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First published online August 25, 2011

The Ineffectiveness of High School Graduation Credit Requirement Reforms: A Story of Implementation and Enforcement?


Graduation credit requirement reforms were expected to have a significant impact on the American educational landscape, but scholars have concluded that these reforms have exhibited less impact than expected on a wide range of educational outcomes. Drawing on Lipsky’s theory of street-level bureaucracy, we hypothesize that graduation requirement reforms have been relatively ineffective because of inconsistent implementation and enforcement at the local level. Using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) and the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), we assess the viability of this hypothesized explanation. On the whole, the findings are consistent with our contention that inconsistent implementation and enforcement of graduation credit requirement policies contributes to the relative ineffectiveness of these policy reforms.

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Michael Planty is currently a statistician at the U.S. Department of Justice and recently published Understanding Education Indicators: A Practical Primer for Research and Policy with Deven Carlson. He has been involved in the design and analysis of large-scale national surveys in the areas of education and criminal justice. His research interests focus on the sociology of education in high schools, measurement of crime and victimization, and issues related to statistical literacy.
Deven Carlson is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science and a graduate research fellow at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include education policy, housing policy, and policy analysis.

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Article first published online: August 25, 2011
Issue published: July 2012


  1. policy implementation
  2. graduation credit requirements
  3. education policy

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© The Author(s) 2012.
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Published online: August 25, 2011
Issue published: July 2012



Deven Carlson
University of Wisconsin–Madison, WI, USA
Michael Planty
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, USA


Deven Carlson, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1025 W. Johnson St., Suite 453, Madison, WI 53706, USA Email: [email protected]

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