Some districts, thinking that they have latched on to new thinking, have adopted the idea of a portfolio model.

This means that they pretend that their community’s public schools are akin to a stock portfolio. They keep the winners and “dump the losers.”

This is truly a dumb idea. It turns out that the “loser” schools are the ones serving the children with the highest needs, who get the lowest test scores.


Closing their school doesn’t help anyone learn to read, doesn’t help immigrants learn English, doesn’t help children with disabilities.


But some exceptionally thoughtless district leaders have adopted this as the newest, most indispensable fad.


As it happens, there was a discussion at AERA about the portfolio model


One of the panelists explained what it was, and another–who has the ear of the district’s power brokers–endorsed the idea of “dumping the loser schools.” 


Mark Gleason, CEO of the Philadelphia Partnership Schools, said  it was time to dump the “loser schools.”


And that is what his organization advocates. It has said nothing about the massive budget cuts that the Philadelphia schools have absorbed.


It has been silent about the systematic stripping of the public schools by Governor Corbett and the legislature. It has thrown its weight behind the idea of charter schools and stripping teachers of due process. Then policies of the PSP are no different from those of the extremist rightwing ALEC.


“You keep dumping the losers and over time you create a higher bar for what we expect of our schools,” Gleason said Friday while speaking on a panel at the American Educational Research Association conference, which has been held in Philadelphia over the last week.


Last year, Philadelphia closed 24 schools in the wake of massive state budget cuts and the rapid expansion of charter schools.
Parents United for Public Education leader Helen Gym said that Gleason held “extremist” views on public education.


“Mark Gleason is not an educator, and I think that’s one thing that should be pretty clear. He has been a relentless promoter of questionable reform models that have really wreaked havoc in other places. And he has unprecedented access to the Mayor’s Office of Education, to the School District, to push his agenda,” she told City Paper.


PSP, which issues large grants to schools that it wants to see expanded and lobbies policymakers, has become a lightning rod for criticism by public-education advocates since its 2010 founding. The group backs the expansion of charter schools and frequently opposes the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. It has quickly become a major force in city education politics, thanks to millions of dollars of funding from The William Penn Foundation. Controversially, PSP’s board includes conservative figures Janine Yass, the wife of voucher-advocate and investment-fund manager Jeffrey Yass, and Republican powerbroker Chris Bravacos.


Someday, our policymakers will look at ideas like portfolio districts and review the havoc they have created. They are hurting children. They are destroying communities. They should stop calling themselves “reformers.” They are destroyers of the lives of children, families, and communities. Mark Gleason, I mean you. Have you no shame?