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NEPC Talks Education: Discussing the Intersection of Education Policy and Social Policy

BOULDER, CO (October 17, 2023) – In this month’s episode of NEPC Talks EducationChristopher Saldaña interviews Sarah Lenhoff, Jeremy Singer, and Katherine Michelmore. Lenhoff is the Leonard Kaplan Endowed Professor at Wayne State University's College of Education, focusing on education policy implementation and equitable access to education; Singer is a post-doctoral researcher at Michigan State University; and Michelmore is an associate professor at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy, with expertise in the social safety net, education policy, labor economics, and economic demography.

In the first half of this month's podcast, Lenhoff and Singer discuss their approach to educational policy and research, emphasizing the importance of an ecological perspective. Lenhoff highlights that while educational reform often concentrates on what happens within schools, it overlooks the influence of external social and economic factors on student engagement and learning. In contrast, an ecological perspective examines how the contexts outside of school impact students and the ability of schools to achieve the outcomes demanded from them.

Both Lenhoff and Singer critique accountability policies that hold teachers and school leaders responsible for student outcomes while at the same time ignoring influential contextual factors such as poverty and racism that are outside of educators’ control. They stress the need for policymakers to consider how to both strengthen educational practices and resources and address out-of-school factors to help ensure student success. Singer also encourages policymakers to break down the barriers that prevent people working on research, policy, and governance from effectively collaborating to develop comprehensive policies and approaches that encompass students' experiences both within and beyond the classroom.

In the second half of this month’s episode, Michelmore discusses the significance of tax credit policies within a policy framework that supports students outside of school. She explains how the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) provide financial support to families with children and highlights the positive effects of the EITC on child health and academic performance, emphasizing its role in mitigating the impact of poverty. She also discusses changes made to the EITC and CTC during the pandemic, noting that both played a significant role in substantially reducing childhood poverty in the United States.

Michelmore points out, however, that there are still many obstacles facing people trying to claim tax credits; for example, difficulties filing tax returns and accessing benefits without a social security number. She also emphasizes the need for further research to understand the impact of tax credits on the lives of families and long-term student outcomes. Michelmore argues, such research would provide a clearer understanding of how tax credit policies can be reshaped to better support the well-being of children and families nationwide.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode, hosted by Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May. 

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple Podcasts under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, sponsors research, produces policy briefs, and publishes expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Our mission is to provide high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence and support a multiracial society that is inclusive, kind, and just. Visit us at: