Philadelphia school management plan echoes other large districts

In addition to plans to close up to 40 schools in the next year, the Philadelphia School District has outlined sweeping changes to its operation. Delegating school management to smaller networks follows the lead set by other large American districts.

“Instead of a district directly managing all its schools, it holds a portfolio of schools like a stock portfolio,” says Katrina Bulkley, an associate professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey. 

She says cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and New Orleans have tried out what’s called a “portfolio model” of school management.

The district “adds to that portfolio or increases schools that are doing well — there are more of them, or gives those operators more schools to run. And schools that are doing poorly are closed down,” Bulkley said.Bulkley says school districts have had mixed success with the approach. She compares the task of replicating successful schools to trying to replicate successful students.

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