Not that America needs anything greater than a picture of a flag with *both* an eagle and some unnamed founding document superimposed across it.
But in case you’re hungry for more goodness, one of the great parts of my job is I get to travel the country and see innovative work, much of which doesn’t get a lot of national press.
So here’s some highlights, most of which are early stage, none of which are proven, but all of which give me a lot of hope.
Innovation Schools in Indianapolis
Indianapolis has built broad community support for a model that gives great educators autonomy, allow for new school entrepreneurship, and, perhaps most importantly, provides non-profit governance – all within a district construct that is still accountable to a publicly elected school board.
I once wrote a parable about this re: blacksmiths. What’s happening in Indianapolis is even better. This could be a breakthrough in both school site governance (a non-charter path for sustained entrepreneurship and autonomy) and system level governance (how a district reinvents itself as a public steward of great schools).
Renaissance Schools in Camden
Another innovation in governance: non-profit schools that receive more funding than regular charters, but have to build or renovate a facility, serve all students in a neighborhood catchment area, and be approved by local publicly education body (unless city is under state takeover).
In a world where political deals are hard to come by, this was one to learn from: more money, more choices but with guaranteed neighborhood access, and more economic development in the form of new buildings (which helped gain support of labor unions).
Innovation Schools -> Innovation Zone in Denver
A group of innovations schools, which are granted autonomies but still operated by the district, want to spin off into a non-profit holding organization that would give them more room for autonomy and entrepreneurship, yet keep them within the district’s operational jurisdiction rather than going full charter. The best version of this creates a sustainable governance structure for district educators to be empowered over the long-haul.
Youth Force NOLA
This is very early-stage, but a group of New Orleans educators and business leaders are trying to ensure that NOLA’s academic gains translate into jobs. The plan would invest in high schools, credentialing organizations, and universities to bring more entrepreneurship, innovation, and connectivity along the highsch00l to work pipeline. In the best version of this plan, NOLA will build the nation’s first well designed portfolio model for grades 10-16.
A lot of this is early stage, so we’ll see what works.
Moreover, there are risks that going too far on “third way” solutions that begin to crowd out scaling traditional urban charter schools, which have a strong evidence base behind them.
But, for the most part, I view pragmatism (non-charter governance innovations, some deference to neighborhood enrollment, focusing on jobs and not solely four year degrees) as positive.
There’s simply too many varied educational, community, and political contexts to expect (or desire) the same solutions in every place.
We’re better off harnessing the powers of federalism and learning from the best of what evolves.