Policy in Practice: Pilots in Arizona Unable to Move Forward

In 2013, Arizona passed SB1293, which, among other things, created an outcome-based pilot program to look for innovative ways of awarding funds based on school performance and improvement instead of just pupil enrollment. The pilot funding was to be awarded to 10 programs each year for four years: five districts, one of which must be offering online instruction through Arizona Online Instruction, and five charter schools, one of which must be offering a full-time online option to its students. The request for information was released in October 2013, and awards were to be announced by March 1, 2014. However, no awards were given. According to the state board of education, “all vendors applying for the pilot were unable to provide assessments sufficiently aligned to all skills and outcomes established by the joint legislative committee on outcome-based funding.  Due to the unavailability of sufficiently aligned assessments, the SBE was unable to fulfill the remaining requirements of the law and cannot begin implementation of the simulated pilot program.”

It’s good to see Arizona setting money aside to fund an innovative pilot program that has the potential to change how students and schools are funded, and to allow for more flexibility in how schools are able to serve students. The outcome suggests a mismatch between policy expectations and available technology. We don’t know all of the details yet, but this is another example showing that promising policies don’t always work out as planned.