resource Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also a fellow with the Forum on the Future of Public Education, and serves as a research and data analysis consultant for Lake Forest School District 67 (Illinois). His research interests include the underpinnings and practical implications of educational policies, and mentorship and leadership capacity development.

Christopher Lubienski, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Christopher Lubienski is a Professor of education policy, and the Director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the University of Illinois. He is also a fellow with the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado and Sir Walter Murdoch Visiting Professor at Murdoch University in Western Australia. His research focuses on education policy, research use, and the political economy of education, with a particular concern for issues of equity and access. His most recent book is The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools (with Sarah Theule Lubienski, University of Chicago Press).




How to Cite

Malin, J. R., & Lubienski, C. (2015). Educational Expertise, Advocacy, and Media Influence. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23, 6.




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