Implementation Findings: Authority in Massachusetts and Ohio

Laura Desimone
Monday, October 31, 2016
Policy Attributes Theory
Standards Implementation


(Twenty20)

We have begun to analyze our interview and survey data from 2015-2016. Here I highlight key findings from our teacher, principal and district surveys, as well as our state and district interviews, beginning with the role of authority in Massachusetts and Ohio.

Policies gain authority through:

  • becoming law
  • their consistency with social norms
  • support from experts, or through promotion by charismatic leaders

This policy attribute (see Policy Attributes Theory for more info) emphasizes the importance of stakeholder buy-in as a critical aspect of effective reform. Additional examples of building the authority of policies include strong legislative or leadership support, investment in professional development and instructional resources, or solicitation of stakeholder feedback and shared decision-making.

Neither Massachusetts nor Ohio prescribes exactly how the new standards should be implemented, nor do they engage in any systematic curriculum approval or rejection process. 

One key finding from interviews with state officials in Massachusetts and Ohio was the importance of stakeholder involvement and buy-in.  Both Massachusetts and Ohio ascribed to the principle of local control over matters of curriculum, implementation, and professional development.  Local control was used as a mechanism for building the authority of standards-based reform.  Neither of these states prescribes exactly how the new standards should be implemented, nor do they engage in any systematic curriculum approval or rejection process. 

Both states make efforts to include key stakeholders in the decision-making process by forming committees and convening town halls. 

Both states make efforts to include key stakeholders in the decision-making process by forming committees and convening town halls. Further, Ohio stated a goal of using new technologies to engage more stakeholders in order to build authority. Ohio also used online surveys to solicit public feedback on current revisions to the CCR standards.  Massachusetts cited a strong belief in the concept of principals as instructional leaders so that directives emanated at the local level after principals received training from state officials. While Ohio is also moving toward a more bottom-up Ohio-specific approach in re-branding the Ohio Learning Standards, state officials recognized the need for better communication and outreach about these efforts in efforts to address backlash after the state’s participation and ultimate withdrawal from a multistate assessment consortium (PARCC). A similar phenomenon and recalibration occurred in Massachusetts.

State officials in both states recognized that building knowledge and understanding of state education policies, and integrating ongoing communication and feedback mechanisms, was an important part of building the authority of state education policies.