How do our public schools meet the current challenges of raising student achievement?
Yesterday we heard about the legislative priorities of school superintendents across central North Carolina. They – along with superintendents across the state — asked legislators to increase funding and to stop providing public money for children to attend private schools. Superintendents also shared their concerns about declining funding levels, cuts in school support staff and employee compensation.
So what seems to be the top priority of superintendents across the state? Money or securing additional resources. Of course money is important and you can’t run a school or school system without it. However such comments make it sound as if our current problems simply derive from a lack of resources.
To think so is mistaken and shortsighted. School districts face many of the same challenge and we’d be wise to learn from the success of others.
Ten years ago the Denver Public Schools (DPS) was looking at many of the same challenges North Carolina faces. However DPS took a different path. With an elected school board and innovative leaders, Denver has made some of the most dramatic gains in urban education using what’s known as a “portfolio strategy.” Under a portfolio strategy districts negotiate performance agreements with public schools — traditional, charter and hybrid models.
Over the past decade the Denver public schools have embraced change and true reform. It hasn’t been easy. Since 2005, 48 Denver public schools have been closed, more than 70 new schools – the majority of them charter schools – have been opened. In 2010 the Denver Public Schools signed a Collaboration Compact which committed the district to equitable funding, a common enrollment system and replication of the most effective schools – whether they be traditional or charter.
The results have been dramatic: The percentage of Denver’s student reaching proficiency on state exams has increased across racial groups at a rate that outpaces improvements statewide. In addition, overall satisfaction levels are up.
Want to know more? The current issue of Education Next tells the story of how Denver Public Schools have used school choice and charters to improve student achievement.
It’s a story superintendents – and anyone committed to improving public education in North Carolina — would do well to read about.