A report released Tuesday ranks cities not in terms of best-performing schools but on their openness to outside ideas and education reform.
Education entrepreneurs – the sort of people who want to open a new charter school, or have an innovative way to get talented new teachers into schools – would do well to head to New Orleans. Or Washington or New York.
At least that’s the judgment of “America’s Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform: Attracting Entrepreneurs and Change Agents,” a study released Tuesday that’s attempting to rank cities in a new way. It doesn’t look at how well their students perform, or even on the programs their districts have put in place, but on how welcoming they are to reforms and new ideas. The education version of the World Bank’s annual ranking of the best countries for business, if you will.
Enter the education entrepreneur, a problem-solver who has developed a different and–it is to be hoped–better approach to teaching and learning, either inside or outside the traditional school system. He or she may provide, among other things, a novel form of brick and mortar teaching, an alternative version of teacher recruitment or training, or time-saving software and tools that make for more efficient instruction and surer learning. Which cities would welcome and support such problem-solvers by helping to bring their ideas to scale, improve their odds of success, and nurture their growth? Put another way, which cities have the most reform-friendly ecosystems?
To answer this question, analysts examined six domains that shape a jurisdiction’s receptivity to education reform:
Human Capital: Entrepreneurs need access to a ready flow of talented individuals, whether to staff their own operations or fill the district’s classrooms.
Financial Capital: A pipeline of flexible funding from private and/or public sources is vital for nonprofit organizations trying to break into a new market or scale up their operations.
Charter Environment: Charter schools are one of the primary entrees through which entrepreneurs can penetrate new markets, both as direct education providers and as consumers of other nontraditional goods and services.
Quality Control: Lest we unduly credit innovation per se, the study takes into account the quality- control metrics that appraise and guide entrepreneurial ventures.
District Environment: Because many nontraditional providers must contract with the district in order to work in the city, finding a district that is both open to nontraditional reforms and has the organiza- tional capacity to deal with them in a speedy and professional manner can make or break an entrepreneur’s foray into a new market.
Municipal Environment: Beyond the school district, is the broader community open to, even eager for, nontraditional providers? Consider, for example, the stance of business leaders, the mayor, and the media.
Drawing on publicly available data, national and local survey data, and interviews with on-the-ground insiders, analysts devised a grading metric that rated each city on its individual and collective accom- plishments in each of these areas.