Kevin Welner
Professor • NEPC Director • Faculty Chair
Educational Foundations, Policy & Practice • National Education Policy Center

Miramontes Baca Education Building, Room 506
University of Colorado Boulder
249 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0249

Kevin G. Welner is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, School of Education, specializing in educational policy and law. He is director of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

Welner’s present research examines the use and misuse of research in policymaking and explores various issues concerning the intersection between education rights litigation and educational opportunity scholarship. He also continues to examine issues of tracking and detracking. His past research studied small-school reform, tuition-tax-credit vouchers, and the change process associated with equity-minded reform efforts – reforms aimed at benefiting those who hold less powerful school and community positions.

Dr. Welner teaches courses in educational policy, program evaluation, school law, and social foundations of education. His publications include Legal rights, local wrongs: When community control collides with educational equity (2001, SUNY Press); NeoVouchers: The Emergence of Tuition Tax Credits for Private Schooling (2008, Rowman & Littlefield); and Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance (2013, Oxford Univ. Press, with Prudence Carter).

Welner has received the Early Career Award (in 2006) and Palmer O. Johnson Award (best article in 2004) from the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and has been named a Fellow of AERA. He has also received the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Residency and the Post-Doctoral Fellowship awarded by the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation.


PhD Educational Policy, University of California, Los Angeles, 1997
JD University of California, Los Angeles, 1988
BA Biological Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1985

I direct the National Education Policy Center, housed at the CU-Boulder School of Education. My research examines tracking and detracking policies, tuition tax credit voucher policies, school reform, the use of research in policy making, and various issues concerning the intersection between education rights litigation and educational opportunity scholarship.

Students in my courses should come away with an appreciation for complexity and a respect for opposing viewpoints. In all classes, but particularly in teacher education classes, I use readings and class exercises to further the School of EducationÌs emphasis on issues of democracy and diversity. This focus includes controversial issues such as race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and political power.

In order to successfully explore these ideas, I try to create a safe and supportive learning environment, but also one in which all ideas are open to challenge. I consider it important to create a classroom culture that places greatest value on views that are supported by reason and evidence.

Education policy issues tend to be controversial. As a rule, therefore, they should be taught for understanding, rather than for learning of facts or for reaching a "correct" answer. My class readings, particularly in the teacher education classes, typically present two or three perspectives on an issue. Class discussions and assignments then build on this diversity, asking students to reflect upon the various approaches, and then to develop and defend their own positions.

Courses Frequently Taught

School and Society (EDUC 3013)

This course introduces students -- future teachers as well as those simply interested in educational issues -- to many of the most salient issues surrounding education within the United States. More specifically, the course reveals the complex relationship between schools and the larger society in which they exist. Because schools are themselves a microcosm of the larger society, we explore many important contemporary and historical societal issues, examining the ways in which they affect education. These include diversity issues (race, social class, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation) as well as issues of power and privilege and issues of democracy. While all these issues affect pedagogy (the way we teach) and curriculum (what we teach), EDUC 3013 is not a methods course. That is, we do not focus on how to teach or teaching strategies; rather, we center our attention on the larger issues that influence oneÌs perceptions of areas such as teaching, pedagogy, curriculum, and school administration.

Social Foundations of Education (EDUC 5005)

The course is designed to acquaint students with the broad moral-political dimensions of public education that frame competing positions on issues such as tracking, multiculturalism, gender, and school choice, to name a few. Two major threads are woven through the more specific issues examined: (1) the traditionalism versus progressivism divide, and (2) the drive for educational equality, spurred in recent history by the landmark Brown versus the Board of Education decision in 1954. The course is open only to members of the MA+ Secondary cohort.

Education Policy and the Law (EDUC 6210)

Approaching education policy issues through the rich history of litigation and current legal challenges facing American k-12 schooling, this course is designed to build an understanding of the legal and policy development of the American schooling system, particularly in the 20th century.  Laws and legal cases are used as jumping-off points for broader discussions.

Educational Evaluation (EDUC 7386)

This course is designed to build an understanding of the range of approaches taken by educational evaluators in their efforts to meet client demands, particularly as regards programs and projects. In addition, the course considers other types of evaluative projects, such as evaluations designed to improve, rather than judge, a program. We will explore the nature of different evaluation perspectives and learn how these disparate views translate into methodological and conceptual models.

Seminar on Policy Issues in Education (EDUC 7446)

This course is designed to familiarize advanced graduate students with educational policy and policy analysis. Students learn to approach policy issues from a contextual perspective that highlights larger, systemic forces. Throughout the course, we return to a set of broad themes and enduring questions concerning the formation and content of policy, and we also explore specific, key educational policy issues.

Professor Welner is the Director of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the School of Education. He also chairs the editorial board, is editor of the policy brief series, and directs the Think Tank Review Project. 

