How States Can Promote Local Innovation, Options, and Problem-Solving in Public Education

State policy plays a critical role in determining whether and how well local education improvement strategies can be implemented. As states rework their education policies under ESSA, state and local leaders need a way to assess their current policy environment and identify the changes needed to encourage local innovation and problem solving.

To identify the legal and regulatory barriers to local autonomy, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) researched 14 states that already have one or more large cities pursuing local innovation strategies. They find that:


  • The accretion of state law over the years has constrained local education leaders’ ability to innovate, improve, and transform their schools.
  • States have set up command-and-control frameworks, viewing districts rather than schools as public education’s first responders, which is at odds with school-level efforts to address the particular needs of students and communities.
  • State policy leads to conflicts and disincentives that play out for worse at the local level.

This analysis is intended to help policymakers, education leaders, and advocates understand the changes in state law and policy needed to support local strategies that empower educators, promote new schooling options, and let parents choose. Read the overview, open up the self-assessment tool, then dig into the state policy reviews and recommendations in four key areas: systems, schools, families, and funding.


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