State Capacity for School Improvement

Will capacity problems in state departments of education limit the spread of performance management and innovation? This new report by Patrick Murphy and Monica Ouijdani (the first product of a new CRPE initiative on the state role in reform) shows that state agencies now focus on compliance. However, they could have plenty of money to develop new data and performance oversight systems, if Washington D.C. allowed greater flexibility in the use of federal administrative funds.

-Paul Hill

2 Replies to “State Capacity for School Improvement”

  1. Paul,

    The link was to a PowerPoint, not a report. Do you have a link to the report properly speaking?

    One reason why the full report would be much better than the slide stack: My guess is that at least a few of those states already contract-out a good portion of the state bureaucracy, picking up on one of the federal government’s political tricks for years in “reducing” the federal employment base in theory without doing so in fact. (Look at the history of the Ames Research Center, a NASA facility, for one example.) The politics of contracting-out policy work isn’t bad in itself, but it’s important to recognize the extent that exists currently. Without knowing the extent of existing contracting-out, it’s hard to really know how states are using/extending capacity.

  2. Sherman — your point is an excellent one. First, regarding the full report, we expect to have that up and available shortly.

    As for you question about contracting out, we looked for evidence of that, but did not find it — at least not in the area of school improvement activities. Texas, for example, contracts out a large portion of its teacher credentialing testing process. Therefore, Texas employs about a many people to perform that function as does Minnesota, a much smaller state — as you predicted.

    I do think that SEAs might be well positioned to follow a NASA-like approach to some of their functions and it may very well be the case that some are, or at least thinking about it. Which brings me to the other major “finding” of that effort: We know so little about how states have organized their education agencies. Our project scratched the surface, but was more of an arms-length effort. I am hoping that we can start to get a more complete look at how these entities function. They are fast becoming a critical link in the policy implementation process. Yes, I plead guilty to saying, “more research is needed.”

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