Challenging the One Best System

Challenging the One Best System The Portfolio Management Model and Urban School Governance

Katrina E. Bulkley, Julie A. Marsh, Katharine O. Strunk, Douglas N. Harris, and Ayesha K. Hashim
paper, 312 Pages
Pub. Date: November 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-570-7
Price: $35.00

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In Challenging the One Best System, a team of leading education scholars offers a rich comparative analysis of the set of urban education governance reforms collectively known as the “portfolio management model.” They investigate the degree to which this model—a system of schools operating under different types of governance and with different degrees of autonomy—challenges the standard structure of district governance famously characterized by David Tyack as “the one best system.”


A very deep dive into the implementation and theories of action that can enhance or deflate a new vision of the basic structure of the United States school system. — Michael W. Kirst, professor emeritus, Stanford Graduate School of Education

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About the Authors

Katrina E. Bulkley is a professor of educational leadership at Montclair State University. Her research examines school and school district change with a focus on the intersection of policy and leadership in efforts to increase market-linked ideas in education and enhance accountability, equity, and data-driven change. She is the editor of Between Public and Private: Politics, Governance, and the New Portfolio Models for Urban School Reform (Harvard Education Press, with Jeffrey Henig and Henry Levin) and Taking Account of Charter Schools: What’s Happened and What’s Next (Teachers College Press, with Priscilla Wohlstetter). Her work has also been published in journals including Educational Administration Quarterly, Educational Policy, Education Policy Analysis Archives, Education and Urban Society, and Phi Delta Kappan.

Julie A. Marsh is a professor of education policy at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California and faculty director of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). She is also a member of the executive leadership board for the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH). Marsh specializes in research on K–12 policy and governance, blending perspectives in education, sociology, and political science. Her work has focused on accountability and instructional policy, with particular attention to the process and politics of adoption and implementation, and the ways in which policies shape practice in urban settings. Marsh is a coeditor of the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, author of the book Democratic Dilemmas: Joint Work, Education Politics, and Community (SUNY Press) and coeditor of the book School Districts and Instructional Renewal (Teachers College Press, with Amy Hightower, Michael Knapp, and Milbrey McLaughlin).

Katharine O. Strunk is the Clifford E. Erickson Distinguished Chair in Education and a professor of education policy and by courtesy economics at Michigan State University. She is also the director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC). Her research focuses on K–12 education governance, including teachers’ unions, collective bargaining agreements, and portfolio management models, as well as teacher labor markets, school turnaround, and accountability policies. She works in partnership with district and state policymakers, including with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Michigan Department of Education to help decision-makers formulate, design, and revise policy. She is the president-elect of the Association for Education Finance and Policy and a member of the executive leadership board for the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH), as well as a past associate editor and policy brief editor of the journal Education Finance and Policy.

Douglas N. Harris is a professor and chair of the Department of Economics, the Schlieder Foundation Chair in Public Education, and director of both the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA-New Orleans) and the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH), all at Tulane University. With nearly 100 journal articles and other publications, his research has influenced policy on a wide variety of K–12 and higher education policy issues. He is author of the book, Charter School City: What the End of Traditional Public Schools in New Orleans Means for American Education (University of Chicago Press). His first book, Value-Added Measures in Education (Harvard Education Press), was nominated for the national Grawemeyer prize in education. A nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, he has advised governors in seven states and education ministries in several foreign countries, testified in the US Senate, and advised the US Department of Education and Obama White House on multiple education policies. His work is also widely cited in national media.

Ayesha K. Hashim is an assistant professor of policy, leadership, and school improvement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education. Dr. Hashim’s research focuses on district-level school reform aimed at improving student achievement in underserved communities. A mixed methods researcher, Dr. Hashim draws on theories from economics, sociology, and organizational change to study the impacts of reforms on teacher and student outcomes, as well as leadership, organizational, and implementation conditions that shape these results. Much of her research has focused on the Public School Choice Initiative in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which paved the way for a wide range of autonomous school providers to operate in the district. Her work has been published in Education Finance and Policy, Economics of Education Review, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Computers and Education, and Peabody Journal of Education. She received the New Scholar Award in 2017 from the Association for Education Finance and Policy for her dissertation on how instructional coaches coordinate systemic change in a school district aiming to integrate technology with instruction of the Common Core State Standards.

Table of Contents

Chapter One

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