Building the Lead Partner Market

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Schools That Can panel on turnarounds. The panel was moderated by Jennifer Husbands from AUSL, and featured speakers from Democracy Prep, EdPower, Scholar Academies, Milwaukee College Prep, and the Urban Science Academy. It was heartening to see folks so passionate about putting students first, but one question burned in my mind – why aren’t there schools and organizations for all the kids who so desperately need them?

Across the country, states and districts are focusing on turning around their lowest performing schools, and the need is only growing.  However, there aren’t yet enough organizations that are ready to meet that need, at least not yet. Many of the most successful programs have made it clear they don’t plan to expand dramatically, especially outside their regions. Certainly, there are plenty of worthy organizations that have answered the call, as could be seen on the panel. But the sheer volume of need requires a scaled response.

The Lead Partner Playbook, published today, is a tool to enable more great educators and innovators to respond to this urgent need. It lays out how a variety of organizations and individuals might work with and within the district to turn around schools and make them work for the students. It builds on Mass Insight’s landmark initial report, The Turnaround Challenge, to elaborate how conditions, clustering, and capacity can be translated from theory to practice. It lays out the key steps Lead Partners must take to secure the essential autonomies (people, money, time, programs) to make turnaround work. It is a planning guide to building an organization that can execute and sustain school turnaround (capacity). And it helps schools leaders get their hands around our third “C”—clustering — by grouping a low performing high school and its feeder schools into a protected Zone

Built with input from many of the best existing Lead Partners, such as AUSL, Friendship and Mastery, it provides a starting point for districts and edupreneurs who are eager to right wrongs, bring justice to their communities, and show our students that, yes, we believe in them.

Ji Hea Kim is a Project Coordinator at Mass Insight and is the lead author of The Lead Partner Playbook.