For a complete list of publications, please see the faculty member's curriculum vitae.


Welner, K. G. (April 2014). The Lost Opportunity of the Common Core State Standards. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(7), 39-40.

Welner, K. G., & Miron, G. (2014). Wait, Wait. Don’t Mislead Me! Nine Reasons to Be Skeptical About Charter Waitlist Numbers. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.

Welner, K. G. (2013). Consequential Validity and the Transformation of Tests from Measurement Tools to Policy Tools. Teachers College Record, 115(9), pp. 1-6.

Welner, K. G. (April 2013). The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment. Teachers College Record.

Welner, K. G. & Burris, C. C. (2013, June 29). Texas must avoid a return to the vocational track. Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Welner, K. G. & Burris, C. C. (2013, June 7). Is American Education on a Bad Track? Albany Times Union.

Welner, K. G. (2013, April 1). Charter Schools Possess No Magic. USA Today.

Welner, K. G. (2013). Much Ado about Politics (and Much Ignored about Research Evidence). Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.

Welner, K. G. (2012). Scholars as policy actors: Research, public discourse, and the zone of judicial constraints. American Educational Research Journal, 49(1), 41-63.

Baker, B. D. & Welner, K. G. (2012). Evidence and Rigor: Scrutinizing the Rhetorical Embrace of Evidence-based Decision-making. Educational Researcher, 41(3), pp. 98-101.

Lubienski, C., Scott, J. T., Rogers, J., & Welner, K. G. (2012). Missing the Target? The Parent Trigger as a Strategy for Parental Engagement and School Reform. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.

Camilli, G. & Welner, K. G. (2011). Is there a mismatch effect in law school, why might it arise, and what would it mean? Journal of College and University Law, 37(3), 491-526.

Baker, B.D., & Welner, K.G. (November 2011). School Finance and Courts: Does Reform Matter, and How Can We Tell? Teachers College Record. 113(11), pp. 2374-2414.

Welner, K.G. (Spring 2011). Free-Market Think Tanks and the Marketing of Education Policy. Dissent, (2), pp. 39-43. Penn Press.

Welner, K.G. (December 2009). Non-Evidence about Tracking: Critiquing the New Report from the Fordham Institute. Teachers College Record.

Welner, K. G. (June 2009). The Neovoucher: A Kissing Cousin in Disguise. School Administrator, 66(6), p. 6.

Welner, K. G. & Molnar, A. (February 20, 2008). The Privatization Infatuation. Education Week, 27(24), pp. 28-29.

Welner, K. G. (2008). The Overselling of Growth Modeling. School Administrator, 65(6), p. 6.

Welner, K. G. (2008). Under the voucher radar. Education Week, 28(2), 27-32.

Burris, C. C., Wiley, E. W., Welner, K. G. & Murphy, J. (March 2008). Accountability, Rigor, and Detracking: Achievement Effects of Embracing a Challenging Curriculum as a Universal Good for All Students. Teachers College Record. 110(3), pp. 571-608.

Chi, W. C., & Welner, K. G. (2008). Charter ranking roulette: An anlaysis of reports that grade states' charter school laws. American Journal of Education, 114(2), 273-298.

Welner, K. G. (2007). Demanding more of presidential candidates. The School Administrator 64(11), 6.

Welner, K. G., & Oakes, J. (2007). Structuring curriculum. In F. Michael Connelly (Ed.), The Sage handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 91-112). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Welner, K. G. (2007, January 14). "Awards" may provide think tanks with a reality check. The Denver Post.

Silverstein, J., Yettick, H., Foster, S., Welner, K. G., & Shepard, L. (2007). Dropout policies: Research-based strategies. Boulder, CO: EPIC Policy Center.

Welner, K. G. (2007). Money mutterers. The School Administrator, 64(6), p. 6.

Linn, R. L., & Welner, K. G. (2007). Race-conscious policies for assigning students to schools: Social science research and the Supreme Court cases.Washington, DC: National Academy of Education.

Welner, K. G., & Molnar, A. (2007). Truthiness in education. Education Week, 26(25), 32-44.

Welner, K. G., & Martinez, K. (2007). The use of assessment for curricular differentiation. In K. Borman, S. Cahill, & B. Cotner (Eds.), The Praeger handbook of American high schools, V. 1 (pp. 36-41). New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

Burris, C. C., Welner, K. G., Wiley, E. W., & Murphy, J. (2007). A world-class curriculum for all. Educational Leadership, 64(7), 53-56.

Welner, K. G., & Burris, C. C. (2006). Alternative approaches to the politics of detracking. Theory Into Practice, 45(1), 90-99. Journal homepage:

Welner, K. G. (2006). K-12 race-conscious student assignment policies: Law, social science, and diversity. Review of Educational Research, 76(3), 349-382.

