Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it worked

Rand just release the initial evaluation of de Blasio’s Renewal School program.

The program cost $773 million.

The researchers found that the program did not improve student achievement.

The Renewal program has only been around for three years, so it feels a bit early to tell if it worked or not.

But I think “did it work?” is an important but secondary question to ask with a program like this.

The most important question is: “will it last?”

Even if the program had it gotten results, I’m skeptical that the program would have lasted.

The Renewal program had two major things going against it’s sustainability.

First, the program was deeply tied to de Blasio and the previous superintendent, Carmen Farina.

Second, there were no governance or legal protections for the program.

Taken together, this meant that the next mayor / superintendent would likely replace this initiative with their pet initiative.

This already had started to happen a year ago. When Farina stepped, the new superintendent, Richard Carranza, said the idea behind the Renewal program was “fuzzy.”

I viewed this as code for “it’s not my signature project.”

Admittedly, even I’m a bit surprised at how quickly the Renewal program collapsed. I thought it would at least live through the de Blasio administration.

We do live in a democracy (thankfully), so no government funded program, even if it works, is guaranteed to last forever.

But I would not have spent $773 million dollars on program that could be so easily undone.

I am such a deep believer in non-profit governance because it greatly increases the chance that something great can last.

In New Orleans, since the outset of the reforms, we’ve had three mayors and five superintendents.

And the work continues.




3 thoughts on “Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it worked

  1. Pam

    Mayors and superintendents are baffled by the paucity of competency in education. So, instead of tackling the core issue, they introduce spanking-new programs and/or roll-out a capital fund campaign. It’s much easier to fix a crumbled building than a crumbled pipeline.

  2. Mike G

    If the schools created had, just for sake of discussion, been good schools of choice….let’s say selective arts academies that were not non-profits and still district-run…do you think they would have survived? I.e., no governance protections and associated with former supe, but has group of devoted families highly motivated to protect it?

    1. nkingsl Post author

      Perhaps, but I don’t think this is scalable. Works for top tier magnets – but unless you make every school a magnet (lake wobegon!) then hard to create the allegiance of parents who know they are getting a special deal.


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