The state needs a reform-minded Commissioner of Education and a strong Chief Operating Officer who can work together to expand the capacity of the State Department of Education to oversee the implementation of statewide reform efforts. In order for education reforms to be lasting and consistent across districts and schools, we need a system of accountability at the state-level. This requires the placement of reform-oriented, state-level talent with the capacity to lead, inspire, motivate, and ensure transformational change.
Current State Level Capacity
Connecticut has reorganized the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) to include a School Turnaround Office, a School Talent Office, and an Early Childhood Office.[i] Now we need to build capacity within these departments and the CSDE at large.
One particular challenge for the CSDE—consistent with challenges being faced in other states—is that the role of departments of education has recently shifted. These departments were initially put into place to allocate federal and state funds to local school districts, and to monitor compliance with regulations. However, today we need our CSDE to do more than monitor compliance; we need it to oversee turnaround and analyze the outcomes of innovative new polices and practices.[ii]
We need to bring in talent with specific expertise to oversee policy goals. And we will need our state leaders to run their offices like CEOs who can ensure cooperation
between offices across a shared mission, and who can report progress up an SEA’s hierarchical structure.
[ii] See e.g., Brown, C. et al. (2011). State Education Agencies as Agents of Change: What It Will Take for the States to Step Up on Education Reform, Center for American; Cambell, C., and DeArmond, M. (2011). State Education Agencies Overlooked in Education Reform? Talent Is The First Place to Start, PIE Network Summit Policy Briefs; Gross, B. et al. (2013). The SEA of the future: Leveraging Performance Management to Support School Improvement, Building State capacity and productivity center; Murphy, P, and Hill, P. (2011). The Changing Role of States in Education: The Move from Compliance to Performance Management, PIE Network 5th Annual Policy Summit; Murphy, P. and Rainey, L. (2012). Modernizing the State Education Agency: Different Paths Toward Performance Management, Center on Reinventing Public Education.