Ex mpa pa 533 Public Policy Dr. Gary Larsen Public Administration Division Office Hours: By Arrangement

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Ex MPA - PA 533 Public Policy Dr. Gary Larsen

Public Administration Division Office Hours: By Arrangement

Summer Term 2012 Office Phone 503-201-3707

June 23rd, July 14th, & August 4th email glarsen@pdx.edu


This course explores fundamental concepts and approaches to public policy, what government does in the name of the governed and how we determine what to do and not to do. Policy actors, policy process and policy issues are all part of the domain. One of the goals of the course is to provide participants with an understanding of how policy is made, especially in a complex political economy like that of the United States. Another goal is to provide students with tools and language for assessing or advocating substantive policies. Finally, while not all substantive policy domains can be explored in a course like this, the course will introduce participants to a number of current policy issue domains. This course gives special attention to intergovernmental relations, the roles of administrators and policy analysts in policy making, and evaluating policy performance.

Course Methods

The course achieves its goals through reading, writing, lecture, and discussion. In an intensive weekend format course, there is an assumption that significant independent work will be completed between meetings. Meetings will be divided into several in class activities as well as text based discussions and lectures. Preparation and participation is assumed and will be evaluated. Because we will be discussing public policy issues over which students may disagree, it is important to underscore that this class expects civil behavior where both the educational mission and the democratic mission are undergirded by the tenets of enlightenment philosophy. We can all learn and develop greater insights, deeper understanding, and stronger commitments by civil discourse in the public sphere. We will carry out the class sessions as a model of such discourse – as more than one political wag has intoned – when we disagree we will do so agreeably. Be prepared to listen as well as talk, reflect as well as present, and change as well as maintain your convictions with courage.

Learning Goals

  • Develop a basic understand of policy process in the American political economy

  • Develop an understanding of the roles of analysts and advocates in policy making

  • Develop an understanding of competencies important to analysis and advocacy

  • Obtain an introductory understanding of techniques and technologies associated with policy analysis and advocacy



    • Birkland, Thomas A. An Introduction to the Policy Process. M.E. Sharpe: NY, NY. 2010. 3rd edition. (ISBN 9780765625328) [Paperback]

    • Bardach, Eugene. A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis, 3rd Edition. CQ Press: Washington, D.C. 2009. (ISBN 9780872899520)

One of the following: *(Please read the remainder of this outline before ordering).

    • Boyum, David and Peter Reuter. An Analytic Assessment of U.S. Drug Policy. AEI Press: Washington, D.C. 2005. (ISBN 0844741914) [pb]

    • Diamond, Peter A and Peter Orszag. Saving Social Security: A Balanced Approach. Brookings Institution Press: Wash, DC. 2003. (ISBN 0815718381).

    • Francis, John G. and Leslie Pickering Francis. Land Wars: The Politics of Property & Community. Lynne Rienner: Boulder, CO. 2003. (ISBN 1555876846)

    • Herzlinger, Regina E. Consumer-Driven Health Care: Implications for Providers, Players and Policymakers. Jossey-Bass. 2004. (ISBN 0787952583).

    • Kosar, Kevin R. Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards. Lynne Rienner: Boulder, CO. 2005. (ISBN 1588263754) {pb}

    • Morgenstern, Richard D. and Paul R. Portney. New Approaches on Energy and the Environment: Policy Advice for the President. RFF Press (Hopkins: Baltimore, MD.). 2004. (ISBN 1933115017) [pb]


    • Neustadt, R. and E. May. Thinking in Time. Free Press: N.Y. (1986)

    • Stone, Debra. Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. Norton & Company: N.Y. Revised edition 2001. (ISBN 0393976254).

Performance Assessment Data Collection

The new NASPAA (National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Accreditation) standards call for performance based assessments of course effectiveness and student learning toward the EMPA program mission. To make these assessments, the EMPA faculty must collect examples of student work. This includes collecting and making copies of your major papers, major examinations, final papers, group project reports, copies of electronic postings on d2l, and copies of other work as necessary. We will redact student names from as many collected papers as possible, and we will make every effort to redact publicly sensitive names and information that appears in your work. Please help us by refraining from using names and sensitive information in your written work, and by telling us if you are concerned about sharing sensitive information raised in class or in assignments.

We will collect work samples, limit access to faculty and CPS staff, store hardcopies of the work in a secured cabinet, and provide the work to the NASPAA site visitation team as requested. Sharing your work with the team is allowed under the FERPA federal student privacy act. We will also use the collected work to internally evaluate the effectiveness of instruction in each EMPA course, and to judge instructional effectiveness over the life of your cohort.

As a second evaluation of our instructional quality we will also ask you to take a short survey at the end of each course. The survey will evaluate instructor performance, textbook selection, course learning activities, your sense of mastery of the program learning competencies, and your sense of progress toward the program mission. The results of the survey will complement the collection and assessment of student work. Thank you for supporting our accreditation efforts.


