This is a relatively broad question, so I’ll narrow my focus on national education reform.
Since the dawn of free public education for all, reformers have voiced the need for changes within the education system. Most recently, the biggest pushes for reform have been in accountability measures. What this means is that teachers must be evaluated according to their students’ performance on a variety of standardized, norm-referenced tests. This has led to an increase in professional evaluation programs for public school teachers as well as student performance ratings that are attached to a teacher’s record.
Along with teacher accountability, students are also being held increasingly accountable. From the Common Core state standards push to Obama’s “Race to the Top” program, there has been a nationwide push for schools to teach a standardized set of skills regardless of place, ability level, socioeconomic status, sex, or race. This is usually tied to funding for public schools: those whose students perform well on assessments are given financial incentives.
Currently, the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos is pushing for more local control for school districts, loosening some of the provisions of existing laws like NCLB, and school choice—which includes taxpayer funded vouchers that students may use to attend a school of their own choosing, including a private or charter school.
On the national level, reforms are typically carried out via legislative action, which involves lobbyists who advocate for various reforms or causes. The Department of Education is responsible for implementing and monitoring the progress of any legislative reforms.