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“A lot of states were doing it”: The development of Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law

Abstract

In recent years, many states have adopted policies to ensure students are reading proficiently by third grade. This kind of policy transfer across states is not a unique phenomenon; researchers have documented analogous proliferations of similar policies both in and outside the field of education. However, there has been little attention paid to how policy transfer happens in K-12 education policy, particularly at the state level. To better understand how education policies spread across states, we turn to the case of Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law, which was adopted in 2016. Guided by the Multiple Streams Framework and the theory of policy transfer, we trace the policy process surrounding the Law’s conception, development, and passage, relying on data from semi-structured interviews from 24 stakeholders involved in the development of the Law and supported by policy documents from all 50 states and D.C. We find that events in the problem and political streams opened a policy window that allowed for the passage of the Law. These findings contribute to policymakers’ and other stakeholders’ understandings of the development and passage of third-grade literacy policies—information that will be important as these policies continue to receive national attention in both the policy and research communities. Moreover, this study is one of few to focus on the critical role of policy entrepreneurs in joining together the multiple streams, while also providing a nuanced view of how policy transfer and policy entrepreneurship promote the convergence of ideas and solutions to particular problems.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We organized the coding scheme into a hierarchy and employed automatic upcoding in Dedoose such that coding any child or grandchild codes would code the parent code(s) under which they were housed. An example of this is with the parent code Policy Transfer. Based on the memos we generated from an initial read of the data, we created two inductive child codes, National Literacy Policy and Other States’ Literacy Policies, to reflect the unique contribution of each. Further, we created inductive grandchild codes (e.g., under Other Sates’ Literacy Policies we created grandchild codes for Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Tennessee as these were the states interviewees mentioned in their discussion of the development of the Law).

  2. 2.

    In Michigan, ISDs, which are sometimes called Regional Educational Service Agencies (RESAs), are educational entities that operate between the Michigan Department of Education and local education agencies. ISDs often serve the local education agencies within a given county. Local education agencies can receive a range of services through their ISD.

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Correspondence to Amy Cummings.

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Appendices

Appendix A

Interview Codes

figurea

Appendix B

Policy Document Codes

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Cummings, A., Strunk, K.O. & De Voto , C. “A lot of states were doing it”: The development of Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law. J Educ Change (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-021-09438-y

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Keywords

  • Early literacy
  • Multiple streams framework
  • Policy diffusion
  • Policy entrepreneurship
  • Policy transfer
  • Retention
  • Third-grade reading