INFORMING PUBLIC POLICY
It is time to change the trajectory of public policy on education. Since the early 1980s, federal policy has emphasized outcomes without considering their eff ects on students from families without college knowledge (Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, 2002, 2008; Fitzgerald, 2004; St. John, 1994, 2003, 2006a). Th e educational reform movement of the 1980s shift ed the focus of federal policy from trying to equalize inputs (e.g., equalizing opportunities) to promoting improvement in outputs, including test scores (Finn, 1990). Th e current policy trajectory has remained on track for 3 decades, emphasizing tightly linked standards, curriculum, and testing within linked accountability schemes, as epitomized by No Child Left Behind (2001). In K-12 education, problems with high school dropout rates and urban schools are illustrative of the ways that the proponents of this strategy have misconstrued the problems with education. Th e human side of the educational system has been overlooked and low-income families have been seriously impacted (Mirόn & St. John, 2003). Focusing educational policy on academic capital formation along with cognitive outcomes can bring balance back by emphasizing processes along with both inputs and outputs. Policy should focus on the whole system-the human aspect along with the systemic components-to bring balance to the system and the way it is experienced by those most in need of opportunity.