2021 Game Changer Campaign of the Year Eddies! Nominees

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated and voted awards—feature outstanding policy and advocacy wins from the past year.

Nominations tell the story of how advocates improved policy and advanced opportunity, equity, and excellence for students, one community and campaign at a time.

Below are the 2021 nominees for Game Changer Campaign of the Year.

This Eddies! category recognizes local, state, or national advocacy campaigns that tackled a big problem and achieved a new, game-changing policy or protected an existing critical policy. Sometimes a policy window opens quickly, and advocates move fast; sometimes, the window opens after years of sustained advocacy efforts. Either way, nominees in this category pushed the envelope to make a significant impact for students and families—paving the way for others to replicate or adapt this strategy in their communities.

See a complete list of 2021 nominees in all Eddies! categories. PIE Network members and partners can cast their vote for a winner in this category.

Game Changer Campaign of the Year Finalists

Game Changer Campaign of the Year Honorable Mentions

FINALISTS

A for Arizona

School transportation modernization package

Championed by Arizona Governor Ducey, A for Arizona, and sister organization Great Leaders Strong Schools, Arizona passed a robust transportation modernization package including In Lieu of Transportation grants to families and a $40 million program for cutting-edge approaches to K-12 transportation to drive down costs, enhance safety, and provide students with access to more school options. From ridesharing, community carpools, embracing modern transportation technology, and redesigning student-focused transit routes, this Driving Equity policy will expand access to reliable and safe transportation while accelerating innovation and efficiency solutions.

Transportation barriers are real and continue to be a significant budget strain on schools with no flexibility or incentive to innovate. Public schools have an incredible opportunity to partner with industry, community partners, and local governments to identify solutions to transport students not solely reliant on yellow school buses. The best practices underway will provide solutions that could be replicated across the nation.   

This legislation was the top target for opponents because it enables families—especially in working-class and low-income communities—to have access to direct transportation support and thus additional educational options as families may choose to leave quality school deserts.

Additional local allies included Americans For Prosperity-Arizona, yes.every kid., Black Mothers Forum, ExcelinEd, Arizona Charter Schools Association, and more.

Colorado Succeeds, Democrats For Education Reform Colorado/Education Reform Now Colorado, Ready Colorado, Stand for Children Colorado

Scholarships for Students to Participate in Postsecondary Pathways and Work-based Learning

Successful High School Transitions, SB21-106, is an innovative Colorado policy that starts blurring the lines between high school, postsecondary, and career. This policy allows Colorado high schools and districts flexibility from the state’s restrictive seat time policy, thereby giving students access to learning opportunities outside the classroom. This legislation also rewards high school students who complete high school in three years by providing a scholarship that can be used for postsecondary education or workforce training in what would have been year four, including the costs associated with these opportunities (such as textbooks and transportation). 

Although the legislation passed with strong bipartisan support, a strong advocacy campaign was needed to influence members of the legislature and key stakeholders on its impact. Importantly, over 30 school districts, K-12 and higher education advocates, and the business community rose to support the policy because of an increasing appetite coming out of the pandemic to reimagine the high school experience and provide students with more relevant opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge to succeed in the classroom and the professional world.  

The support of a robust coalition, including partner school districts, helped to neutralize the teachers’ union and association of school districts to ensure the legislation crossed the finish line with near-unanimous support.  

Democrats For Education Reform Colorado/ Education Reform Now Colorado

Banned legacy preference in state public college admissions

Education Reform Now Colorado (ERN CO)’s advocacy efforts, informed by research from ERN’s national higher education team, were the driving force behind a new state law to ban legacy preferences in public college admissions—making Colorado the FIRST state in the nation to do so. The ban is a rebuke on a discriminatory system that has largely benefitted white and wealthy applicants. 

