Status of Education “Innovation Zones” Around the Country

Memo • December 2011 • By Kim Farris-Berg, Lars Esdal, Tim McDonald

In 2010 and 2011 Education Evolving studied the policy frameworks being used in large cities around the country to encourage innovation in school as part of its Education Innovating initiative.

Below is a summary of those district and state policy frameworks, as of 2011. More information is available in the full PDF linked below.

City/District Policy Frameworks

Baltimore City Public Schools established an Office of New Initiatives in 2007 to evolve the district through the creation of new and different schools throughout the city.

Business, government, and civic leadership in Boston came together in 1994 to create “pilot schools,” independent and innovative schools in the city district.

Chicago Public Schools, in cooperation with Mayor Daly, has an aggressive and sizeable new-schools growth program underway in the district.

Denver Public Schools established an Office of School Reform and Innovation to respond to high demand for more, different options for schools.

Los Angeles
In 2006 the City Board of Education established a pilot schools program. In 2009 it approved a contracting scheme to affect up to two-thirds of district schools.

Minneapolis public schools established an Office of New Schools as part of a 5-year strategic plan to provide more options and to try and slow declining enrollment.

New York City
The New York City Department of Education charged its Office of Portfolio Planning with identifying student needs and responding with new schools.

State Policy Frameworks

In January 2010, Governor Patrick signed education reform legislation that provides districts with the opportunity to create new “Innovation Schools” that will operate with greater autonomy and flexibility.

In 2009 the Minnesota legislature made it possible for districts to create schools with autonomy and exemption from regulation reflective of its chartering sector.

West Virginia
In 2009 West Virginia enacted a policy that allows the state board of education to exempt individual schools from certain state rules and regulations.