Best Kept Advocacy Secrets
October 13, 2017

Big Wins You Haven't Heard of, Yet

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated awards—celebrate excellent policymaking and advocacy campaigns across the country.

The nominations help tell the story of how education policy was advanced in 2017.

Below are the nominations for Best Kept Secret—a big advance in policy (or defense of) that didn’t get big press. Click on a specific nomination to see more.

Eddies! Finalists:

Additional Eddies! Nominees:

BEST NC; NorthCarolinaCAN; & Foundation for Excellence in Education

Numerous Reform Wins in North Carolina, including a brand new Education Scholarship Account, reforms to the accountability system, improved School Report Cards, among many others

The North Carolina legislature created the nation’s sixth ESA law, an educational choice law that allows parents to direct state funds to an approved list of educational services, including private school tuition, tutoring, purchasing of educational curriculum and more. SB 257 also contains several other pieces of substantive law, including

  • expanding the existing voucher program for low-income students;
  • funding transportation grants for charter schools;
  • expanding bonuses for teachers whose students earn AP, IB or other advanced credits or industry certifications;
  • increasing teacher bonuses for North Carolina’s early literacy program;
  • strengthening metrics and indicators for the state’s school accountability law in concert with ESSA;
  • enhancing North Carolina’s online school report card;
  • changing state testing laws to provide transparency and greater educational benefits for students, parents and teachers.

Groups involved in some or all of this legislation include: BEST NC; the Civitas Institute; ExcelinEd; the North Carolina Chamber; NorthCarolinaCAN; and PEFNC.


Transforming Principal Preparation Program (TP3) & $34M to Transform and Raise Principal Pay by an Average of 10% in a Single Year

Principals hardly ever get the attention they deserve. They take a back seat to teacher pay, school choice, or standards – even though we know that great leadership is critical to improving student outcomes. BEST NC has worked to improve the principal profession by championing the creation and expansion of a program to Transform Principal Preparation; and advocating to raise principal pay by 10% in a single year, built on a nation-leading, student-focused foundation.

The state’s initial $4.5M investment in the “Transforming Principal Preparation”program has enabled six regional preparation programs to train 120+ new principal candidates for North Carolina classrooms. Each offers tuition subsidies and a full-time, funded clinical residency. At scale, the program has potential to support high-quality, regionally-tailored preparation for every new public school principal in the state. This program marks the state’s first-ever direct investment in principal preparation focused on high-potential principal candidates, rural regions of the state and high-need schools. Structured as a competitive grant program, TP3 promises to dramatically improve the rigor and relevance of leadership training in North Carolina based on research and both national and local best practices.

Like other states, principal salaries in North Carolina were based on an outdated step-and-lane pay schedule. Since the recession, average salary levels had also fallen to the bottom of the nation. In addition, new principals often had to wait over a decade to receive a pay raise, regardless of their contributions to student success. BEST NC worked to dramatically increase the state’s investment in principal salaries on a state-wide, student-focused salary schedule. No other state in the nation has so significantly transformed the pay system for 2,500 principals in one year, driven by student success.

Colorado Succeeds & ReadyCO

Demonstrating College and Career Readiness, Without the Need for Remediation

In 2014, 35 percent of Colorado high school graduates needed a remedial course. As a result, Colorado Succeeds, ReadyCO, and other key partners championed a critical policy in the 2017 legislative session to add a menu of accountability measures for determining whether high school students demonstrate college and career readiness, without the need for remediation. Before this effort, the state’s performance measures were comprised almost exclusively of math and reading tests, graduation rates, and postsecondary enrollment. The new law directs the state board to set more rigorous achievement standards for the new menu of options, giving local districts the ability to include local priorities in their accountability system while maintaining a high bar. These higher standards will lead to a revised postsecondary workforce readiness performance rating, allowing the state to give additional credit based on a student’s level of achievement on objective indicators that demonstrate their readiness, including concurrent enrollment courses and Advanced Placement. This policy had the unique combination of enhancing local flexibility while also strengthening state accountability measures around college and career readiness.

EdAllies & Educators for Excellence – Minnesota

Teacher Licensure Overhaul

Although it didn’t get much national coverage, Minnesota’s recent teacher licensure overhaul was called “one of the biggest reforms to state education policy in recent history” by a state-based education reporter.

In response to teacher shortages and stagnant educator diversity, advocates have been fighting since 2011 for a clear licensure system that would empower schools to find the best educators for their students. Several lawsuits and contentious legislative sessions later, and despite stiff resistance from the teachers union, higher education, and state agencies, EdAllies—along with advocacy partners, school districts, and dozens of teachers—was finally successful in 2017 in securing an extensive overhaul to teacher licensure and governance.

The hard-fought reform abolishes the powerful, but oft-criticized, Board of Teaching, and institutes a revamped “tiered” licensure structure that creates more clear, fair pathways into Minnesota classrooms.

This under-the-radar yet major victory from “fly-over country” is proof of the importance of multi- year, multi-pronged, and relentless advocacy.

Students for Education Reform Minnesota

Remedial Education Reform

After four years of organizing and advocacy, Students for Education Reform Minnesota (SFER MN) successfully lobbied their state representatives to pass meaningful remedial education reforms. On May 30th, 2017 Minnesota Governor Dayton signed the Higher Education Omnibus Bill which included language that seriously addresses the issue of remedial education across the Minnesota state system.

