Betting on Capacity

We’ve written before about making small dollars go a long way, and Education Resource Strategies’ (ERS) newest brief highlights this tactic once again.

ERS reports out on findings from a summit last fall, discussing how districts and schools can use one-shot dollars (such as SIG) to build the new kinds of district systems necessary to sustain aggressive turnaround initiatives.  They pose 5 major strategies:

 1. Fix broken structures, don’t add more on top of them

2. Leverage partnerships wisely

3. Prioritize turnaround resources toward capacity building

4. Create a strategy that learns, using data to continuously adjust interventions

5. Change the system to protect and scale success

ERS recommends planning before spending, especially in situations where a district has a grant whose requirements contain an imminent deadline for money to be spent.  They also discuss building capacity strategically, honing in on partners in the community with cost-effective models that make the desired impact (we call them Lead Partners).  Additionally, in terms of creating capacity, ERS hits the nail on the head, recommending that districts strapped for cash try to learn from a partner’s involvement so that after the partner’s contract ends, they will have the skills to replicate that partner’s functions from within the district.

Even more importantly, ERS acknowledges that systems can be important, but that the kinds of systems we have now aren’t necessarily up to the task of sustainably fixing challenged schools. We totally agree and have made that case before here, here and here.