A growing number of the nation’s leading urban school districts are pressing on all fronts to radically raise student performance and narrow achievement gaps, according to a new brief from the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE).
These districts are adopting a continuous improvement “portfolio strategy” that involves developing a diverse mix of schools, granting them autonomy over budgeting and hiring, while holding them accountable to common performance standards. New York City, New Orleans, Denver, and Los Angeles are among the 20 districts pioneering these strategic reforms.
How are these districts faring? After three years of studying portfolio initiatives in seven cities, CRPE’s Paul Hill and Christine Campbell find that these initiatives are making progress, but not as quickly as districts would like.
Hill and Campbell’s interim assessment, “ Growing Number of Districts Seek Bold Change With Portfolio Strategy
notes that resistance and conflict are common reactions to portfolio reforms. Closing low-performing schools, holding principals and teachers accountable for elevating student performance, opening new autonomous schools, and adopting innovative methods and curricula can rankle community members, families, and union leaders used to previous policies.
However, early results of the portfolio strategy are promising. Improved high school graduation rates, better student attendance and test scores, fewer students in low-performing schools, and more effective teachers across districts are among the achievements in portfolio districts with longer track records, like New York and New Orleans, according to Hill and Campbell.