With the help of ERN CO’s Policy Director Prateek Dutta, who raised the bill idea to state lawmakers, Representative Kyle Mullica and Senator Brittany Pettersen wrote about why ending legacy preference was so important to them, which then generated a lot of positive press. However, with higher education lobbyists being universally opposed, and the Department of Higher Education not wanting to upset Colorado’s flagship university (CU Boulder), ERN/DFER CO faced tremendous obstacles in moving the bill forward—let alone getting it to pass. Nonetheless, ERN/DFER CO worked tirelessly to secure the support—or at least the neutrality—of every state higher education institution by hosting multiple stakeholder meetings, listening to their concerns, and creating a set of compromises. ERN/DFER also met with every Democratic member in House and Senate committee, leading to the ultimate passage of the bill.

Tennessee SCORE

Statewide Early Literacy Law

Tennessee has a new literacy law strongly informed by SCORE advocacy to raise awareness of a crisis in early literacy and SCORE work with districts to find and elevate the best instructional practices. SCORE supported the LIFT network of districts to improve early literacy instruction with high-quality instructional materials and professional development for teachers and leaders in the science of reading. When assessment results showed the approaches were improving literacy proficiency. SCORE spread the lessons learned through blogs, policy reports, annual priorities, policymaker conversations, and work with state leaders. 

SCORE fostered literacy advocacy at a March 2020 summit that drew close to 500 attendees from K-12 and higher education. Although COVID derailed the 2020 attempt to codify many of the LIFT network policies and practices, SCORE advocacy continued to elevate early literacy issues, and in January 2021 the General Assembly codified the science of reading as the state’s approach to literacy instruction, provided intensive training for teachers and leaders across the state, mandated adoption and purchase of instructional materials, and launched a state-supported network, modeled off of LIFT, to support more districts to adopt strong literacy practices.

The Education Trust-West

All In For Financial Aid

The All In For Financial Aid campaign successfully got a policy in California passed that requires school districts to certify that all high school seniors complete a Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application (CADAA). This is a groundbreaking policy change for low-income students, particularly students of color, because it will ensure students will have access to all the financial assistance available to them to go to college. This is a significant win in California because research has repeatedly shown that the cost of college has remained a significant barrier to college for low-income students. Moreover in the last two years in our state, nearly a half million high school seniors did not complete a FAFSA or CADAA in large part due to inadequate support completing the forms, leaving an estimated $550 million in state and federal financial aid on the table. The fact that California has joined other states like Tennessee and Louisiana to make this a requirement will increase the momentum for other states to adopt similar “FAFSA for All” policies. The new policy removes this unnecessary barrier to college opportunity and would make it easier for students who wish to attend college to apply for financial aid and receive support to complete the application. Ed Trust-West partnered with dozens of community-based and advocacy organizations across the state over several years to reach this goal, overcoming a lack of political will and opposition to making this a district requirement.

HONORABLE MENTION

Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri (CEAM)

Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program

In Missouri’s 2021 legislative session CEAM and a network of local, state, and national organizations and individuals helped pass the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. The culmination of decades of work by thousands of people from across Missouri, the tax-credit-funded program will provide individual, business, and corporate donors a 100% tax credit for up to 50% of their Missouri state taxes owed. The program is projected to be in place for the fall 2022 school year. Through nonprofit Education Assistance Organizations, the program will grant up to $6,375 in a flexible Empowerment Scholarship Account controlled by the parent to be used for approved educational expenses, typically tuition, but can also include curriculum, tutoring, and therapies. This is the first program that allows scholarship funds to be used for traditional and charter public schools outside of a student’s district.     

For students currently in Missouri public schools, the ESA is means-tested for family income up to 200% of FRL. All Missouri students with an IEP are eligible. The bill was finally passed as a result of compromises between rural, urban, and suburban interests that ensured funding for public schools, increased school transportation funding, and real options for students seeking alternatives. 

