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The Urban School System of the Future

Applying the Principles and Lessons of Chartering

Andy Smarick

For more than two generations, the traditional urban school system—the district—has utterly failed to do its job: prepare its students for a lifetime of success. Millions and millions of boys and girls have suffered the grievous consequences. The district is irreparably broken. For the sake of today’s and tomorrow’s inner-city kids, it must be replaced. The Urban School System of the Future argues that vastly better results can be realized through the creation of a new type of organization that properly manages a city’s portfolio of schools using the revolutionary principles of chartering.

It will ensure that new schools are regularly created, that great schools are expanded and replicated, that persistently failing schools are closed, and that families have access to an array of high-quality options. This new entity will focus exclusively on school performance, meaning, among other things, our cities can thoughtfully integrate their traditional public, charter public, and private schools into a single, high-functioning k-12 system. For decades, the district has produced the most heartbreaking results for already at-risk kids.
The Urban School System of the Future explains how we can finally turn the tide and create dynamic, responsive, high-performing, self-improving urban school systems that fulfill the promise of public education.
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R&L Education
Pages: 190Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/2
978-1-60709-476-0 • Hardback • October 2012 • $81.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-60709-477-7 • Paperback • October 2012 • $36.00 • (£24.95)
978-1-60709-478-4 • eBook • October 2012 • $35.99 • (£24.95)
Andy Smarick has worked on k-12 education at the white house, the US Department of Education, the US Congress, a state legislature, and most recently as the deputy commissioner of a state department of education. He co-founded a college-preparatory charter school for disadvantaged students, served as a white house fellow, and earned a Bachelors degree, summa cum laude and with honors, and a Masters degree from the University of Maryland.

Section I: The Traditional Urban School District
Contemporary Results

The Stickiness of Failure

Section II: Urban Charter Schooling

The Purposes and Potential of Chartering

Section III: Urban Private Schooling

The Development of American Private Education
Separating the Sectors
Private Schools and Public Policy
International Comparisons of Private Education
Toward a Solution

Section IV: The Urban School System of the Future

Chapter 10: Characteristics of the New System
Closer Than We Think
A Word about the District
Pillars of the New System
Chancellor of the City School System
School Operators
Private Schools
Additional Issues to Consider

Chapter 11: Finishing the Job
From District-centered to School-centered
The Proliferation of Choice
Churning the Schools Portfolio
Integrating the Three Sectors
In this brilliant book, Andy Smarick pulls together three education reform movements -- charter schools, vouchers, and school district transformation -- and shows how they can combine into a dramatically more effective way to provide public education. Mayors, governors, superintendents, and educators will all find powerful new ideas about how to build a public education system that serves all children effectively and can respond as student populations and the demands of the economy change.
Paul Hill, Founder, Center for Reinventing Public Education, Research Professor, University of Washington Bothell, Author, It Takes A City: Getting Serious About Urban School Reform

Smarick shows us the way for the public education of our American dreams, and why our current school districts can’t get us there despite great effort.
Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix, former President State Board of Education, California

Smarick’s thesis is powerful, clear, and tragically out of the mainstream. He argues that our obsession with the structure of schools – be they traditional, charter, or private – prevents us from effectively using public dollars to provide an excellent education for all citizens. He’s right. And he points a way forward: let educators run their own schools, let families choose schools that best fit their needs, and let government execute accountability systems that support the best schools and close the worst. Our nation’s century old educational policy regime is limiting the intellectual and economic growth of our nation. And, in the end, Smarick’s plan is the only way out.
Neerav Kingsland, CEO, New Schools for New Orleans

Every school a charter school? In a bold, well-argued call for the redesign of urban school districts, Smarick proposes that all schools—even those previously run by a district--would have to pass muster with an authorizer--and also with parents able to choose among them.
Paul E. Peterson, Harvard University, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Director, Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance

Andy Smarick has written a new book about urban education and reform. Urban School Systems of the Future is a provocative analysis; Smarick argues not that urban districts have problems, something most people would agree with, but rather that when it comes to urban education policy and practice they are the problem. Drawing on both the history and status quo of urban education and the more recent experience with charter schooling, Smarick picks up the David Osborne, Paul Hill et al. mantle and carries it forward with a call not to just evolve urban districts into portfolio providers of educational services, but rather that a suite of options should replace them.

The Urban School System of the Future with a depressing realization; 'The traditional urban school system is broken, and it cannot be fixed.' Over the next 170 pages, he outlines exactly how the system has failed and what we can do to transform it. His solution: dissolve the urban school district as we know it and replace it with a system of chartered schools. His analysis of the problems facing all sectors of urban schools is incisive, smart, and thoughtful and he brings to bear data (especially regarding Catholic schools) that sheds new light on these familiar topics….The Urban School System of the Future offers a compelling vision that school reformers should take seriously. Only through understanding the opportunities and limitations inherent our nation’s urban school systems can we endeavor to develop the next generation of school management strategies.

Education Next: Journal of Opinion And Research