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CODEL as policy for a cohesive California

“Graduate-level education programs prepare professionals and researchers to work in or study one (versus all) of the sectors. Often, education policy and research analysts earn degrees in fields other than education, such as public administration or political science. In any of these programs, there is rarely an overview course or experience that gives budding education policy analysts and researchers an overview of the P-20 system,”

writes Jennifer A. Rippner in her 2016 The American Education Policy Landscape (pg. 2). She describes the piecemeal nature of American education and how its lack of cohesive structure affects American academic competitiveness. Rippner describes the educational landscape, but also a problem that has prompted policy-writing in California

A 2005 California Senate Bill 724, penned by Jack Scott, allowed the California State University (CSU) system to create a handful of new doctorate programs to address stated need, including an Education Doctorate in Educational Leadership to increase capacity and communication between California schools. This stated need, evidenced by writings from Los Angeles Unified School District and surveys of Masters of Educations students from 22 programs, resulted in the policy of SB 724 (Tollefson et al., 2013). One way this policy was implemented was the creation of the first online educational doctorate in the CSU system, a collaboration between CSU, Channel Islands (CSUCI) and CSU, Fresno, and later called the Collaborative Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership (CODEL). This is an example of policy entrepreneurship of multiple streams (Rippner, 2015), many coalitions recognizing need and working toward solutions.

According to the CODEL website “Program Structure” page:

“This model ensures that “educational leadership” is broadly conceived, allowing students in the P-12 strand to develop deep understandings about what they are preparing P-12 students for, and allowing students in the post-secondary strand to develop deep understandings about where their students are coming from.”

CODEL was designed to give new analysts and researchers background and networking from preschool through undergraduate programs to create a more cohesive backbone for California’s education system.

May 2019 the first cohort of the three-year program graduated with both P-12 and higher education professionals. As the program comes of age, it is time to evaluate the policy’s effect on the problem. CSUCI has initiated program evaluation this spring, but a qualitative case study on its graduates could help with that evaluation.


CODEL Program – Kaia Tollefson. (n.d.). Retrieved July 4, 2019, from

CODEL Program Philosophy. (n.d.). Retrieved July 4, 2019, from

CODEL Program Structure. (n.d.). Retrieved July 4, 2019, from

Kaia Tollefson, Manuel Correia, Tiina Itkonen, Betsy Quintero, Bob Bleicher, Merilyn Buchanan. (2013). Proposal to Amend the Academic Master Plan for the Joint Doctorate in Educational Leadership. Retrieved from

Rippner, J. A. (2015). The American education policy landscape. Routledge.

Timeline, I. (n.d.). CODEL PROGRAM. Retrieved from


  1. Amy –

    I really appreciate the way you present the inception and revision of the CODEL program through the lens of policy development. You have underscored the purpose for the program and have provided me the opportunity to consider several reasons why the collaborative and online elements are particularly powerful ways to address the original stated need to “increase capacity and communication between California schools.” I believe our cohort is an outstanding example of the cross section of scholars who have come together not only from various geographical locations throughout the state, but who come to leadership with a broad range of backgrounds and expertise. With classroom teachers, school and district administrators, higher education instructors, counselors, and administrators collaborating on problem solving, we have created a rather powerful think tank that models the effective development of policy Rippner writes about.

    I see CODEL as an example of the Multiple Streams Process (Rippner, 2016), where the condition of a lack of educational leaders in the state rose to the level of a problem and got the attention of policymakers from a variety of stakeholder groups (higher education administrators, P-12 schools and districts, and public college and university systems in California). At inception of CODEL, one would assume that the political climate within the CSU was conducive to creating the program to address the leadership needs. As we are currently experiencing, it seems the solution needs to be re-visited, evaluated and tweaked to meet the ongoing demands on all stakeholders (the universities, students, professors, P-12 schools).

    As we are currently experiencing in the program, communication between and among stakeholders is a critical element of ensuring policy success. As we learned from Fullan and Quinn (2015) giving stakeholders at every level a voice in the process facilitates their ownership of a policy and thus engages them in a more supportive role than if something is simply put in place from above. I am hopeful that the CODEL administrators are seeking input from various stakeholders with the intent of creating a stronger program overall.

    Fullan, M., Quinn, J. (2015). Coherence: The right drivers in action for schools, districts, and systems. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

    Rippner, J.A. (2016). The American Education Policy Landscape. Rutledge Publication: New York, New York.

  2. The graduate program in higher and adult education that I completed at Arizona State University included a core course in the “American educational system” that was a requirement for every graduate degree. While providing an important historical anchor and narrative on the development of elementary, secondary and post-secondary education in the United States, it did not provide an opportunity to deeply explore the interconnected nature of these systems. McDermott (2007) highlighted the increasing prevalence of placing blame across and between individual segments of the educational system in the country, especially evident with the growth in the accountability movement. The feeling that blame needs to be placed stems from a lack of understanding in the interconnectedness of each segment of the educational system.

    Graduate studies in education should afford the opportunity to examine issues that span the American (and in some cases international) educational system. As Rippner (2016) notes, too often the approach to exploring topics is piecemeal, considering a topic only within one station or phase of the educational continuum. As you suggest, a program such as CODEL provides an opportunity for a curriculum that allows examination and consideration of educational policy matters from a variety of viewpoints that span education systems. This practice would seem to actualize one critical element of Fullan and Quinn’s (2016) concept of coherence which is to cultivate collaborative cultures. While Fullan and Quinn (2016) primarily considered this construct within a single educational setting of practice, CODEL provides the opportunity for this collaboration to include educational leaders from multiple educational systems tackling real-world issues and challenges in California’s educational ecosystems.

    Great post, Amy!


    Fullan, M., & Quinn, J. (2016). Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    McDermott, K. A. (2007). “Expanding the Moral Community” or “Blaming the Victim”? The Politics of State Education Accountability Policy. American Educational Research Journal, 44(1), 77–111.

    Rippner, J. A. (2016). The American policy landscape. New York: Routledge.


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