Constructing Policy

Why should educators be concerned with policy?                                                                                                 

Public education is filled with numerous policies and regulations that are intended, in one way or another, to ensure that students receive an equitable and high-quality education. We have policies to ensure fairness and equitable access and opportunity for all students, policies to regulate the use of federal and state funds, and policies that serve as incentives and sanctions to motivate districts, schools, teachers, and students to improve. 

This policy environment, broadly defined as the myriad of rules, regulations and written expectations within which educators and students live and make decisions, does not always work together cohesively or with the intentionality that educators may desire (and have every right to expect). Rather, the collection of policies and regulations tend to create what can best be characterized as policy noise, which serves to distract and hinder educators from working effectively and making decisions that best meet the needs of their organizations, their teachers, and students. Coupled with the reality that individuals are inclined to interpret policy based on their own perspective and mental mindset, it easy to understand how educational leaders often feel constrained and unable to find clarity within the policy noise that serves as their everyday working environment. 

Truly innovative and sustainable change requires a re-examination of how education policies impact improvement efforts, and renewed efforts to construct a productive and enabling policy environment conducive to innovative change.  

What is the focus of policy analysis and construction? 

We work with state and district leaders to jointly analyze policy, in some instances conducting a policy audit, focused on identifying areas of policy coherence (e.g., situations in which policy works to support improvement efforts) and areas of policy fragmentation (e.g., situations in which policies and regulations tend to constrain improvement efforts). We use our analysis of the policy landscape to design specific action strategies for how policy might be adapted, modified, or communicated in ways that will enhance overall policy coherence.  

What are the activities and scope of this work?

Policy Analysis and Audit activities occur over a period of four months, and include: 

  • The co-development of an analytic policy framework for understanding the relationship among policies and regulations, and their intended and real impact;
  • An historical analysis of policy shifts and trends over time, with respect to the particular focus or need of the client; and
  • A detailed analysis of how local, state and federal policy intersect, as a means of exploring and illuminating areas of policy coherence and areas of policy fragmentation.

Policy Implementation activities involve ongoing work with a state or district policy design team (or an existing state or district leadership team), focusing on how to construct, modify, and communicate new or existing policies to build upon areas of policy coherence (strengths) and minimize areas of policy fragmentation (for instance, by reducing the number of planning requirements that schools must meet).

What are the outcomes of this work? What can we expect?

  • The development of a customized analytic policy framework for analyzing the coherence of education policy 
  • written policy analysis containing detailed audit findings regarding the extent to which existing policy supports and constrains innovation and sustainable improvement efforts.

Capacity building outcomes include:

  • Increased ability of a state or district leadership team to analyze how various aspects of education policy influences improvement efforts.
  • Increased ability of a state or district leadership team to modify and communicate policies, including strategies to co-construct policy with key stakeholders, to support the effective implementation of education policy.
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