When We Say Policy, What Do We Mean?

Throughout the database, the term policy generally refers to any legal lever state legislatures and state boards of education use to impose or suggest changes to a state's education system. Under this definition, policies include laws, regulations, guidance, or any of the other bolded words below this paragraph.

Laws or statutes are adopted by state legislatures and compiled into state codes. Subsets are organized by titles, chapters, and sections. Laws take precedence over every other type of policy except for state constitutional provisions, and are subject to the full weight of state enforcement via the criminal or civil justice systems. Bills are pending laws/statute.

Rulesregulationsadministrative orderscertification requirements, and licensure requirements refer to policies that are adopted by state boards of education, state department heads under authority granted by the state legislature or state constitution, or other governmental bodies as granted authority by the state constitution or state legislature. They often carry the force of law within an education system.

In the education system, standards refer to academic concepts that students should know and skills they should be able to perform. Curriculum frameworks outline general instructional concepts rather than provide specific lesson plans. In some states, standards and frameworks are mandatory and are treated like regulations, but in other states they are recommendations intended to guide the content of local academic programs.

Resolutions, position statements, non-regulatory/nonbinding guidance or guidelines, legal advisories, interagency agreements, bylaws, and procedures are generally advisory in nature and express opinions or provide clarification on implementing policies and programs. They can originate from state boards of education, state education administrators, or other policymakers.