The Systems of the Past

Every Wednesday this past month, Betsy Haley Doyle and Nithin Iyengar of The Bridgespan Group‘s Education Practice guest-blogged in The Turnaround Zone, providing the context for the work that many CMO’s and EMO’s are doing.  Each piece related to Mass Insight Education’s 3 Cs: clustering, capacity, and conditions.  The Achievement School District in Tennessee worked to create a pipeline of students, essentially clustering by creating meaningful feeder patterns for students from elementary through high school.  The AUSL in Chicago works to improve upon capacity by using a network of AUSL graduates as mentors for new turnaround teachers, with the hope that this will infuse a new energy into teachers and encourage highly effective teachers to stay longer than the typical 2-3 years in a low-performing school. Lastly, Aspire Public Schools worked to change conditions for students by creating a college-going culture.

When applying these lessons to traditional public school districts, we begin to see the rationale for approaching a district central office design from another angle.  What if low-performing schools could be prioritized in action and SIG schools could receive individualized support? What if services were streamlined from multiple offices?  We aren’t quite looking to completely decentralize the system, which is where the Lead Partner comes into play—the central office still sets district-wide standards, and the principal has the autonomy to handle day-to-day operations, while the Lead Partner manages and provides critical support to a cluster of schools.  The current system is too top-down, while the trend of every school for itself is too fragmented.  So again, we consider this third option that lies between the traditional public school system and the charter system.

As STG President Justin Cohen says, “we want the schools of the future, but too often rely on the systems of the past.”