Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series that outlines some foundational principles for successful adoption of innovative education reforms.
When the founding fathers advocated for principles of federalism, they weren’t thinking that this philosophy of governance was going to be great for innovation. Rather, based on their writings, the push for the tenets of federalism was to create a system of checks and balances within the government that ensured that power was diffused and the threats of tyranny were minimized.
However, it turns out that federalism and the separation of powers isn’t just good governance policy. As implemented in the American experiment, federalism has become a tremendous way to create a culture of innovation for a broad range of policy areas—particularly for education.
One of the most important and visible findings from my doctoral research on innovation adoption was that the type of innovation dictates where an innovation is most likely to be successfully adopted. In many ways, this aspect of innovation follows the number one rule of real estate: location, location, location.
In education reform, our federalist government structure naturally creates four distinct locations, or levels—federal, state, district, and school—that can be matched...