Cover: Strife and Progress

Strife and Progress: Portfolio Strategies for Managing Urban Schools

Deficient urban schooling remains one of America’s most pressing—and stubborn—public policy problems. This important new book details and evaluates a radical and promising new approach to K-12 education reform. Strife and Progress explains for a broad audience the “portfolio strategy” for providing urban education—its rationale, implementation, and results. Under the portfolio strategy, cities use anything that works, indifferent to whether schools are run by the public district or private entities. It combines traditional modes of schooling with newer methods, including chartering and experimentation with schools making innovative use of people and technology. Urban districts try to make themselves magnets for new talent, recruiting educators and career switchers looking to make a difference for poor children.

The portfolio strategy creates interesting new bedfellows: people who think that government should oversee public education align with those advocating choice, competition, and entrepreneurship. It cuts across political lines and engages city governments and civic assets (e.g., philanthropies, businesses, universities) much more deeply than earlier reform initiatives. New York and New Orleans were portfolio pioneers, but the idea has spread rapidly to cities as far-flung as Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago.

Results have been mixed overall but generally positive in places that implemented the strategy most aggressively. Reform leaders such as New York’s Joel Klein have been overly optimistic, however, assuming that the strategy’s merits would be so obvious that careful assessment would be unnecessary. Serious policy evaluation is still needed.

Praise for the book:

"Strife and Progress is a must-read for anyone who wants to act on the lessons of the past decade to improve urban education. It describes a revolutionary new approach to improving school systems that we've seen firsthand can attract and retain exceptional educators, unleash their leadership, empower parents, and expand opportunity for all children."—Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO, Teach for America

"There can be no one-size-fits-all in our relentless pursuit to create an education system that exists solely for the benefit of students. In Strife and Progress: Portfolio Strategies for Managing Urban Schools, Hill, Campbell, and Gross present an innovative strategy for those looking for new ways to fix an old system."—Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, 1999-2007, and Chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education

"Paul Hill and his colleagues write with power and clarity about a school reform strategy—portfolio management—that he has long championed. He shows how it has worked in school districts throughout the country and the political pushback it has generated. This is an important book because portfolio strategies are critical to improving our public schools, and Hill's sharp eye will help future reformers move forward more effectively."—Joel Klein, Former New York City Schools Chancellor, CEO of the Education Division and Executive Vice President, News Corporation