Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department

Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Rachelle Kisst Hackett

First Committee Member

Delores McNair

Second Committee Member

Justin Low

Abstract

It is well known that a strong education system produces citizens who are more engaged in civil and social duties, with obvious benefits to society and the individuals. Policymakers who have the power to help improve the education system frequently rely on the news or the polls to better understand the issues involved, but these tools are often unable to answer customized questions on the public view with a large enough coverage.

Monitoring the American public interest in education over the years is not new. In fact, a number of national polling agencies have tracked education as part of their larger polls asking people to name the most burning issues facing the US. While these polls provide a fair indication of the changes in importance of education in the eyes of the public, they do not identify the factors which have historically been associated with the major fluctuations of such importance. Most importantly, these traditional national polls do not track public concern about specific subtopics within education.

This mixed methods study includes the creation of a software instrument with the objective of exploring the salience of education as a national priority over time and analyzing the possible factors associated with these fluctuations of interest. In addition to discovering the most prominent latent subtopics affecting education (such as academic achievement, sexual assault and freedom of speech), this study also seeks national-level issues that may have recently been associated with the largest declines.

The only source of data utilized is the text of tens of thousands of published news articles. Terms extracted from the text using natural language processing serve as the basis for automated qualitative analysis. As topics emerge from the data, the frequencies of the terms are utilized to associate the articles with the most relevant ones.

The analysis shows that public interest in education has declined the most during election times. It is also found that the areas that contributed the most during the largest surges of public interest in education from 2015 to 2020 were school budget, academic achievement gaps and mental health.

Pages

136

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