Welner, K. G. (2005). Can irrational become unconstitutional? NCLB's 100% presuppositions. Equity & Excellence in Education, 38, 171-179.

Burris, C. C., & Welner, K. G. (2005). Closing the achievement gap by detracking. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(8), 594-598.

Welner, K. G., & Weitzman, D. Q. (2005). The soft bigotry of low expenditures. Equity & Excellence in Education, 38, 242-248.

Bartels, B., & Welner, K. G. (2004). Colorado charter school authorization and funding reform: An analysis of HB 04-1141. Boulder, CO: EPIC Policy Center.

Welner, K. G. (2004). Colorado's voucher law: Examining the claim of fiscal neutrality. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12(31).

Ready, D., Lee, V,. & Welner, K. G. (2004). Educational equity and school structure: School size, overcrowding, and schools-within-schools. Teachers College Record, 106(10), 1989-2014.

Welner, K. G. (2004). The overrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education. Published by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Education Systems.

Welner, K. G., & Kupermintz, H. (2004). Rethinking expert testimony in education rights litigation. Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis, 26(2), 127-142.

Howe, K. R., & Welner, K. G. (2003). An analysis of Colorado's school voucher proposals. Boulder, CO: EPIC Policy Center.

Welner, K. G. (2003). An examination of Colorado's tuition tax credit proposal. Boulder, CO: EPIC Policy Center.

Welner, K. G. (2003). Education tax credits: No net benefit to Arizona's impoverished students. Tempe, AZ: EPRU Policy Center.

Welner, K. G. (2003). Locking up the marketplace of ideas and locking out school reform: Courts' imprudent treatment of controversial teaching in America's public schools. UCLA Law Review, 50(4), 959-1030.

Welner, K. G. (2002). Ability tracking: What role for the courts? Education Law Reporter, 163(2), 565-571.

Howe, K.R., & Welner, K. G. (2002). School choice and the pressure to perform: Deja vu for children with disabilities? Remedial and Special Education, 23(4), 212-221.

Welner, K. G. (2002). Peer analysis of proposal to expand educational scholarships. Tempe, AZ: EPRU Policy Center.

Welner, K. G., & Escamilla, K. (2002). The unintended consequences of Colorado's anti-bilingual education initiative. Boulder, CO: EPIC Policy Center.

Welner, K. G. (2001). Alexander v. Sandoval: A setback for civil rights. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 9(24).

Losen, D., & Welner, K. G. (2001). Disabling discrimination in our public schools: Comprehensive legal challenges to services for minority children. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 36(2), 407-460.

Welner, K. G. (2001). Taxing the establishment clause: The revolutionary decision of the Arizona supreme court in Kotterman v. Killian. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8(36).

Welner, K. G. (2001). Tracking in an era of standards: Low-expectation classes meet high-expectation laws. Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, 28(3), 699-738.

Welner, K. G., & Mickelson, R. (2000). School reform, politics, and tracking: Should we pursue virtue? Educational Researcher, 29(4), 22-26.

Welner, K. M., & Welner, K. G. (1999). Contextualizing homeschooling data: A response to Rudner. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 7(13).

Welner, K. M., & Oakes, J. (1996). (Li)Ability grouping: The new susceptibility of school tracking systems to legal changes. Harvard Educational Review, 66(3), 451-470.

Book Chapters

Welner, K. G. & Oakes, J. (2005). Mandates still matter: Examining a key policy tool for promoting successful equity-minded reform. In A. S. Wells & J. Petrovich (Eds.), Bringing equity back: Research for a new era in American educational policy (pp. 77-102). New York: Teachers College Press.


Carter, P. L. & Welner, K. G. (Eds) (2013). Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give All Children an Even Chance. New York: Oxford University Press.

Miron, G., Welner, K. G., Hinchey, P., & Mathis, W. (Eds.) (2012). Exploring the School Choice Universe: Evidence and Recommendations. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Welner, K. G., Hinchey, P., Molnar, A., & Weitzman, D. (Eds.) (2010). Think Tank Research Quality: Lessons for Policymakers, the Media, and the Public. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Mathis, W. J. & Welner, K. G. (Eds.) (2010). The Obama Education Blueprint: Researchers Examine the Evidence. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Welner, K. G., & Chi, W. C. (Eds.) (2008). Education Policy and Law: Current Issues. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Welner, K. G. (2008). NeoVouchers: The emergence of tuition tax credits for private schooling. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Welner, K. G., & Chi, W. C. (Eds.) (2008). Education policy and law: Current issues. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Welner, S. K., & Welner, K. G. (2005). Small doses of arsenic: A Bohemian woman's story of survival. New York: Hamilton Press.

Welner, K. G. (2001). Legal rights, local wrongs: When community control collides with educational equity. New York: SUNY Press.

Welner, K. G., & Oakes, J. (2000). Navigating the politics of detracking. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight Publications.