Foundation for Florida’s Future

Expanded private school choice for Florida students

Building on Florida’s positive track record for school choice, the Foundation for Florida’s Future coordinated a powerful, game-changing campaign to expand options for families. They helped champion massive private school choice legislation that expanded eligibility to all of Florida’s 1.2 million low-income public school students and 400,000 students with special needs; prioritized eligibility for military families as well as foster and adopted students, and included devices and connectivity to ensure all families have digital access. The Foundation for Florida’s Future campaign also expanded public school choice by allowing any university and or college to serve as charter school authorizers and increasing the availability of high-quality charter operators to serve students with a focus on underserved areas. The comprehensive advocacy effort included months-long coalition-building with more than 35 organizations, direct lobbying, phone-to-action, social media targeted campaigns, informational videos, and published op-eds. Additionally, Florida families added their voices in compelling testimonial videos, adding real stories from a foster family, military family, and adoptive family to the successful campaign. 

Institute for Quality Education (IQE), Indiana Charter School Network, Indiana Non Public Education Association, Indiana Catholic Conference, Arc of Indiana, Americans for Prosperity, City Fund, Mind Trust, Walton Education Coalition, EdChoice, & ExcelinEd Action

Expanded and improve school choice options for Indiana families

In the face of the pandemic, Indiana advocates and policymakers successfully worked to pass, expand and improve school choice options for Indiana families. To support public charter schools, state leaders near-doubled the schools’ per-pupil grants to $1,250 from $750, helping to close the local funding gap between traditional public schools and public charters. Additionally, they improved the process for charter schools to purchase or lease unused public-school buildings and they created an enrollment preference for students if their current charter school closes due to poor performance. 

For private school choice, Indiana advocates worked to ensure tens of thousands more Hoosier families could access the state’s private school scholarship program. And lawmakers created the state’s first Education Scholarship account for students with special needs.

Indiana’s advocates overcame a coordinated, well-funded effort from the opposition, successfully issuing calls to action in legislative districts represented by key votes, and using digital advertising and parent storytelling to emphasize the need for more education options. 

Progress in Indiana demonstrates how political leaders, advocates and parents—at local, state and national levels—can work together to drive change.

Rodel

Secured ongoing state commitment of funding for teacher residency programs

Rodel is working with all of Delaware’s teacher prep providers, the state, two of our largest districts, and some great national partners, to build what could be one of the nation’s most comprehensive “grow your own” strategies to create a more diverse teacher pipeline. This approach begins with education at the middle school level, continues through our new “Teacher Academies” in our high school pathways, ties to a range of higher ed partnerships and scholarships, and connects to the creation of “residency hubs” for clusters of new teachers to pursue their year-long training in the community.

Over the next three years we are looking to support hundreds of high schoolers and up to 75 teacher residents statewide. With the passage of legislation to institutionalize the residency program, Delaware is well positioned to scale this work.

During the 2021 legislative session, Rodel partnered to co-design and pass House Bill 178 to codify funding and make improvements to the state’s teacher residency program. 

For Delaware, this policy is a game-changer because: 1) it enshrines a state commitment of funding to a program intended to combat teacher turnover in a time when educator shortages are high. 2) This bill has already catalyzed further conversations about supports for districts and charters to “grow their own,” and 3) it expressly focuses on recruitment and retention of teachers of color.

Lessons learned for other advocacy campaigns: 1) Build on momentum. In 2019, Delaware’s governor proposed (and legislators invested) $1 million to double the number of yearlong residencies in Delaware, meaning this bill leveraged that momentum and allowed legislators to demonstrate leadership to ensure an existing program met the needs of educators. 2) Listen to the field. Bringing the direct concerns of districts and IHEs established a strong partnership with legislators that carried over into other legislative topics, and genuinely co-creating solutions with practitioners has contributed to new, helpful relationships with those inside and outside the system. 

