As the school choice debate becomes more polarized, Robin Lake urges education leaders to doube down on working across sector lines.
CRPE is known and valued for our ability to identify emerging challenges or policy questions and craft forward-looking research agendas that offer ideas and solutions for people charged with doing the work. Our work is constantly evolving but always with an eye toward our central charge: finding ways to make all public schools effective, equitable, and responsive to family needs.
One of our core beliefs is that public schools should be given the freedom to solve problems and innovate while being held accountable for equity and high performance. We study school systems and ways to govern those systems so that leaders and educators can do great work on behalf of students and their families.
Innovative Approaches to Local, State, and Federal Governance
CRPE leads the field in envisioning new approaches to effective oversight of schools. We formulate new ideas for governance structures (including changing roles for local school boards, state education agencies, and the federal government) and ways to improve accountability measures. We are working on how to redesign state education agencies to adapt to growing demands for better student outcomes in the face of tight fiscal realities. We study portfolio strategies as they are put into practice, identifying challenges and developing forward-looking solutions, including state legal and regulatory changes needed to permit full implementation of the strategy.
Making School Choice Work
Today's city school landscape is more complex than ever before, with district, charter, and state agencies overseeing schools, sometimes all within the same city. How can civic leaders create a school choice system that works for all families? To answer this question, we are conducting a multi-year research project that includes case studies, parent surveys, and interviews with policymakers and school and community leaders in “high-choice” cities to identify challenges like uneven school quality and lack of transportation. We are also studying promising solutions like common enrollment and common accountability systems, parent information programs, and district-charter collaboration to learn what works and what needs to be refined.
Re-designing School Systems to Support Blended/Personalized Learning
Blended learning integrates modern technology with traditional teaching in order to help students master content and skills at the pace that is right for them. Understanding how schools can use technology, funds, and teacher time efficiently will be key to whether these efforts are successful and how more schools can make use of important personalization for students. Our work focuses on how to redesign school systems to promote innovation at scale, including new approaches to procurement, accountability, incentives, and capacity for school-level entrepreneurship. Our report on financing personalized learning schools is the first systematic look at costs associated with implementing these modes, how leaders of these schools choose to allocate their funds, and what it might take to make personalized learning financially sustainable on public dollars.
New Approaches to Leadership and Talent Development
Excellent teachers and leaders are critical to student learning, which is why cities across the country are rethinking how their districts and schools manage teacher and leader talent. To inform these efforts, CRPE identifies pressing problems and examines new approaches to finding, developing, and keeping teacher, principal, and executive-level talent. Our work includes teacher and principal pipelines, leadership transitions, and coaching in select cities to help build the “bench” of people ready to lead city portfolio strategies.
Bringing Evidence to Bear on Effective School Discipline Practices
Overuse of suspension and expulsion is a rising concern in public schools. Nationally, schools suspend and expel students of color and other traditionally marginalized groups at higher rates than their less marginalized peers, raising civil rights concerns. High suspension rates in some charter schools have raised questions about whether charters are too quick to push out disruptive students or are obtaining positive results by systematically excluding some students. Our work focuses on making sense of discipline studies, specifically the challenges of comparing school discipline practices within and across the charter and traditional public school sectors. We are also studying promising solutions that reduce the need for exclusionary discipline.
Special Education and Charter Schools
CRPE has been working to answer the critically important question: are students with special needs being educated effectively in charter schools? Our analyses of special education enrollment and identification bring evidence to the issue of enrollment gaps between public charter and traditional schools. We have also studied promising new special education funding and service delivery models in New Orleans, which may provide scalable solutions for other cities. Our research provides an evidence base for the policy, practitioner, and research communities to inform more thoughtful policy responses in states and cities with enrollment gaps.