Scholars and educational policy makers believe that reading is an important activity in improving the culture of scholarship among American students (Song and Young 2008, 46 – 49). As such, students in America as well as the entire citizenry ought to be encouraged to embrace the culture of reading. This implies that reading ought to gain prominence within the education policy.
Various agenda setting models have been evaluated in determining their applicability to the agenda setting process within the American education system. This is aimed at creating awareness to stakeholders. These models include the Expanded Model of Agenda Setting, which adopts a comparative approach in making major policy assumptions.
However, this model is too theoretical and thus not popular with education policy makers in America. Another model, The Agenda-Setting Model of Media Effects, asserts that the mass media is the most powerful tool in indentifying issues of public concern. Critics of this model however, argue that the mass media cannot be relied upon to report objectively on matters of public concern.
The theory has also been criticized for being to simplistic, and thus not applicable in cases that involve complex issues. The Multiple Stream Model, which involves three major streams, seems to be the most popular among the three models.
This model involves three distinct streams namely, process, policy and problems, which involving gathering and synthesizing feedback reports from all stakeholders, including politicians and parents. Therefore, the Multiple Streams Model addresses most of the shortcomings emanating from other agenda setting models and thus relevant to the agenda setting process within the America education system.
The debate on the importance of reading to improve literacy has existed for a very long period of time. For much of this period, the debate has centered on pedagogy while largely ignoring practical elements such as feedback reports from the political elite, parents, the mass media as well as the affected community.
These assumptions have pervasively dominated the agenda setting process for much of this period (Young, Shepley and Song 2010, 1). For instance, the Expanded Model of Agenda Setting primarily focuses on the framework within which competing interests ought to be contrasted and analyzed.
From such comparisons, generalized assumptions on which of these interests deserve prominence are made. This model seems to be too theoretical, thereby becoming unpopular with policy makers seeking practical theories (Soroka1970, 21 – 22). This seems to be the reason why the model is not popular with education policy makers in America.
Unlike the Expanded Model of Agenda Setting, the Agenda-Setting Model of Media Effects assumes that the mass media is the most powerful tool in setting important agenda. Theory supporters argue that the most effective way to identify issues of concern within the public domain is through the mass media. This theory operates under the assumption that democratic ideals influence mass media activities.
Therefore, the mass media is perceived as capable of setting agenda without external influence. As such, policy experts ought to concentrate on media reports and opinion polls from which they gather feedback reports on important issues. This enables them identify priority issues. Therefore, this theory empowers the mass media over other institutions, to set the public agenda.
However, critics have termed the theory as too simplistic, mechanical and that it does involve experts in agenda setting. It is imperative to note that experts are only expected to react to agenda set by the media.
Moreover, the mass media is biased and cannot be trusted to report objectively on issues that affect the public. As such, the model seems unsuitable and inapplicable in determining important issues, especially within the American education system (Shaw 1977, 230).
The Multiple Streams Model and education policy in America
The shortcomings identified above are sufficiently catered for by the Multiple Streams Model. This model proposes three distinct streams namely, the problem, the process as well as the policy issues. The model deviates from other traditional approaches since it goes beyond the theoretical elements by providing practical solutions (Lieberman 2002, 445).
Despite the fact that these three streams exist separately, they can also be combined within the agenda setting process. The process stream involves the course through which problems are identified and analyzed. Within this process, stakeholders identify conditions within the society. These conditions are major indicators of societal perceptions about important issues.
These perceptions supply policy makers with valuable feedback. When these conditions become unbearable, they are treated as real problems. When such problems exist, policymakers evaluate the feedback from government officials, politicians, parents, the mass media as well as the affected communities, before making policy proposals. These proposals are forwarded to the government for further action.
It is imperative to note that the purpose of involving the political elite helps policy makers to capture the national mood regarding the issues in question. Additionally, involving the political class generates the political capital necessary in making the masses embrace priority issues (Young, Shepley and Song 2010, 3 and 4).
The Multiple Steams Model is readily applicable in determining which issues ought to dominate education agenda in California public schools. Extensive discussions were held in trying to determine the conditions that precipitate a decline in reading culture. These discussions involved teachers, the California State Educational Board, parents, and students.
Opinions by senior politicians such State governors as well as President George Bush were also incorporated in identifying the real conditions regarding reading (Young, Shepley and Song 2010, 8). Actions and opinions by politicians were significantly used to elevate reading as an important matter that required urgent attention from the education policy makers.
To ensure that the national mood and the opinion of the political class were prioritized during policy making, the Governor of California and other senior politicians were actively involved as members of the State’s Reading Policy Formulation Committee (Young, Shepley and Song 2010, 13).
This approach not only ensured that reading gained prominence within the California’s debate on education but also within the community. As such, people embraced reading as a means of improving literacy levels.
The assertions made above indicate that the Multiple Stream Model, unlike other models, is applicable in setting the agenda within the American education system. The model is useful especially in promoting reading among citizens in California. Policy makers relied on societal perceptions about the reading culture among the State’s citizens.
As a result, policy makers were able to identify poor reading habits as the main problem facing education system in California. Feedback reports from politician, parents as well as other professionals were incorporated during the policy making process. As such, the prominence gained by reading within the education debate in California can be attributed to the Multiple Stream approach.
Lieberman, Joyce. 2002. Three streams and four policy entrepreneurs converge: A policy window opens. Education and Urban Society 3: 445.
Shaw, Eugene. 1977. The agenda setting hypothesis reconsidered. Interpersonal factors. International Communication Gazette 23 (November 21).
Song, Mengli, and Tamara Young. 2008. Reading: policy, politics and processes. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Soroka ,Stuart. 1970. Agenda-setting dynamics in Canada. Toronto: UBC Press.
Young, Tamara, Thomas Shepley and Mengli Song. 2010. Understanding agenda setting in state educational policy: An application of Kingdon’s multiple streams model to the formation of state reading policy. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 18, no 15, (March 4), https://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/771 .