Teach Plus Illinois & Stand for Children Illinois

Adoption of statewide Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards

As the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd highlighted challenges facing people of color, Illinois proposed new Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards. These standards encourage self-reflection, connecting curriculum to students’ identities, and fostering student leadership. Four Teach Plus educators were among the 20 who developed the standards. The standards became the object of a coordinated misinformation campaign by local and national opponents that presaged the debate over Critical Race Theory. As opposition mounted, Teach Plus Illinois rapidly countered these false narratives by elevating the voices of teachers who explained the standards and why they were necessary. 

In two weeks, Teach Plus IL published 8 op-eds in six major media markets, shifting public opinion and providing cover to legislators. PIE Network Member Stand for Children wrote an excellent explainer blog that was widely referenced and briefed school board candidates facing voter scrutiny on the issue. After the standards passed, State Superintendent Carmen Ayala wrote “The standards succeeded thanks to the voices of educators” — and quoted op-eds from three Teach Plus teachers. The reasoned way that teachers supported the standards without throwing fuel on a partisan fire can be a model for how teachers approach anti-Critical Race Theory bills. Teach Plus IL is an active member of Learn from History, a broad-based coalition of organizations of parents, students, teachers, school system leaders, and other concerned Americans, facilitated by Stand for Children. 

Op-eds:

Blogs, Podcast, or Radio:

Teach Plus Nevada

Adoption of employee exit survey in Clark County School District 

The exit survey designed for CCSD (Clark County School District – fifth-largest school district in the country) is a game-changer because measures were not in place to assess/evaluate causes/reasons for teacher attrition.

CCSD adopted the exit survey and subsequently accepted a recommendation to disaggregate survey data by race and ethnicity to inform and influence teacher recruitment, support, retention, and diversification of the district teaching workforce.

The exit survey is significant beyond the district for its comprehensiveness and detail, and is considered by state leaders and the state teacher recruitment and retention task force as one of three templates/models for a state exit survey. This work faced challenges of consideration for adoption and accompanying recommendations for third-party facilitation as a result of teacher perception(s) of the survey, anticipated engagement rates, trust, and perceived financial investment/costs. Teach Plus Nevada engaged in a pilot of the survey prior to draft completion to address some of the aforementioned challenges. We are encouraged in its benefit to improve district decisions regarding recruitment, support, diversification, and retention of effective educators for students, families, and communities – acknowledging that teacher turnover impacts student achievement, most specifically and significantly students of color and those experiencing poverty.

Teach Plus Pennsylvania

Statewide Level Up equity supplement

Pennsylvania’s school funding system is both inadequate and inequitable; the state ranks 45th nationally in state share of overall education spending, and the vast majority of overall spending is distributed using an outdated formula that doesn’t take into account current student enrollment, poverty, or other student needs. 

This year, Teach Plus teacher leaders and staff in Pennsylvania co-led a coalition of educational advocates that introduced Level Up, a proposal to accelerate funding to the 100 most underfunded school districts in the Commonwealth, representing the bottom 20% of all districts in terms of resources available to meet student needs. After introducing the proposal to the governor in December and securing a sponsor for a house bill in March, the coalition then worked to develop bipartisan understanding and support of the proposal through a press conference, coordinated social media and op-ed campaign, mobilization of superintendents and school board members to advocate to their representatives, and meetings with leaders and key members of both houses in both parties. 

While the bill was not passed as a stand-alone, opportunity met preparation when Level Up was included in the 2021-22 fiscal code as part of budget negotiations, the result of both the governor’s office and Republican leadership viewing Level Up as a necessary step toward equity for schools in every corner of Pennsylvania. The Level Up equity supplement is $100 million for 2021-22, with this funding becoming part of districts’ permanent base funding. During speeches as lawmakers voted for this year’s budget, one proposal earned universal praise from both sides of the aisle: Level Up. 

See a complete list of 2021 nominees in all Eddies! categories.

PIE Network

PIE Network

The PIE Network connects, strengthens, and catalyzes the work of education advocates across communities, states, and ideological lines to transform education so that every student, in every community can achieve a future with no limits.