William C Smith

RESULTS Educational Fund

4115 Davis Place NW
Washington, District of Columbia
United States
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I have developed a research agenda situated around the complex two-way interaction between education and health policy and the role of education policy in equity. Presently, there are three strands of my research: the international convergence of national testing policies and their influence on actors in education; the right to education internationally; and the mediating role of population contexts on the education-population health gradient. National testing policies have the ability to shape the understanding, delivery, and outcomes of education in society. Increasingly, such policies are based on a similar premise in which educators are held responsible for test scores of students. My work has led to the identification of four national testing policy categories – Formative, Summative, Evaluative, and Punitive, described in detail in my Educational Policy Analysis Archives article. My primary responsibility at RESULTS Educational Fund is in the technical development and initial piloting of the Right to Education Index (RTEI). Through an extensive consultancy period with right to education experts around the globe, the pilot RTEI questionnaire was designed as a complex measure that is explicitly driven from the international human rights legislation. Following piloting in 2015, RTEI is to be ramped up in the hopes of becoming a global index that provides a globally comparative alternative measure of national education quality and catalyzes reform across select indicators of the right to education. My final strand of research examines how population contexts mediate the relationship between education and health. Working with an interdisciplinary, multi-national team, we find that education shifts from a health risk factor to a social vaccine when the prevalence rate expands and health information improves. To conceptualize this transition we have put forth the Population Education Transition (PET) curve which identifies the social vaccine tipping point and has the ability to influence health policy.

Smith, W., Salinas, D. & Baker, D. (2012). Multiple effects of education on disease: The intriguing case of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Wiseman, A. & Glover, R. (Eds.), The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Education Worldwide (pp. 79-104). United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing.
Abstract: Understanding of the effects of formal education on HIV/AIDS infection in South Saharan Africa (SSA) has been a complex task because consecutive waves of research offer different, seemingly contradictory results and explanations of what exactly are the schooling effects on HIV/AIDS and the causal mechanisms driving those effects. This chapter concentrates on the narrative and implications of the key substantive findings from a multidisciplinary scientific team that was formed to explore the precise nature of the relationship between population education and the HIV/AIDS pandemic in SSA and to determine the main causal mechanisms behind the association. As members of this team, this chapter reviews and synthesizes our technical demographic, epidemiological, and health research. This, and other relevant research, suggests that, like in other cases of education and health risk, because of a historical change in the public health and information environment during the pandemic there was a shift in which outcomes of education dominated individual's sexual and disease prevention behavior. The SSA HIV/AIDS case is thoroughly examined, and then used to bridge to a general discussion of the effects of educational development on population health.
URL: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/S1479-3679%282012%290000018007
Smith, W. (2014). The global transformation toward testing for accountability. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22(116). doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v22.1571
Abstract: To ensure equal access to high quality education, the global expansion of universal basic education has included accountability measures in the form of academic tests. Presently the majority of countries participate in national testing; however, the past two decades have seen a substantial shift in test characteristics and aims. This article investigates the global transformation toward testing for accountability, where intentional or unintentional positive or negative consequences are applied to educators (teachers and administrators) based on their student’s test scores, in light of the emerging global culture, identified by World Culture theorists. Elements of the world culture – including the expansion of western education models, an emphasis on academic intelligence, faith in science as a rational path to truth, and the decentralization of authority to the local level – justify the establishment of testing for accountability systems. Descriptive evidence from regional and international datasets, such as PISA, PIRLS, and TIMSS, illustrate the speed at which this transformation occurs. The convergence of countries toward testing for accountability and its position as an increasingly normative policy lever is illustrated in brief vignettes from the diverse systems of Hungary, Mexico, and South Korea. As testing for accountability becomes embedded in the world culture as a legitimate tool for education reform it is less prone to critical reflection. If the potential benefits and concerns of testing for accountability, outlined in this article, are not thoughtfully evaluated this global transformation will lead to a testing culture that is internalized as normative and adopted as individual values.
URL: http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/1571
Smith, W., Anderson, E., Horvatek, R., Salinas, D. & Baker, D. (2015) A meta-analysis of education effects on chronic disease: The causal dynamics of the Population Education Transition Curve. Social Science and Medicine, 127, 29-40.
Abstract: As the Epidemiological Transition progresses worldwide, chronic diseases account for the majority of deaths in developed countries and a rising proportion in developing countries indicating a new global pattern of mortality and health challenges into the future. Attainment of formal education is widely reported to have a negative gradient with risk factors and onset of chronic disease, yet there has not been a formal assessment of this research. A random-effects meta-analysis finds that across 414 published effects more education significantly reduces the likelihood of chronic disease, except for neoplastic diseases with substantial genetic causes. Some studies, however, report null effects and other research on infectious disease report positive education gradients. Instead of assuming these contradictory results are spurious, it is suggested that they are part of a predictable systemic interaction between multiple mediating effects of education and the Epidemiological Transition stage of the population; and thus represent one case of the Population Education Transition Curve modeling changes in the association between education and health as dependent on population context.
URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027795361400673X
Smith, W.C. (Ed.) (2015, Forthcoming). The Global Testing Culture: Shaping Educational Policy, Perceptions, and Practice. Oxford: Symposium Books.
Abstract: The past thirty years have seen a rapid expansion of testing, exposing students worldwide to tests that are now, more than ever, standardized and linked to high-stakes outcomes. The use of testing as a policy tool has been legitimized within international educational development to measure education quality in the vast majority of countries worldwide. The embedded nature and normative power of high-stakes standardized testing across national contexts can be understood as a global testing culture. The global testing culture permeates all aspects of education, from financing, to parental involvement, to teacher and student beliefs and practices. The reinforcing nature of the global testing culture leads to an environment where testing becomes synonymous with accountability, which becomes synonymous with education quality. This book problematizes this culture by providing critical perspectives that challenge the assumptions of the culture and describe how the culture manifests in national contexts. The volume makes it clear that testing, per se, is not the problem. Instead it is how tests are administered, used or misused, and linked to accountability that provide the global testing culture with its powerful ability to shape schools and society and lead to its unintended, undesirable consequences.
URL: http://www.symposium-books.co.uk/books/bookdetails.asp?bid=94

Substantive Focus:
Education Policy PRIMARY
Health Policy
International Relations
Social Policy
Comparative Public Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory SECONDARY
Policy Analysis and Evaluation PRIMARY