Seizing the Opportunity

A new report from Education First and Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) details how state advocacy groups are working with state policymakers to advance education reforms.  To compile the report, PIE and Education First worked closely with Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas to get greater insight into how advocacy groups and policymakers are trying to collaborate.

These states are at all levels of reform, and the study found that even in states “primed for reform,” there have been stumbling blocks and missed opportunities.  However, several practices were identified for advocacy groups to adopt in order to be successful at navigating the confusing, chaotic, and complex policy environment:

1. Begin by building public will to solve some problem or concern.

2. Next, efforts must shift towards forging agreement among different stakeholders about potential solutions.

3. Then, proposed solutions must then be introduced as law, policy or regulation.

4. The legislation should create broad directives as well as delegate implementation details to the purview of state boards and education agencies.  Strong reforms can easily be watered down in the implementation phase, which reduces the reform efforts to naught.

5. Once policies and implementation goes into effect, great advocates must continue their work by sustaining and defending the policies they’ve championed.  They can manage expectations, highlight successes, and troubleshoot glitches to keep reforms on track, as well as continue to support policymakers and agency leaders against resistance to change.

Furthermore, great advocates are also adept at creating urgency for action, building and maintaining strong relationships with policy champions and leaders, negotiating, recruiting broad coalitions, agitating to keep the pressure on, and setting the stage for future successes.  Each of these methods is discussed in detail in the report.  Overall, the researchers found that education advocacy organizations are adept at both contributing to and capitalizing on favorable political conditions “by sticking to common, winning strategies.”

To read the full report, please visit