Frederick M. Hess, Deborah Gist and other innovative leaders in education shared stories and anecdotes Wednesday around their experiences in state education departments working toward change.

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) reached out to chiefs of education agencies to interview about the challenges, solutions, trends and procedures among state education agencies for its “State Education Agencies as Agents of Change” report. The interviews resulted in four overarching similarities, which include the following:

  • Compliance with state and federal rules and regulations
  • Lack of transparency about budgets, employment, etc.
  • Federal funding constrains state education agencies, and
  • Bureaucratic obstacles slow reform and change.

Participant Deborah Gist, the Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education who was a former state education officer and former state superintendant, received the opportunity to create a state education agency from the ground up in Washington D.C. This experience gave her insight into the roles of agencies, the focus on compliance and the challenges that follow.

Gist’s experience in Rhode Island brought forth a focus on reorganization and an evolution toward performance management. “It’s been a very positive way for us to keep focused and make sure we’re getting the results that we want,” says Gist.

Gist is a member of FEE’s Chiefs for Change (CFC), which is a coalition of state school chiefs and leaders that share an interest, advocacy and activism for reform. As advocates of reform and change, edReformer supports the efforts of CFC.

View the full video from Wednesday’s event on “State Education Agencies as Agents of Change.” Click here to learn more and read the full report.

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