Promoting the Portfolio Model of School Governance

In order to dramatically improve our nation’s schools, we must fundamentally change the relationship between a district’s central administration and individual campus leaders. Our team is working to advance the Portfolio Model of School Governance, which separates school oversight from campus operations. Educators are responsible for running their schools, while the government acts as a regulator, replicating successful school models and closing those that continue to fail.

As part of a Portfolio district, traditional schools and charters participate in a unified enrollment system that allows parents to decide where to send their children, and more school leaders have autonomy to make decisions at the campus level. This includes everything from choosing the curriculum and setting the length of the school day, to hiring staff and deciding how to manage the school budget. The structure empowers those who are closest to the students. It gives them the flexibility to be creative and operate schools in ways that best serve students’ needs. The central office holds school leaders strictly accountable, regardless of whether they operate traditional schools or charters. All schools must meet the same achievement standards to ensure that students are receiving a high-quality education.

To date, we have made investments in Camden, New Jersey; Memphis, Tennessee; Indianapolis, Indiana; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; Oakland, California; and Denver, Colorado. Four of those cities—New Orleans, Camden, Denver, and Washington, D.C.—have implemented or are close to implementing all key Portfolio policies. Our team is currently tracking interim measures of progress, including the number of excellent schools and highly effective teachers, in order to assess the impact of the reforms.

Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) Co-Founder John Arnold discusses LJAF’s efforts to advance the Portfolio Model of School Governance in Indianapolis. Indianapolis created an Innovation Network to provide educators with greater autonomy and to help ensure all children have access to a high-quality education.