Selling Pre-K: Media, politics, and policy in the case of Universal Prekindergarten in New York City

Katherine K. Delaney, Susan B. Neuman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Context: Educational policy is informed by multiple stakeholders and actors. Research has focused on understanding how policy decisions are informed and made, as well as how teachers and school leaders take up these policies in their practice. However, few researchers have examined how educational policy is framed for the larger public and voting electorate through media coverage and how the use of rhetorical devices can shape the public's understandings of policies, practices, and promised outcomes. Publicly funded prekindergarten is an emerging movement in many states. Purpose/Objective: This research examined how local and national media framed the scale-up of publicly funded, Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) in the largest school district in the country: New York City. Across two years, including a mayoral primary, mayoral election, and highprofile state budget negotiations, we examine how six media outlets used rhetoric to create specific narratives about the goals, outcomes, and possibilities of UPK that resonated with voters. Research Design: Qualitative methods were used to examine the content of six national and local media sources. Over 640 sources were analyzed to address the questions central to this study. Utilizing our theoretical framework of rhetorical policy analysis, as well as emergent coding, we cross-analyzed multiple themes, working to identify consistent and dominant narratives across the media coverage. Findings: Findings reveal that four main narratives dominated the media coverage of the scale-up of pre-K in New York City. These narratives used emotional rhetoric to frame UPK in ways that detracted from meaningful, research-informed information about how to successfully support the care and learning of young children. Conclusions/Recommendations: The role of media in framing educational policy and practice for the public is growing. Researchers and policy makers must be mindful of how the rhetorical approaches utilized by the media can and will inform the public's understanding of public education policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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