One of the more prominent reforms in insider circles, if not in popular discussions, is the so-called “portfolio strategy.” The strategy varies from district to district, but the basic idea is for the central administration of the school district to shift from the conventional bureaucratic model to a newfangled portfolio-manager model, whereby the district runs some schools and independent operators run others.
All the schools would be subject to closure or conversion or turnaround if they fail to meet performance expectations – in much the same way that a manager or a portfolio of securities would dump a poor-performing stock in favor of a more promising one.
Denver is among the districts that have gravitated toward the portfolio model, but it’s places like New Orleans, NYC, DC, and Los Angeles that have really been in the forefront.
Alas, that about exhausts my knowledge of the reform. But I plan to learn more on Friday, September 24th, when the EPIC policy center hosts a panel discussion with two researchers who have recently written about the reform.
Katy Bulkley has the definitive book on the topic coming out next month with Harvard Education Press, co-edited with Jeff Henig and Hank Levin, called “Between public and private: Politics, governance, and the new portfolio models for urban school reform.” She’ll be joined on the panel by Ken Saltman, who authored a largely critical policy brief earlier this summer that looked at the underlying research (or lack thereof) concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the portfolio approach — called, “Urban School Decentralization and the Growth of ‘Portfolio Districts.’” An earlier and much more sympathetic description of the reform model is offered by Paul Hill and Robin Lake over at CRPE.
This will be the first of two panel discussions that we will be hosting at CU-Boulder on the 24th; I’ll write about the second topic in a follow-up post here. If you’re interested in attending, please visit here to learn more and rsvp.
For the portfolio discussion, in addition to Bulkley and Saltman, we’ll be joined by Vincent Badolato, the VP of Public Affairs at the Colorado League of Charter Schools, who promises to ask the panelists some tough questions. (Vinny, who I’m proud to say is a former advisee of my mine at CU, wrote a very nice piece on teacher data systems in Colorado, published on our site here.)
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