Now, the state’s higher education system has to create a thorough plan that ensures students do not waste so much time and money through remedial courses. Additionally, the amount of students school districts send into remedial courses when they are in college must be reported directly to the legislature. This was a big win for students because our leaders are finally finding solutions to the barriers that prevent students from completing college.

SFER MN’s “Reimagine Remedial” campaign started just as a discussion during a spring student event in 2013 with Senator Torres Ray at Macalester College. That discussion turned into a robust campaign with students lobbying the Higher Education Committee Chairs, testifying and sharing their stories with the media, and collecting petition signatures on campus. Though it didn’t receive a lot of media coverage, this was a testament to the power of grassroots student organizing.


Improving Educator Preparation

With a goal of making Tennessee a national leader in improving teacher preparation, SCORE produced a comprehensive report, Prepared from Day One: Improving the Effectiveness of Early- Career Teaching. The report made eight recommendations for state-level improvements, including a call for increased collaboration between educator preparation programs and the school districts that employ their teacher candidates. To further that recommendation, the SCORE government relations team worked to build legislator understanding of the need to improve educator preparation and then draft and pass legislation that requires all EPP faculty to spend some time in a school district each year.


ESSA Implementation, Higher standards, and Support for Immigrant Students

In just its first year of existence, Ed Trust-NY built and staffed a diverse ESSA coalition, released multiple briefs on issues from standards to protecting and supporting immigrant students, and made a substantive impact on the education policy debate in New York. Because there is so much defense to be played in New York, Ed Trust-NY’s ability to help hold the line, and bring in new partners to that effort, has helped lessen the rollback of critical reforms.

Chalkboard Project

New Statewide Infrastructure to Support Educator Advancement

Ten years ago, when Chalkboard Project launched the CLASS Project, their vision was to support highly effective teaching by giving educators the tools and support they need to be successful, and to raise student achievement. Their goal was to strengthen the field by raising awareness, generate support and funding, and advocate policy changes that transform the education environment to support educators committed to effective teaching.

Passage of Senate Bill 182 is the culmination of these efforts and launches the first step of a new and innovative infrastructure to support Oregon’s educator workforce and advance the teaching profession. During the next year, the state will stand up a new public entity through an intergovernmental agreement—a written agreement that outlines an independent governance framework—and will be supported through public-private partnerships and investments. This innovative approach may become a national model for educator-led improvements in our nation’s K-12 public education systems.

Texas Aspires

District – Charter Partnerships

Tensions between traditional and charter schools have been high in Texas as in many other states. To begin encouraging them to work together, the state passed legislation on district-charter partnerships to financially incentivize collaboration. A few of these partnerships exist in Texas, and they served as advocates and champions during the legislative session.

In Texas, working together doesn’t always steal the spotlight. Unfortunately, that meant the new opportunities offered by the legislation were drowned out by the state’s school finance debate (among other topics). In short, the more controversial fights with clear camps duking it out grabbed the headlines.

By providing another reason for charters and districts to work together, the reform movement has another example of how charter school innovation can be spread to traditional schools to impact student achievement. Going forward, this type of collaboration will hopefully “grease the wheels” for bigger charter wins, such as recently passed facilities funding.


Charleston RISE, a Parent Engagement Program

SouthCarolinaCAN created Charleston RISE in January 2017 to serve as a new parent empowerment model—a model that has already proven successful because it enlists parents who are highly motivated to improve local schools and connects them. The result is that parent advocates are empowered this network —Charleston RISE parents create an army of advocates ready and willing to demand meaningful change within their own communities.

Charleston RISE is a response to one of the biggest challenges in education reform: the strongest advocates are often well-educated and don’t live in the communities that would benefit most from the reforms they’re working to enact. Charleston RISE flips that old model upside down and empowers those whose kids are directly affected by failing schools.

So how does the model work? Charleston RISE recruits two groups of parents per year: one group in the spring and another in the fall. The group then equips its parent advocates with the needed tools to be successful in improving education in their communities during a 15-week intensive classroom program.

And while each group completes a similar 15-week program, each group also has unique goals that its participants set. For example, the first group of parent advocates that completed the program in June 2017 chose to support the Charleston County Schools superintendent and school board in their decision to use student growth data in the evaluation of teachers. The parent advocates felt strongly about this issue because many of them have children who have languished in schools without a culture of growth and without all-star teachers.

It was for those reasons that the advocates chose to complete a project aimed at raising awareness about Charleston’s failing schools in which they ranked each public school in the district based on performance data. SouthCarolinaCAN continues to document the program’s success as advocates engage in their communities with the goal of replicating the RISE model to meet parent demand in cities across the country.


Fiscal Transparency in Education Spending

$16 billion. That’s how much Georgia spent on education last year. And yet the public had almost no knowledge of exactly where or how the money was expended.

This year, after three years of hard work, GeorgiaCAN finally succeeded at increasing fiscal transparency in Georgia’s education system. The bill, HB 139, now requires detailed financial information including revenues and expenditures be made available at both the district and school level. Just as importantly, it also includes language ensuring those financial details are presented in a meaningful, understandable and public-friendly manner.

This seemingly overlooked legislation could have a sizable impact for years to come, especially as Georgia policymakers continue to debate a change in the state’s education funding formula. It is GeorgiaCAN’s hope that providing this information and allowing for school-to-school comparisons will lead to the adoption of improved spending practices and allow policymakers to address inequities in the funding system.

Winners will be announced at the PIE Network 2017 Summit on Thursday, Oct. 26.

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    Ashley Schmidt

    Ashley is PIE Network's Senior Director of Member Engagement & Communications

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