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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

District-charter collaboration gains popularity

A new model for urban education — a portfolio of traditional and charter schools — is gaining ground, reports Matt Barnum on Chalkbeat.

Indianapolis is opening charter-like “innovation” schools.

Indianapolis Public Schools is “turning over schools to charter operators, and it’s rolling out a common enrollment system for district and charter schools that could make it easier for charters to grow,” he writes. “Nearly half of the district’s students now attend charters or district schools with charter-like freedoms.”

Nonprofits such as the Mind Trust in Indianapolis and New Schools for New Orleans are taking the lead, writes Barnum. “Denver — a district with a self-described portfolio-management team — has two local philanthropies in the Education Cities network, and a new organization recently opened there.”

Groups are pushing the portfolio model in Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Oakland.

Advocates “want to see more charter schools and more district schools run like charter schools,” writes Barnum.

In their idealized vision, families are free to choose schools outside their neighborhood using an enrollment system encompassing all schools. The district gives up most of its traditional role setting policy for schools and instead becomes the body holding all kinds of schools accountable by closing ones that don’t succeed.

The portfolio model is too charter-friendly for some and too regulation-friendly for others, writes Barnum. “Free-market charter supporters fear that a single entity — a portfolio manager — with the power to manage enrollment and choose which schools to open and close would actually limit choice, put too much focus on test scores, and risk allowing unions to wrest control of the entire apparatus.”

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