Georgia Is a National Leader
By Terry Ryan
One of the most innovative developments in American education during the last decade has been the reconceptualization of school districts and how they should be organized and managed. Neerav Kingsland, former CEO of New Schools for New Orleans, described this as a movement of “relinquishers.”[i] Relinquishers, according to Kingsland, are superintendents who use their authority to transfer power away from the central office to individual schools – and, most important, to their principals and teachers.
For more than a decade education researchers like Paul Hill, Christine Campbell and Bethany Gross at Seattle’s Center on Reinventing Public Education have written about “portfolio school districts.”[ii] Like Kingsland’s relinquishers, portfolio school district leaders see their role not as running the schools, but rather as creating the conditions for a “tight-loose” system of school management – “tight” as to results, but “loose” with regards to operations. Superintendents are no longer owner-operators of schools, but rather “quality control agents” for portfolios of different types of schools in their districts.
Big-city school districts have led the way in the movement towards “portfolio management.” Some of the best-known examples are New York City, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Cleveland, and Denver. According to Hill, Campbell and Gross there are now more than 30 school districts across the country that they have identified as pursuing the portfolio strategy to varying degrees.
None of the districts identified are rural. In fact, when it comes to rural school districts and chartering there are many who argue the two simply aren’t compatible. “Charter schools just don’t work for us,” South Dakota State Senator Sandy Jerstad said in 2009.[iii] Such opinions are common in much of rural America and this helps to explain why the charter revolution has largely bypassed large swaths of the country and its students. Of the eight states lacking charter school laws, all are rural.[iv]
Read the full Impact Paper here: Inside Rural Charter District