Where to Go for More: Resources for District Transformation that Supports Essential Schools

Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform
Based in Baltimore, Denver, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Seattle, the Cross City Campaign gathers educators, community activists, union and civic officials, students, district personnel, funders, and others to focus on urban school transformation based on remaking school districts so that school and student needs drive district agendas. Cross City’s projects include conferences, publications, technical assistance, school visits, workshops, and more. Of particular interest is the Cross City Campaign’s emergence as a strong advocate for the kind of small, student-centered, community-based, equitable, and academically exciting schools that Essential schools exemplify.

Schools for a New Society – Carnegie Corporation of New York
Founded in 2000 and funded by the Carnegie Corporation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Schools for a New Society (SNS) initiative focuses on reinventing the urban high school experience through district reform and community involvement. Seven cities – Boston, Chattanooga, Providence, Sacramento, San Diego, Worcester, and Houston – are participating in the effort. With documentation of the work as it has unfolded, the SNS web site provides examples of specific district restructuring efforts aimed at urban high school improvement, district-community partnerships, and advocacy efforts within communities to create demand for better schools.

Atlas Communities
In 18 urban, suburban, and rural sites nationwide, the ATLAS (Authentic Teaching, Learning, and Assessment for All Students) Communities effort encourages school districts to develop preK-12 educational pathways, creating an integrated educational experience for students and meaningful professional learning communities for educators. The ATLAS Communities project offers a district design strategy for pathway and Whole-Faculty Study Group implementation.

Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
The Annenberg Institute employs a strategy of civic, system, and teaching and learning supports to promote improved conditions and outcomes of American schools, particularly those in economically disadvantaged urban areas. Among the Annenberg Institute’s many projects are two resources of particular interest: the “Smart Districts” issue of its VUE publication (available at www.annenberginstitute.org/VUE/archives.html) and the School Communities that Work task force, an Annenberg Institute project accessible at www.schoolcommunities.org. School Communities that Work offers a portfolio of tools designed to develop urban districts that can support and sustain school improvement, providing frameworks for change in central office design, budgeting, partnership development, curriculum, and human resources.

Center on Reinventing Public Education
Based at the University of Washington’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, the Center on Reinventing Public Education examines how urban school systems can provide strong schools that create equal opportunities for all children through conducting research, providing tools and guides to practitioners, and proposing new models for school-related governance and philanthropy. CRPE’s resources range far and wide across the systems reform landscape; of particular interest to Horace readers may be CRPE’s free collection of guides, available on the site’s Publications section and downloadable as PDFs, to starting new small schools which address forming partnerships, new school incubators, and options for starting charter schools.

Council of the Great City Schools
A coalition of 65 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems, the Council of the Great City Schools hosts annual conferences, publishes reports, prints the magazine Urban Educator, lobbies Congress to advocate for issues of concern to its members, sponsors a range of initiatives aimed at improvement in urban schools, coordinates with dozens of universities to create transitions to college, and coordinates five task forces on issues of concern to educators in large urban systems. With an active advisory panel of big-city superintendents, the Council of Great City Schools is one of the best places to take the pulse of urban K-12 education.

Creating a Climate for Change: Essential Schools in Louisville: Horace Volume 17, Number 5
This 1991 issue of Horace examines the dynamics of district-wide change to support Essential schools in Louisville, Kentucky. While Lousiville is no longer a center of CES activity, “Creating a Climate for Change” tells the story of a focused, long-term superintendent’s commitment to the work needed to implement the Common Principles, focusing on professional development, district leadership strategies, and community involvement as keys to a student-centered urban school district.www.essentialschools.org/cs/resources/view/ces_res/100