This comparative case study adopts a process implementation perspective on neoliberal regulation to explore developments in national curricula and standard-based reforms in the USA and Australia. Date sources include research reports, books, PISA data, and US Schools and Staffing Survey data. The comparison of the dynamic of two countries reveals that whereas policymakers in the USA adopted a transforming regulatory strategy (targeting the ambiguity and conflict levels in local policy) to implement, Australian policymakers adopted a congruence regulatory strategy (ratifying ambiguity and conflict levels). As a result of this dynamic, the education system in the USA displays a relatively tighter structure, which is related to the tighter professional teaching culture. The analysis suggests that the effect of global ideas and policies adopted locally depends on policymakers’ regulatory strategy, and that local system change drastically only when policymakers adopt the neoliberal default preference for active transformative implementation. Hence, a specific implementation dynamic is a key factor in the global neoliberal agenda, and its presence or absence indicates convergence or divergence between countries adopting similar policies.