This article examines whether centrally developed initiatives at the state level have an impact on how districts in the U.S. think about their role in providing direction and support for student learning, and also examines how districts view the strategies that state governments use to initiate change at the local level. Our focus is on smaller districts, a context that has been underexamined in recent investigations of the effects of the changing educational policy environment. Our framework draws on perceptions of power, networking, and loose coupling to examine four small districts. Our study suggests that there is considerable variation in how smaller districts react to state standards and accountability, but none of the four districts describe their situation in ways that suggest that they feel besieged or victimized by state standards. All four saw themselves as being able to harness state policy to local priorities. There were, however, differences between the districts' orientations to state policy that correspond to the larger political culture of the state in which they are located.