A growing number of districts have begun to understand that changing the role of the central office and giving principals more control over their schools’ money can yield dividends in improving student achievement. These districts don’t think the central office or any single organization can meet the needs of a diverse set of schools. They therefore allow schools to use their money to buy services from any vendor they choose, and encourage formation of a rich supply of independent support providers.
This paper is a personal account by Eric Nadelstern, a co-architect and collaborator to then-chancellor Joel Klein, about the effort in New York City to change the central office and create a system of support organizations to oversee networks of autonomous schools. The story of New York City shows how early investments in local outside organizations can lay the groundwork for this evolution, as well as how strongly political and community interests may resist this effort.