  1. Application Paper

Students will prepare a paper applying one model offered in the readings assigned for Session I in studying a policy of interest to them. The substance of these papers will vary from student to student as the models draw different aspects of policy making to attention, i.e. policy actors, distribution of costs and gains, or policy processes. In each paper both the model and the policy issue should be summarized. The student should then explore the issue by analyzing the correspondence between the real world case and the selected policy model. The summary and conclusion should evaluate the contribution the model makes to understanding the case and the adequacy of the model for explaining the critical aspects of the policy case. This paper should be written to graduate standards. The following writing structure is suggested: Introduction, description of the policy issue, description of the model, analysis of the fit between the model and the case, summary and conclusion, references. This paper will be due in the first class meeting. This is a short paper, 4-7 pages in length, double spaced. While a short paper, this paper should be complete with references, appropriate front matter and back matter, and well written.

  1. Policy History Paper

This paper asks participants to review the legislative, institutional and political history of a policy issue. The historic review is in preparation for the final paper, a policy choice paper. Choosing a common policy issue for the first paper above, this second paper and then final paper is the most efficient path through the course. There are several options regarding the nature and structure of this second paper.
Option I: Book review.

One option is to base the second paper on one of the selected topical policy books listed in this course outline or another of your choice and instructors approval. The paper would include an introduction, a brief summary (abstract) of the book, a critical analysis of the substantive policy issue in the book that covers past policy history and the current policy context, a discussion aimed at reframing the policy issue for the purpose of the final paper and a conclusion. The critical analysis would bring other informational resources, i.e. beyond the book of primary focus, to bear on the analysis.

Option II: Policy Issue Brief

The second option is to develop a paper that is more broadly based than Option I, where the selected text is used as one among other sources for the policy issue paper. This paper much like Option I will include an introduction and background, analysis of critical policy features (nature of the policy cluster, stakeholder interest, legislative history, policy effects, etc.), a discussion that reframes the policy issue as a policy choice for the purpose of the final paper and a conclusion.

In either option, the policy history paper should be 8-12 pages long, written to graduate standards and summarized in a policy memorandum. The policy memorandum will be a maximum of one page including heading. This memo should be prepared for sharing among class members. Bring enough copies to distribute in class at the second session.

  1. Policy Choice Paper

The final paper will be a policy choice paper. This paper will begin where the work of paper 2 ended. Again there is no requirement that you use the same policy issue for all three papers, but clearly that is the efficient path through the course. This paper will follow the general guidelines offered in Bardach (2009). It will include a summary of the work in paper two. A first section will introduce the policy issue, its background and importance. A second section will summarize the policy issue, its history and context from the second paper. The weight of a policy choice paper lies in the next section where policy alternatives are analyzed against enumerated criteria. As a part of this policy choice analysis any constraints or limits to feasibility should be amplified. The final section of the paper determines a preferred alternative, states the preference as a recommendation, qualifies the recommendation and frames a path forward (i.e., strategy for implementation or next steps). This final policy choice paper will be accompanied by an executive summary. Make enough copies of the executive summary for class members and hand them out at the time of your oral policy briefing. Policy choice papers are typically 15-25 pages in length. Brevity is a virtue in policy papers and this assignment is no exception. The inclusion of data as figures often increases the length. Be sure to include appropriate references, credits and appendices.

  1. Oral Policy Briefing.

The final assignment will be an oral policy briefing. Each class member will make a presentation during the last session of the class. The time for each policy briefing will be determined by the number of students in the class. As in real time, expect these briefings to be brief (five minutes at the least and perhaps ten minutes maximum).
Products and Grading:

Application Paper 15% of grade.

Policy History Paper 25% of grade

Policy Choice Paper 40% of grade

Oral Policy Briefing 10% of grade

Preparation and participation 10% of grade

See class outline for critical dates (subject to change by mutual agreement).

Course Outline

PA 533 Public Policy, Summer 2012

Weekend Intensive Format
Session I

Policy, Policy Process and Policy Models

Date: June 23rd, 2012

Topics: Introduction to policy and policy making

American Political Economy, Federalism, and IGR

Policy Models: actors, interests, and process

Readings: Birkland: Chapter 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9

Optional: Stone: at will

Assignments Due Session I: Draft Application Paper

Session II

Policy Tools, Policy Effects, and Policy Analysis

Date: July 14th, 2012

Topics: Pathways to creating change: History as time and place

Rational analysis in a political world: The role of information

Structuring problems for analysis: Analyzing structured problems

Readings: Bardach: All; Policy issue book of your choice

Optional: Neustadt and May: at will.

Assignments Due Session II: Policy History Paper and Policy Memo

Session III

Substantive Policy Domains and Evaluating Policy Understanding

Date: August 4th, 2012

Topics: Review of selected substantive policy domains

Evaluation of policy choice analysis techniques

Evaluation of oral briefing techniques

Summary of public policy: origins and process

Readings: Birkland: Chapter 7& 8; Hand out materials on accountability

Selected substantive policy book

Assignments Due Session III: Draft Policy Choice Paper & Executive Summary
* NOTE: Students can select substantive policy books other than those suggested with instructor approval. The key is that the book provides an analytic approach to the policy domain rather than a polemical approach.

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