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Strife and Progress

Strife and Progress: Portfolio Strategies for Managing Urban Schools

Paul T. Hill
Christine Campbell
Betheny Gross
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 140
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  • Book Info
    Strife and Progress
    Book Description:

    Deficient urban schooling remains one of America's most pressing-and stubborn-public policy problems. This important new book details and evaluates a radical and promising new approach to K-12 education reform.Strife and Progressexplains for a broad audience the "portfolio strategy" for providing urban education-its rationale, implementation, and results. Under the portfolio strategy, cities use anything that works, indifferent to whether schools are run by the public district or private entities. It combines traditional modes of schooling with newer methods, including chartering and experimentation with schools making innovative use of people and technology. Urban districts try to make themselves magnets for new talent, recruiting educators and career switchers looking to make a difference for poor children.

    The portfolio strategy creates interesting new bedfellows: people who think that government should oversee public education align with those advocating choice, competition, and entrepreneurship. It cuts across political lines and engages city governments and civic assets (e.g., philanthropies, businesses, universities) much more deeply than earlier reform initiatives. New York and New Orleans were portfolio pioneers, but the idea has spread rapidly to cities as far-flung as Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago.

    Results have been mixed overall but generally positive in places that implemented the strategy most aggressively. Reform leaders such as New York's Joel Klein have been overly optimistic, however, assuming that the strategy's merits would be so obvious that careful assessment would be unnecessary. Serious policy evaluation is still needed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2428-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    Throughout this book, we return to Yolanda’s story and those of children, parents, and teachers in other cities. In the meantime, a debate rages about whether it is fair for Americans to demand more of their public schools. One side argues that high dropout rates and low achievement, especially among poor and minority students, are rooted in poverty and social conditions that schooling cannot overcome. The other side argues that schools do far less for poor and minority children than they could if they made better use of the time, money, and talent available to them. The debate has become...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Portfolio Strategy in Practice
    (pp. 10-41)

    The portfolio strategy is a new approach to the way a city provides public education. The people responsible for public education—the local superintendent or school board or, in some cases, the mayor—continually search for new models of schooling and innovative approaches to instruction that might get better results than current schools. School districts, which once operated schools bureaucratically, are transformed into performance managers. Performance managers don’t control schools by regulation. Instead, they create freedom of action for school leaders and teachers, track and compare schools’ performance, and try to expand the numbers of high-performing schools and reduce the...

  6. CHAPTER THREE How the Portfolio Strategy Gets Adopted: A Tale of Two Cities
    (pp. 42-64)

    Cities that adopt portfolio strategies have some things in common: most have widely recognized problems of school effectiveness, especially for low-income and minority children, and have long histories of seeking improvement. Many have financial problems, caused either by declining enrollment, an aging and therefore more expensive teacher force, un-funded retiree pension and benefits costs, a mismatch between the location of school buildings and current residential patterns, and long-deferred building maintenance.

    Mayoral takeover of the schools, as exemplified by Adrian Fenty in Washington and Michael Bloomberg in New York City, is widely recognized as the foundation of some portfolio strategies. However,...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Conflict in Portfolio Districts
    (pp. 65-89)

    In all the cities we studied, measures taken in pursuit of better schools have caused controversy, pitting parents who want to exercise choice against neighborhood leaders and service providers who don’t want money to leave existing schools. Some applaud local and state leaders’ aggressive pursuit of new options. Others abhor the consequences for jobs, traditions, and neighborhood stability, occasionally charging disrespect for local cultures or efforts to dismantle public education.

    Did the portfolio strategy cause these conflicts or were they always there? The answer, based on our research, is yes and yes. The conflicts that have arisen in districts pursuing...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Judging the Results of the Portfolio Strategy
    (pp. 90-101)

    The portfolio strategy is a complex intervention in an even more complex system. Everything is done in the name of increasing student achievement, but some of the actions taken, though arguably causally connected to student achievement, are remote from it. For example, giving principals control over money and hiring, and a new districtwide talent strategy, contribute to student achievement, but only indirectly. To complicate matters further, some elements of the portfolio strategy that are causally close to student achievement (such as replacing failed schools with new ones or rewarding principals and teachers for high performance) might produce the desired results...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Does the Portfolio Strategy Have Legs?
    (pp. 102-120)

    No gambling houses make book on the likely success of any large-scale school reform initiative. If anyone did, they would have to give long odds. As Rick Hess noted in his 1998 study, few districtwide reform initiatives survive the tenure of the superintendent who introduced them.¹ Most initiatives are doomed by the barely three-year tenure of the average city superintendent. The fact that many big initiatives become dead letters as soon as opposition starts to gather suggests that large-scale reforms face the prospect of a short-term life.

    In addition, portfolio strategies can open up previously dormant conflicts and threaten groups...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN A Ratchet Effect?
    (pp. 121-124)

    Readers will not have missed the fact that city and school district leaders who introduce portfolio strategies do so with different degrees of skill, different degrees of respect for others’ views, and a different taste for confrontation. We do not claim that the conflicts observed in the cities we studied are all inevitable (for example, in Washington, where the school chancellor appeared on a national magazine cover with a broom, symbolizing her intent to clean house with teachers). But it is evident that portfolio strategies generate conflict even when led with tact and open-mindedness.

    As this is written the portfolio...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 125-132)
  12. Index
    (pp. 133-140)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 141-141)