Modernizing the State Education Agency: Different Paths Toward Performance Management

September 2012

As both the federal government and states face unprecedented challenges in raising standards and increasing outcomes for all students, state education agencies (SEAs) need to take a new approach; one focused less on compliance and more on performance management. For most SEAs this is a daunting and complicated task. This report provides help by showing what states at the forefront of this change are doing to improve their lowest-performing schools.

CRPE researchers examine eight SEAs on the leading edge of the school turnaround movement: Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. The authors find that these states follow one of three main strategies, but common to all is a focus on evidence-based decisions and the need to find enough talent to drive and sustain the transformation.

The states examined for this study are among the most active and intentional in addressing the charge to improve their lowest-performing schools. As other states begin the process of reorienting their missions, they may wish to examine the lessons learned by this group. While it is premature to label one approach “better” than another, it is clear that the ability to recruit enough talent to drive the effort will be critical to success.