What Works In State Education Policy


Inspiring Ideas for Today’s Leaders

Inspiring Ideas

When Conservative Leaders for Education was founded in 2015, we wanted to achieve two major goals. First, to create a network of strong, conservative policymakers in states to help them enact their education policy goals. Second, to find out what conservative education policy is working for parents and students at the local level and share it. This catalog is our periodic report on our progress toward achieving those two goals. Our members are thoughtful leaders who have a vested interest in the wellbeing of the future of students educated in their states. They wholeheartedly want to see every child grow and prosper in a robust and multi-faceted education system that will set them up for success in life.

Over 20 policies in this catalog have been signed into law and are being implemented in various ways around the country. These are real policies. We hope that by giving them exposure, other conservative lawmakers and education officials will find inspiration to pursue similar policies. This list is by no means complete. Rather, it highlights some of the policies our members have successfully implemented in their states.

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Driving And Rewarding Excellence As A Component of a State’s School Finance System

It is often said “you get what you pay for.” Yet recently in school finance, the heaviest focus has been on increased funding for chronically poor-performing schools. In the state budget, Arizona has adopted a new and innovative concept related to the state’s school financing system – Results-Based Funding.

Arizona House Education Committee Chairman and Conservative Leaders for Education Member Representative Paul Boyer worked closely with Governor Doug Ducey and a broad coalition of education reformers to create a new Results-Based
Fund in the state’s school finance formula that focuses instead on top performing schools.

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Ensuring Academic Development and Growth of Every Student Matters in an Accountability System

In an effort to find a straight forward way to assess school effectiveness, the creation of accountability systems have had perverse effects – they incentivized a concentration on one subgroup of students at the expense of other students. While that seems like a simple thing to correct, to do so requires careful design of an accountability plan.

“Proficiency” is an important measure and marker, and is a logical place to focus accountability efforts. But many systems have learned that focusing exclusively around a proficiency “line” creates strong incentives—intended or not—to ignore students that are either well above or significantly short of proficiency. This line also shifts the majority of time and resources onto the subset of students near the proficiency line (to ensure those below it reach it and those slightly above it don’t fall below it).
Fund in the state’s school finance formula that focuses instead on top performing schools.

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Linking Career and Technical Education to a State’s Accountability System

New accountability systems under ESSA and strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are two of the leading topics in state education policy today. With the recent passage of Senate Bill 1, drafted by State Education Committee Chair and CL4E Member Mike Wilson, Kentucky became one of the first states to legislatively respond to ESSA with comprehensive standards and a strong accountability plan.

The new law gives “credit” in the accountability system to schools where students complete industry-recognized certificates in areas of high demand, as established by existing regional workforce development boards.

This new provision will encourage schools to develop stronger partnerships with local businesses and establish programs that offer more options for students to obtain career and technical certificates. Instead of driving this result with specific mandates or state-wide regulations, SB 1 produces goals and incentives while allowing local schools and leaders the flexibility to design programs that will work best for them.

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