Reform Support Network
Stakeholder Communications and Engagement Community of Practice

Promising Communications Practices

The U.S. Department of Education's Reform Support Network is seeking to help Race to the Top States communicate about education reform initiatives by collecting and disseminating exemplary tools, practices and strategies. The goal of this work is to identify examples of promising communications efforts that States can replicate and tailor to their unique needs, as well as to identify clear gaps and common areas of need where States might work together to create new tools. The tools are organized into six categories of communication type and use.

The material shared on this website was collected through annual scans—one in 2012 and one in 2013—of communications efforts led by State education agencies and external education advocacy organizations. The RSN will continue to update and add to this list of resources; States or organizations that develop additional materials or strategies that they would like to share are invited to submit them via the RSN homepage or to

Note: By posting these tools, the U.S. Department of Education is not endorsing these products; rather they were voluntarily submitted by States and critical partners to share with colleagues and inform their own communications efforts.

Categories of Promising Practices

State Communication Plans/Outreach Efforts

Successfully Implementing Transformational Change in Education [PDF, 200K]
Battelle for Kids

Based on experience supporting State departments of education, school districts and partnerships in over 20 States, Battelle for Kids developed this overview memo on effective communications strategies for education change, entitled "Successfully Implementing Transformational Change in Education: Lessons Learned About the Importance of Effective Change Leadership and Strategic Communications." It highlights critical components of transformation. Battelle for Kids is a national, nonprofit organization that provides counsel and solutions to advance the development of human capital, the use of strategic measures, effective practices for improving educator effectiveness, and communication with all stakeholders.

Common Core State Standards Communications Toolkit
Council of Chief State School Officers

The Council of Chief State School Officers created this toolkit to provide a structure for engaging key stakeholders in support of implementation of new college-and-career-ready standards. The toolkit is designed to be adapted for each State theory of action as implementation varies widely State to State. It includes talking points and messaging for key audiences, frequently asked questions, draft blog posts and opinion pieces and how-to guides for communications outreach.

Maryland Communications Campaign
Maryland State Department of Education

Maryland embarked on a major communications campaign in summer 2013 to share information about the State's move to full implementation of Common Core State Standards in School Year 2013-2014. The State created and mailed a flash drive with Common Core materials to every principal, local superintendent, local board president, public information officer, assistant superintendent for instruction and other key stakeholders. Materials can be accessed with the above link. Media representatives also spread the word through features such as a story by education reporter Cory Turner broadcast on National Public Radio, Teachers Hit the Books to Master New Education Standards. MSDE also partnered with the Maryland PTA to create and publish the Top Ten Things Parents Need to Know about the Common Core State Standards in seven different languages.

PowerPoint Presentation to Communicate About New Baseline for Measuring Student Progress
New York State Education Department

When the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released its School Year 2012-2013 State assessment results (the first year of implementation of college- and career-ready aligned exams), it was thoughtful about possible concerns from the field and responded to those concerns through outreach using this PowerPoint presentation. Leading up to the public release of the new assessment results, NYSED ensured that key stakeholders knew what to expect and were able to provide feedback, including a memo to school district superintendents from Commissioner John King explaining expectations and recommending judicious and thoughtful use of each measure of New York's multiple measures evaluation system. The score release was accompanied by the release of additional curriculum and instructional resources, including item annotations for approximately 25 percent of 2013 test items.

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Get to the Core Website for Parents
Stand for Children

The interactive, parent-friendly website developed by the nonprofit organization Stand for Children includes State-specific information that makes the case for higher standards, gives examples of the standards, offers opportunities to "take the pledge," and provides regular updates through a blog.

Michigan Coalition for Higher Standards Website
Michigan Coalition for Higher Standards

The Michigan Coalition for Higher Standards is a multi-organization coalition that has created a website to explain the benefits of the Common Core State Standards to parents and non-expert audiences. The site includes basic State-specific facts, answers to frequently asked questions, links to resources for educators and families, and periodic updates.

Unbridled Learning Website
Kentucky Department of Education

The website serves as a one-stop resource about Kentucky's reform plan, "Unbridled Learning". Tools include parent guides to standards and accountability, teachers' guides, PowerPoint presentations, videos, FAQs, and educator perspectives.

Business Center for a College- and Career-Ready America

This website from Achieve provides a range of practical and customizable tools and examples of how business leaders can and do support standards-based education reform within and across States. Tools and case studies both make the case for reform and provide practical tips for specific steps business leaders can take to engage company leaders and employees, talk to the media and policymakers, and participate in a business groups focused on education reform.

New York's EngageNY Website
New York State Department of Education

Engage NY is billed as an "evolving, collaborative platform for educators" and is designed as the go-to source of information and resources for New York educators as the State shifts to new standards, data-driven instruction and new evaluation systems. Especially noteworthy is the site's comprehensive toolkit for the new standards, which includes curricular exemplars, a 15-part video series on every detail in the standards and a rubric for evaluating the quality of lesson plans. The New York State Department of Education includes the website in all communications with educators.

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Messaging Guidance and Opinion Research

Messaging Tools and Opinion Research on College- and Career-Readiness

As part of its Future Ready Project, Achieve compiled tools and advice about the importance of college and career readiness to inform States' communications efforts about higher standards. Short summaries on the site include relevant opinion research to inform message development for different audiences: students/graduates, parents, educators, college leaders/faculty, employers, parents, and voters. Also, a do-it-yourself communications planning tool and links to several statewide advocacy campaigns provide templates and ideas for developing an overall communications strategy about higher standards. Achieve is a national nonprofit organization that works with State leaders to improve standards, testing and accountability systems.

