Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2013 Issue »

    Democracy under Fire

    Voter Confusion and Influences in Colorado’s Anti–Affirmative Action Initiative

    Amy N. Farley, Matthew N. Gaertner, and Michele S. Moses
    In this article, Amy N. Farley, Matthew N. Gaertner, and Michele S. Moses examine the use of ballot initiatives as a particularly attractive form of direct democracy for opponents of affirmative action in higher education. Building on previous scholarship, the authors question whether anti–affirmative ballot initiatives validly reflect voters’ attitudes toward affirmative action. The authors examine the case of Colorado’s Amendment 46, an anti–affirmative action ballot initiative. They investigate the language of the initiative itself, as well as voters’ perceptions of and confusion around its intent, and the factors that influenced voting behavior. They employ item response theory to estimate voters’ attitudes toward affirmative action. The authors then describe the prevalence of voter confusion around the initiative’s intent. Finally, employing a binary logistic regression model, they analyze survey data to determine which factors influenced voting behavior. They find that the initiative’s language was successful at confusing voters who intended to support affirmative action. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fisher v. University of Texas and in anticipation of its decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the authors call for greater scrutiny with regard to the use of initiatives to craft education policies that have a disproportionately negative impact on members of disadvantaged populations.

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    Amy N. Farley is a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado’s School of Education, where she is studying education policy and research methods. Her research agenda broadly focuses on how policies—particularly educator effectiveness reform efforts and policies enacted through the ballot initiative process—affect low-income students, students of color, and other disadvantaged populations. She has published research in this area in Educational Studies (with Michele Moses) and with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Farley is currently a Strategic Data Fellow at the Colorado Legacy Foundation, part of a two-year fellowship with the Strategic Data Project housed at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University that places analysts in partner agencies where they work to influence policy decisions that impact student outcomes and transform key policy and management decisions through robust data analysis.

    Matthew N. Gaertner is a research scientist in the Center for College and Career Success at Pearson. His methodological interests include multilevel models, categorical data analysis, and item response theory. Substantively, his research focuses on the effects of educational policies and reforms at the postsecondary and K–12 levels on student access, persistence, and achievement. Gaertner’s work has been published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and Harvard Law and Policy Review, and his research on affirmative action has been recognized by numerous professional organizations. He was awarded a Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship and an Association for Institutional Research Dissertation Grant. He also received the 2012 Charles F. Elton Best Paper Award from the Association for Institutional Research and was named the 2011 Outstanding Doctoral Graduate at the University of Colorado.

    Michele S. Moses is a professor of educational foundations, policy, and practice and the associate dean for graduate studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She specializes in philosophy and education policy studies, with particular expertise in higher education policy issues related to race, class, and gender, such as affirmative action. Her research agenda centers on understanding how race-conscious education policies foster diversity, equality, and social justice and, consequently, contribute to a better democratic society. Her book publications include Embracing Race: Why We Need Race-Conscious Education Policy (Teachers College Press, 2002) and Living with Moral Disagreement: The Enduring Controversy about Affirmative Action (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming). Moses has been a Spencer Dissertation Fellow, National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, and a Fulbright New Century Scholar and is a fellow of the National Education Policy Center. In 2009 she was awarded the Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association.
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    Fall 2013 Issue

    Abstracts

    After Fisher v. University of Texas
    Implications for Education Research, Theory, and Practice
    From the Editors
    McIntosh as Synecdoche
    How Teacher Education’s Focus on White Privilege Undermines Antiracism
    Timothy J. Lensmire, Shannon K. McManimon, Jessica Dockter Tierney, Mary E. Lee-Nichols, Zachary A. Casey, Audrey Lensmire, and Bryan M. Davis
    Democracy under Fire
    Voter Confusion and Influences in Colorado’s Anti–Affirmative Action Initiative
    Amy N. Farley, Matthew N. Gaertner, and Michele S. Moses
    From Bureaucracy to Profession
    Remaking the Educational Sector for the Twenty-First Century
    Jal Mehta
    Dirt on My Record
    Rethinking Disciplinary Practices in an All-Black, All-Male Alternative Class
    Na’ilah Suad Nasir, kihana miraya ross, Maxine McKinney de Royston, Jarvis Givens, and Jalessa N. Bryant

    Book Notes

    Education, Justice, & Democracy
    Edited by Danielle Allen & Rob Reich

    Creating Innovators
    Tony Wagner (supplementary video material produced by Robert A. Compton)

    Inside the Black Box of Classroom Practice
    Larry Cuban

    Youth Held at the Border
    Lisa (Leigh) Patel