Developing a Policy Work Plan

Using the Policy Tools | High-Leverage Policy Targets | Work Plan Template

Using the Policy Tools

This tool is intended to serve as a discussion guide to assist design teams as they prepare their policy work plan. Each section of the policy framework includes a series of questions to help with narrowing down your policy focus. The design team should review the entire tool, but you do not need to discuss all of these questions in detail. Rather, focus on those areas with the most traction and possibility for inclusion in the overall work plan. We recommend selecting 3-5 policy levers that are both high-impact and achievable. Who should be part of the policy planning team? Consider assembling a group of no more than 15 of those state system staff, community college leaders, state system data/IR directors, and others that are most able to contribute to identifying high leverage state policy areas.

When reviewing the protocol, think in terms of existing policies, missing policies, and existing policies that are in fact barriers to change. In some cases these may reflect policy areas that are formed at the institutional level, in others they may reflect under-developed policy areas that have not been clearly articulated by the state or system office. Additionally, the policy work plan will likely include policy development that may need legislative work, or policy development that states can complete within the purview of their current policy authority as governing or coordinating board/system. We recognize not all the questions included in the protocol will make sense in context of your state. This tool is purposely broad, as it was developed to accommodate the needs of the eleven states engaged in Accelerating Opportunity, all of which had widely different degrees of centralization/decentralization represented across the group. Keep in mind that the members of your design team are the real experts on policy in your state.

Developing High-Leverage Policy Targets

What do we mean by high leverage? Since policy reform is a notoriously difficult area to measure impact, the definition of high leverage is necessarily flexible. Please consider the following guidelines and assumptions when developing this policy work plan and your overall policy reform efforts: This policy work plan should be:

  • Focused - Focus on policy supports that fit within the five categories included in the Policy Framework for integrated pathways. While there may be other policy areas with the potential to yield positive change that fall outside this framework, we believe identifying and developing policy supports connected to this framework will best serve the state in the context of this initiative. 
  • Ambitious but realistic – It is important to find a balance between the impact and feasibility of your planned policy reform efforts. JFF suggests identifying no more than three to five major policy supports to tackle during the initial few years of implementation.
  • Broad in impact - We believe each state should think ambitiously about developing a robust policy agenda with a strong impact on all Adult Basic Education or community colleges in the state, rather than smaller subsets of colleges.
  • Sustainable - The state must plan and account for funding sources to support and sustain integrated pathway models as they get to scale. Additionally, long-term goals should include braiding funding and moving away from “soft” funds like one-time grants to dedicated, multi-year funding streams.
  • Innovative - The policy priorities included in the work plan do not all have to be tied to legislative/statutory changes. States need to think creatively and in bold ways about revising existing policy within the purview of their own governance or coordinating authority. Stronger state policies around assessment, alignment, and data, for example, are all within the control of systems.

Policy Work Plan Template

This template is intended to assist design teams as they move from policy identification (from the state policy scan process) into developing a focused and dedicated state policy work plan based on a targeted but ambitious set of high-leverage policy supports. These policy priorities should be specific and actionable (e.g. avoid broad generalizations such as “strengthen finance policies”). These policy supports should have a direct and measurable impact on the ability of your colleges to ensure the success of their ABE students. When developing your plan, establish a timeframe for when you expect the work to be complete (for Accelerating Opportunity the timeframe was 3 years).

The policy work plan template includes the following sub-categories. Filling out each section will help you build a stronger policy plan, which will in turn help you achieve your policy goals.

  • Policy Lever: Provide the name of the policy change/policy support you wish to make. Each “lever” may consist of a single policy change (removing a single statute, for example), or a series of changes acting in concert toward a shared outcome.
  • Current Policy Environment: Provide brief description of the current policy environment and why the change/support will improve the success and credential attainment of your ABE population.
  • Policy Change: What will be the extent of the policy change you expect to have taken place within your targeted time frame. Please describe any new policies you expect to be in place or the elimination of old policies. Please note, this section does not need to include a description of impact or outcomes.
  • Impact: Briefly describe the results you expect from your policy change.
  • Three-Year Outcomes: How will you measure the results outlined under the impact section? Take into account both qualitative and quantitative outcomes.
  • Action Steps: By year, list the steps needed to enact the policy change and for measuring and distributing its impact. Indicate clearly who has the authority to make a particular change, and be sure to include any time- restrictions that may impact progress (for example, legislative change would only be possible while your state legislature was in session).
  • Barriers/Challenges: List the top two or three problems that you think have the potential to derail your policy change process.