This article examines state and local government relations in education by considering the influence of one state's standards-based reform initiatives on policy making in the Local Education Agency (LEA) using data from nine school districts. Although state standards initiatives prompted all nine LEAs to ensure that the topics covered in their policies matched the state's standards, the author shows that the influence of standards on LEA policy making was much weaker and inconsistent when it came to the more substantive and complex content and pedagogical changes advanced by state standards. Based on this analysis, the author argues that the local capacity and the local will for complex instructional reform need to be understood in interaction. Furthermore, the author considers how the tension between state policy instruments as played out in LEAs, coupled with instability in state politics, undermined the influence of state standards on LEA policy making.
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