This new book from Paul Hill and colleagues Christine Campbell and Betheny Gross explains the underlying idea of the portfolio strategy. Based on findings from studies of portfolio school districts, the book shows how mayors and other city leaders have introduced the strategy, compares different cities’ implementation, tells about the civic coalitions that come together to support it, and analyzes the intense and colorful conflicts it can set off. The book also offers a clear, concise explanation of the main components of the strategy and how they work together under a model of continuous improvement to create a unified strategy.
One core theme is that entrenched interests are sure to fight any reform initiative that is strong enough to make a difference in big city education. The authors explain how the fact that no adult group’s interests perfectly match those of children makes conflict inevitable and often productive.
The book also takes stock of results to date, which are mixed, though generally positive in the cities that have pursued the strategy most aggressively. However, Hill, Campbell, and Gross make clear that early reform leaders like Joel Klein in New York and Paul Pastorek in Louisiana have been too optimistic, assuming that the results would be so obviously good that careful assessment was unnecessary. The authors show what kinds of proof are necessary for a portfolio strategy and how far short the available evidence falls.