Neerav Kingsland, the chief strategy officer of New Schools for New Orleans, recently published a fascinating post on the emerging reform strategies in five large American public school districts. Kingsland notes that while leaders in all of these districts aim to strengthen accountability mechanisms and to craft new human capital pipelines that are more conducive to high performance, some are keen on granting schools far more autonomy while others favor a more centralized approach in which evidence-based strategies are rolled out across directly run schools.
Contrary to what you might think, reform-minded philanthropic groups and reform-minded superintendents do not really have a unified long-term vision for public education in this country.
Before I begin in full, let me say this: Superintendents, over the years I’ve begun to believe that your identities–how each of you perceives your professional charge–are often misguided. In my experience, most of you view yourselves as system reformers–leaders who can make the current educational system much better. For the sake of the letter, let’s call you, well, Reformers. With great diligence, you fight to make our government-operated system better.
But let me suggest another identity–one whose charge is to return power, in a thoughtful manner, back to parents and educators. Let’s call these types of superintendents Relinquishers. With great diligence, these superintendents attempt to transfer power away from a centralized bureaucracy.
Both Reformers and Relinquishers possess noble aims, but only one group, I think, possesses a sound strategy.
Superintendents, in the rest of this letter I hope to convince you to become Relinquishers. Specifically, I will advocate that you return power to parents and educators through the creation of charter school districts, which are the most politically acceptable mechanisms for empowering educators.
For a brief look at Kingsland’s case for charter school district, this post is your best bet.