Key Policy Letters from the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary
March 7, 2011
Archived Information

March 7, 2011

Dear Chief State School Officer:

I am pleased to inform you that the U.S. Department of Education (Department) has established the Implementation and Support Unit (ISU) in the Office of the Deputy Secretary. The goal of the ISU is to provide better assistance to states as they implement unprecedented and comprehensive reforms to improve student outcomes. The ISU will function as a laboratory for ideas on how the Department can improve its services to states and will identify and share these best practices across the Department.

The ISU will serve as the single point of contact at the Department for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) programs that require the involvement of governors and chief state school officers. These programs include the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the Race to the Top state program, the Race to the Top Assessment program, and the Education Jobs Fund. The Department's program offices will continue to be the primary contact for states in their program area. For example, you will continue to contact the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education for specific questions about implementing the Title I program and the Office of Special Education Programs for specific questions related to the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). For all practical purposes, you should not notice a difference in how you communicate with the Department. However, we expect that we will be better able to coordinate our supports and services to states and assist states in resolving issues that affect multiple programs. In addition, the ISU will work closely with the program offices to learn about states' work in their specific program areas in order to develop a better understanding of each state's overall reform efforts.

The ISU is also responsible for managing the Reform Support Network (through a contract funded under ARRA) to provide technical assistance (TA) to the Race to the Top states to advance their reform efforts. We plan to use the Reform Support Network to share the materials and lessons learned with all states. When it is helpful and appropriate, the ISU will coordinate TA with the Comprehensive Centers, Regional Educational Labs, the TA centers funded under IDEA, and the Department's other technical assistance efforts to maximize resources and efficiencies. In addition, the ISU will learn from program offices and share exemplary TA materials and effective TA practices and processes across the Department.

The ISU is led by two senior staff here at the Department: Ann Whalen is directing program policy and program performance management and Joseph Conaty is directing, on an interim basis, technical assistance policy and implementation. In the coming months, we will provide additional information on the Department's Web site about the ISU and its technical assistance activities.

I am excited about the promise the ISU brings for helping the Department better serve you and your administrators as you implement reforms to ensure that every child has access to a high-quality education. As always, I welcome your thoughts on what we can do to better support your efforts. In addition, please feel free to contact Ann Whalen ( or Joe Conaty ( if you have any suggestions or questions or if you need any additional information related to the work of the ISU.


Arne Duncan

Last Modified: 02/16/2017