What State-Level Education Reformers Expect in 2017
March 10, 2017

Each year, state-level advocates make strategic decisions about what they plan to accomplish in the upcoming year. Based on conversations with our members, top areas of focus this year are accountability and transparency, charters and choice, teacher policy, and school finance.  Below are more details about the trends and issues rising to the top of state level reformers’ agendas in 2017.

Accountability and Transparency

With the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) placing states in the driver’s seat of their accountability systems, advocates are cranking up their efforts to improve their accountability and transparency. In fact, almost everyone in the Network is working on this priority this year. While many advocates are optimistic they can leverage the new law to improve accountability and transparency, some advocates say the combination of a new administration and the recent repeal of ESSA regulations could damage their state accountability systems’ effectiveness. In addition to accountability systems, many advocates are focusing on summative ratings, school report cards, and school improvement strategies.

Advocacy Story to Watch

The Education Trust-Midwest is leaning in on their state’s proposed plan. In their recent brief, Becoming Top Ten: An Analysis of Michigan’s ESSA Plan, they assert the need for transparency, noting, “Telling parents and schools that everything is fine when in fact, student achievement levels are plummeting at a tragic rate would be downright dishonest.” Further, they propose strengthening the state’s approach by keeping M-STEP as their college and career readiness measure, measuring growth compared to a proficiency goal, and raising the bar beyond a 75th percentile target.

Charters & Choice

Advocacy around charter schools and school choice remains a top priority for many state-level advocacy organizations in 2017. Some advocates in states with a growing number of charter schools are working to secure or increase facilities funding, ensure quality, streamline authorizers, and similar issues. Given how many more state capitols are now red, we may also see more traction for issues like education savings accounts, scholarships, and vouchers.

Advocacy Story to Watch

Multiple PIE Network members in Tennessee—including TennesseeCAN, Campaign for School Equity, Stand for Children-Tennessee, and SCORE—are working to strengthen the ability of charter school operators to provide high-quality options to students across the state. Proposed policy changes focus on facilities funding, facilities access, data/budget transparency, authorizer oversight and establishing an authorizer fee.

Teacher Policy

Teacher policy issues also remain on the radar for a large portion of the Network. The range of policies advocates are tackling is growing more broad, including policies to elevate the profession—and voices—of teachers: improving preparation, support and evaluation systems, and career ladders. Education reform champions will navigate ever-changing political landscapes, protecting gains in cultivating quality teaching, forging new opportunities to recruit and train diverse and talented teachers, and supporting educators as they implement new state and federal policies.

Advocacy Story to Watch

BEST NC, also known as Business for Educational Success and Transformation, is working to reform the salary schedule for both North Carolina teachers and principals. They have also worked to strengthen the principal preparation pipeline, ensuring that school-based leaders are more prepared, particularly for service in high-need schools and districts. BEST NC continues to advocate for stronger educator support in the early years of a teacher’s career and the creation of an ambitious teacher recruitment program to fill hard-to-staff schools.

School Finance

Leaders across the country continue to build momentum to fix school funding formulas—this synergy coupled with various court cases compelling states to take action is keeping this issue at the forefront of many local conversations. This trend is likely to continue its upward trajectory in 2017, as much of the work from previous years remains ongoing. In addition to funding formulas, many advocates are using the new federal requirement requiring schools and districts to report their spending as a tool to encourage financial transparency.

Advocacy Story to Watch

In Illinois, many leaders and stakeholders recognize the funding formula is broken, but fixing the formula has proven difficult for years. Three PIE Network organizations–Advance Illinois, Stand for Children Illinois, and Educators for Excellence-Chicago– are heavily involved in the debate and are working to find a solution.

Resources

The PIE Network team systematically gathers insights about the priorities of Network members in order to connect advocates with colleagues and resources that support that work. PIE Network members can reach out to the Network team to learn who is working on similar issues.

If you are interested in learning more about any of these priorities areas, check out the below resources from some of our partners. Updated news and resources are also sorted by topic on each of these website pages: accountability, charters & choice, teacher policy, and school finance.    

Accountability & Transparency

Charters & Choice

Teacher Policy

School Finance


Lukas Boehning

Lukas is PIE Network's Policy and Communications Associate


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