Policy Research from the Ground Up

Topics: Education Policy

Communication Tips: Six ways to increase partnership engagement Like most people, I like to talk about what I like. It’s the most fun when I can talk about things I like with other people who understand and like what I like.

When it comes to education policy, that can be a blessing or a curse. The blessing is the education policy space is full of people constantly releasing papers, blogs, articles, and reports exist, creating infinite possibilities for thought-provoking conversations. The curse is that spending all my time exchanging ideas within the policy world makes me pretty unrelatable.

We hit major bumps in education policy when we think that our echo chamber alone will create the transformation needed in the education system. While our research, knowledge, and skills are important and can’t be disregarded, neither can the individuals who make up the system—principals, superintendents, students, teachers, and entire school communities. On the Policy and Strategic Foresight team, we often talk about the idea that policy can’t be transformative without a grounding in practice. This created the foundation for our recent state policy framework.

My first year at KnowledgeWorks centered on our district conditions project. A few months into that year, our team released the first paper of the project: District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide to Scaling Personalized Learning (you can learn more about the research behind that paper here).

Even after publication, we continued conversations with district leaders to learn about their particular successes and challenges in the shift to personalized learning. Based on those interviews, we started to form our priorities for how we could be a support to the work that is happening on the ground in districts. A theme that was continually repeated in interviews was that there are many barriers in states that create significant challenges to the implementation and scaling of personalized learning. As a result, we were able to start shaping a policy framework for states to allow the flexibility for districts to pursue transformation.

My colleague, Jesse Moyer, created a draft of a state policy framework that would give districts flexibility to scale personalized learning. Because we prioritize creating resources that are useful and resonate with the education field, we brought together a group of district leaders, state education leaders, and policy experts to analyze our work and give us feedback. Thanks to their insight, we were able to craft A State Policy Framework for Scaling Personalized Learning©.

As we move forward in our desire to support practitioners towards the future of education, we will continue to take the same approach that we did with our research throughout our district conditions project. By listening to the needs of individual districts in the states we will work with, we can identify how our knowledge and expertise support the practitioners, making sure that we step outside the echo chamber to act on the real and immediate needs of educators across the country.