You Need to Understand the Narrative of the Future *and* the Probability of Future Outcomes

Understanding the narrative of the future and the probability of future outcomes are both very important.

Your communications should be aligned to the narrative of the future and your actions should be aligned to the probable outcomes of the future.

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When charter schools were invented the narrative of the future was that they would be laboratories for innovation.

The actual probability set of the future included a reality where this was in fact the case, but it also included a reality where charters scaled to be much more than this.

As such, thoughtful charter school supporters invested both in innovation and in the infrastructure for scale (charter school management organizations).

This led to charters serving 10-30% of students in many cities, which surpassed the state goal of the existing narrative of the future.

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Currently, the narrative of the future is that a vibrant and significant charter school sector can be a positive for raising the performance of all public schools, with competition being emphasized as much as innovation.

Often time, Washington D.C. and Denver are held up as models of charters and districts working alongside each for the benefit of all.

On this blog and elsewhere, I’ve argued that all charter school districts are actually a better structure for increasing educational opportunity. While I do think this has shifted the conversation a bit, this message deviates from the current narrative of the future, and it tends not to go very far with local leaders.

As such, when I speak in communities, I don’t emphasize the creation of all charter school districts. I never lie about the fact that I support them, but I focus on the fact that cities like Washington D.C. and Denver are demonstrating that healthy traditional and charter sectors can operate alongside each other and that both are important.

In the short-term, very few cities will go all charter anyways, so focusing on developing a strong charter sector that serves 40-50% of children seems like a pragmatic next step.

And it aligns my communications with the most common narrative of the future.

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We don’t know what the future will hold.

It may in fact be the case that 40-50% charter market share proves optimal, or it could be the case that all charter districts end up being best for children.

As such, I think it’s important to invest in the infrastructure for a future where charters do serve all children in many cities. Supporting actions could include funding policy pieces, continued innovation in New Orleans, and a few other cities where communities are willing to make a push to 75%+ charter.

But I also think it’s important to align some investing with the current narrative of the future (which may end up being the future itself).

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In navigating the potential differences between the narrative of the future and the future itself, pragmatism and honesty go a long way.

You shouldn’t hide the ball, but you all shouldn’t use fourth quarter tactics during the second and third quarters.

As much as possible, you actions should be congruent to multiple likely outcomes.

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