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Terrenda White

University of Colorado Boulder

Terrenda White is an Assistant Professor of Education Policy and Practice at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her work is grounded in sociology of education, and currently explores the impact of choice and competition on teachers’ instructional practices, particularly multicultural practices for diverse students. Her latest project examines the organizational conditions of charter schools with chronically low or high rates of teacher turnover, including voluntary and involuntary departures by teachers of color. Dr. White’s most recent work examines racially diverse charter schools, including the mechanisms these schools use to maintain diverse populations and the manner of school practices employed to foster meaningful integration. Dr. White is a former elementary school teacher, a first generation college graduate, and one of the inaugural recipients of the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship in 2000. Her dissertation earned the National Academy of Education fellowship in 2013-2014.

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NEPC Publications

NEPC Review: A 21st Century School System in the Mile-High City (Progressive Policy Institute, May 2016)

David Osborne
A 21st Century School System in the Mile-High City

A report published by the Progressive Policy Institute calls for aggressively closing more public schools and expanding charter schools and charter networks. It highlights reforms adopted by Denver Public Schools, notably a “portfolio model” of school governance, and argues that these reforms positively impacted student test scores. However, causality cannot be determined, and the report did not attempt to isolate the effect of a multitude of reforms—including charters, performance pay, and a new performance framework—from larger complex forces shaping student demographics in the city. Written in a reportorial voice, the only data presented are in the form of simple charts. The lack of conventional statistical analyses thwarts the reader’s understanding. The report also characterizes the reform’s adoption as a “political success” born of a healthily contentious electoral process. In doing so, it downplays the role of outside forces and moneyed groups that influenced the form of reforms, and it disregards missed opportunities for meaningful engagement with community stakeholders. Finally, while the report acknowledges the district’s failure to close achievement gaps and admits limitations with the evaluation system, it never explains how a successful reform could generate a widening gap in performance between student groups by race and class.

Update: David Osborne, the report’s author, has posted a response to the review. The response can be found at:

Terrenda White’s rejoinder to the author's response to her review is posted immediately below the review.