Federal Class Size Reduction Policy: A Case Study Testing John W. Kingdon's Theory on Agenda Setting

  • Sue Rohan
Keywords: class size reduction, education policy, agenda setting, Kingdon, education reform, school reform


According to policy theorist John W. Kingdon's theory on agenda setting, three streams of problems, politics, and policy alternatives converge to create a window of opportunity that allows an issue to move onto the policy-setting agenda. In 1999 the policy-setting agenda included former President Bill Clinton's class size reduction policy despite many decades of conflict over the policy and inaction at the federal level. It appears that a change in the political stream created a window of opportunity that allowed class size reduction to arrive on the agenda. By examining enrollment data, average class size and teacher-pupil ratio trends, national perceptions, developments in policy approaches, and political factors, this study concludes that class size reduction is an example of Kingdon's theory.

Author Biography

Sue Rohan
Sue Rohan holds a Master of Philosophy degree and is a candidate for a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Public Policy, both from The George Washington University. She is studying federalism as it applies to education policy. Ms. Rohan is Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She received both a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.