NEPC Review: Building the Possible: The Achievement School District’s Presentation in Milwaukee and The Recovery School District’s Presentation in Milwaukee
Representatives from the Recovery School District (predominantly, New Orleans) and the Achievement School District (Memphis) have created detailed presentations concerning the successes and challenges of implementing portfolio models. A portfolio district contracts with various providers to run schools and is responsible for holding those providers accountable. Although no rigorous research has yet examined the effectiveness of portfolio governance structures, the presentations are aimed at encouraging their adoption. While one should not expect citation of specific studies in PowerPoint presentations, policymakers considering such reforms should not act without a comprehensive and nuanced discussion of relevant evidence. Moreover, while the presentations both include strong assertions of positive results, they should acknowledge the thin evidence base on portfolio governance and consider possible alternative explanations for those asserted results. Specifically, the reported achievement gains are suspect and may be attributable to other unexamined factors such as the massive out-migration of New Orleans students. The Memphis data are too limited in scope and time to be conclusive. The purported teacher and administrator human-capital improvements that are reported in both presentations are not specified. Finally, the influx of unexamined federal and philanthropic funds may underestimate true costs, and the implications for community relations are not well developed. In conclusion, the presentations fail to provide the research base needed for policymakers.
Both PowerPoint presentations can be found at http://www.publicschoolshakedown.org/review-portfolio-districts.