Contracted Providers: Overcoming Challenges in a Portfolio School District

May 2011

CRPE Working Paper #2011-2

Over the past two decades, some district leaders have asked urban universities to develop emergency strategies to rescue low-performing public schools. However, managing such endeavors has proven both complex and challenging.

How do universities and school districts develop effective collaborative relationships that align with their missions to meet the collective good? Building a structure and process for a partnership that incorporates shared accountability and high-stakes testing requires buy-in from both districts and universities, yet some district and university leaders have left managing people and resources to chance.

This working paper draws from the author’s dissertation on shared governance and how two universities experienced a university-school district partnership in a portfolio district. The author's interviews with university representatives provided an opportunity for deep exploration of their experiences.

The paper briefly describes an urban school district, the historical relationship between the district and two universities, and how these two university-school district partnerships came into existence. The paper explores the factors that contributed to issues and conflicts between the district and universities during the universities’ operation of public schools, and concludes with a discussion that may help other localities engaging in similar partnerships.

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