Colorado Department of Education Messaging Materials
Colorado Department of Education

These messaging materials developed by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and provided to superintendents, principals and key audiences frame the three major reform efforts (new standards, assessments and evaluations) in an integrated manner and provide appropriate proof points to the benefits for each key target audience: students, teachers, and principals/schools.

  • Key Message Priorities [PDF, 270K]. The key message priorities document provides CDE foundational messages and messages for several topic areas: educator effectiveness; academic standards; assessment; content collaboration; accountability, performance and support; and innovation, choice and engagement.
  • Key Talking Points [PDF, 111K]. The talking points document is brief and specifically about the topic of educator effectiveness in Colorado. The key messages for educator effectiveness are provided as talking points.
  • Foundational Slides [PDF, 389K]. These slides are used in all CDE presentations to frame discussions on each reform priority.

Assessment Communications Toolkit
Colorado Department of Education

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) released the Assessment Communications Toolkit to support districts in successful implementation of new Colorado Measures of Academic Success assessments. The toolkit includes key messages, templates and fact sheets that districts can use to communicate with various stakeholders about the new assessments. The Assessment Communications Toolkit is a recent addition to CDE's communications resources for superintendents and principals.

Idaho Core Standards Communications Toolkit
Idaho State Department of Education

This toolkit is intended to provide Idaho school and district leaders with the materials they need to clearly communicate about the shift to new standards and assessments. The toolkit is a virtual "meeting in a box" and contains PowerPoint presentations, letters to send to parents, sample talking points, newsletters and brochures, and more. All content is in English and Spanish.

New York Parent Engagement Toolkit
New York State Department of Education

New York's Parent Engagement Toolkit is meant to provide school and district leaders with the content and materials they need to help parents understand the shifts underway and help their children be successful in school. The toolkit includes a letter from the commissioner, a "backpack guide" to the Common Core State Standards to help parents understand what to look for in what their children bring home, a detailed FAQ and clearly written document mapping out what parents can do to help their children learn. The toolkit also includes slides and a facilitator's guide for school leaders to use in face-to-face meetings with parents.

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Newsletters and Updates

Bi-Weekly Update Newsletter

Newsletter Archives
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's bi-weekly newsletter consolidates news and updates on Race to the Top reform initiatives into a single information source for educators and other interested stakeholders. To improve readability, it is clearly organized into a "New This Week" section with latest developments and an "In Case You Missed It" section with previously announced news. The newsletter is archived on the State's website.

Race to the Top Annual Report
Vision 2015 Implementation Team

The Vision 2015 Implementation Team—made up of leadership from public, private and civic groups—commissioned this report "Realizing the Vision" that grades the State on progress in each of the four Race to the Top reform areas and two additional priority areas. It highlights accomplishments, challenges and upcoming priorities. The visually appealing, easy-to-read publication was widely circulated to policymakers and opinion leaders to recognize progress and maintain momentum for difficult changes.

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Issue Briefs, Guides and Other Materials

Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) Rapid Response Email System [PDF, 311K]
Additional Information
Tennessee Department of Education

To build understanding and respond to questions about the State's new educator evaluation system (which rolled out statewide for all teachers during School Year 2011-2012), the Tennessee Department of Education developed a website for sharing information and an email address for responding to questions submitted by educators. Agency staff monitor the site's email inbox to ensure each question is answered within 24 hours. The agency also track questions to understand which parts of the new system are causing the most confusion or misunderstanding and shared that information with local superintendents, and incorporated the most common questions into future guidance and/or FAQ documents. In addition to the ability for users to submit their own question, the site includes both short videos and documents explaining each component of the new system. This system's responsiveness proactively engages teachers and enhances their understanding of the new requirements.

Materials on College- and Career-Ready State Standards
National Parent Teacher Association

Working in partnership with other organizations, the National Parent Teacher Association produced a series of four-page parent guides to build understanding about the new standards, including what they are, why they are important, and the activities parents can do to reinforce learning at home. Guides cover English/language arts and mathematics for each grade K-8 and a combined guide for grades 9-12. They have been widely customized and distributed by State education agencies, State and local PTAs, and other groups.

Guide for Parents of New Kindergarteners
Hawaii State Department of Education

To complement implementation of new college- and career-ready standards during School Year 2011-2012 in grades K-1, the Hawaii State Department of Education created a colorful two-page guide for distribution to all parents of incoming kindergarteners. This guide addresses ways to prepare students for the State's new standards. The guide was circulated in 2012.

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Social Media and Videos

The SCORE Sheet Blog
Tennessee SCORE

The SCORE Sheet is an online conversation on public education reform in Tennessee, hosted by Tennessee SCORE, a State advocacy and research organization. This blog is updated daily on a range of topics including best practices, educator evaluation, instructional best practices, and standards and assessment.

Social Media Response Matrix [PDF, 160K]
Colorado Department of Education

The Colorado Department of Education created a response matrix to provide guidance to internal State Education Agency staff on how and when to respond to posts on the agency's social media account pages. The matrix outlines response considerations and recommended responses to positive and negative posts.

America Achieves Common Core Videos
America Achieves

The America Achieves website has lesson videos illustrating the Common Core State Standards' key shifts in every grade. Videos include lessons in science and social studies. Classroom videos are supplemented by videos of teachers discussing their lessons, editable lesson plans, and guidance on how to assess the quality of instructional resources.

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Last Modified: 04/01/2014