Thursday, August 14, 2014

How the Portfolio Strategy Evolved from Idea to Action

In 2003, Paul Hill and I, along with James Harvey, wrote a book called It Takes a City. The book was written for mayors, civic leaders, school board members, and involved citizens, as a practical guide on how to formulate a reform plan bold enough to work while dealing with political opposition to change. It encourages mayors and civic leaders to stay engaged in education reform. And it concludes that school systems must redefine their mission, around building a funding and regulatory environment where strong schools can flourish, offering families choices, and creating new options via charters and contracts with independent operators. This was the foundation of what today we call the portfolio strategy.

Over the past decade, forward-thinking leaders in more than 40 cities and state takeover districts have embraced giving principals freedom in exchange for accountability, giving schools control of spending and hiring, working with the charter sector to offer new and distinctive schools, and looking to the community and beyond for new school supports and talent. Smart and driven leaders and educators have taken these common sense ideas and boldly iterated and improved upon them.

New Orleans is an important exemplar, both in the use of the portfolio strategy and local leaders’ creative adaptation of it. In their essay “A Playbook for a New Approach in New Orleans,” John White and Adam Hawf (Louisiana state superintendent and assistant superintendent, respectively), write of the reality of education in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina nine years ago, the hard work of educators and families, the revelation of new challenges, and the continuous improvement and innovation taking place in the city. The New Orleans story is a testament to the educators and families who won’t settle for small gains.

Our latest book shows how leaders in New Orleans and other cities have adapted the portfolio strategy to local needs and conditions.

At CRPE, we don’t think of the ideas we’ve developed for the portfolio strategy as “done.” We aren’t prescriptive or ideological about this approach—we’re researching and learning as it takes shape in cities across the country. For those considering it, we will help them learn from each other, provide tools to help with implementation, and keep pushing them to improve.

Tue, 03/31/2020

Success’s meticulously planned classes and sustained expectations for students’ work will come as a relief to many parents.

Sat, 03/28/2020

This week has been a crucial period of preparation in states from Washington to Florida, where distance learning is expected to begin in earnest by the end of March.

Fri, 03/20/2020

Three much-admired school networks in Indianapolis didn’t skip a beat in going virtual.