The Portfolio Approach: Igniting Student Learning, Creating Successful Schools

Program Dates 
August 12-13, 2014


Grantmakers for Education Member Briefings are place-based programs that offer the opportunity for education grantmakers to come together in-person to explore, in-depth, an area of shared interest.


The Portfolio Approach:
Igniting student learning, creating successful schools

In partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Walton Family Foundation
August 12-13, 2014 • Denver, Colorado

Scroll down to view video from this event

About the program

This program starts at 12:00pm on August 12 and ends at 3:00pm on August 13 and will take place in Denver, Colorado.

As education grantmakers seek innovative avenues to achieve improved outcomes for learners, they are looking both at and beyond a traditional approach to public schools. This includes bucking convention in pursuit of a portfolio strategy aimed at ensuring that there are good schools in every neighborhood; that families have the freedom to attend their neighborhood school or choose one that best fits their child.

The Portfolio Approach: Igniting student learning, creating successful schools will bring together experts from across the country at the forefront of school portfolio management including leaders from Denver Public Schools, The Recovery School District in Louisiana, the Achievement School District and Shelby County Schools in Memphis, and Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston. Participants will learn the fundamentals of an effective portfolio strategy and have the opportunity to explore, in-depth,  the real-life implementation of the strategy from district staff and their funding partners on-the-ground.

Grantmakers will also explore two critical elements of the portfolio strategy – attracting and retaining smart, compassionate, motivated, and creative talent, and working with local communities to build support for a diverse portfolio of schools.


Watch Video from the Event

See brief video clips posted from the sessions below. 

Watch Now The Portfolio Strategy Unpacked
Presented by Paul Hill, originator of the portfolio strategy, and founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and Christine Campbell, Policy Director at CRPE

In this session, participants will learn about the essential components of a portfolio strategy, what evidence of improvement exists around this approach across the country, and how to identify whether your city or grantee is positioned to implement this specific type of reform strategy. Whether you are brand new to the portfolio approach or already invested, this interactive session will introduce ideas, encourage questions and debate, and engage funders in working together to determine how portfolio-ready their grantees are.

Watch Now New Schools: Inside Out or Outside In
Moderated by Robin Lake, Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education
Presented by:
  • Chris Gibbons, Chief Executive Officer Strive Preparatory Schools
  • Julie Murgel, Principal Denver Public Schools
  • Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer, Denver Public Schools

Denver Public Schools prides itself on being agnostic to governance type and focused, instead, on equity and achievement. Of the district’s 170 schools serving K-12 students, 43 (25%) are charter schools that serve over 13,000 students, or approximately 15% of DPS students. Since 2010, charter school enrollment has grown by 17% annually. An additional 32 Denver schools have taken advantage of Colorado’s Innovations School Act to join their charter school peers in trading autonomies for accountability. Combined, autonomous schools in Denver comprise 44% of DPS’s overall portfolio. In this session, participants will hear from the head of DPS’s Office of School Reform and Innovation, the leader of a higher performing Denver charter management organization, and a principal who has been implementing innovation reforms in traditional neighborhood schools. These practitioners will share how quality school options are created in Denver – in the form of new school options and in the transformation of traditional schools.

Watch Now

Spotlight on a Talent-Seeking Strategy: Memphis Teacher Town

A critical component of all portfolio management strategies is getting smart, compassionate, motivated, creative people working in schools and district offices. Memphis is working hard to retain its best teachers and leaders in its highest-need schools, to ensure excellent development opportunities for educators to be successful in those schools, and to recruit top talent nationally to Memphis. Memphis Teacher Town representative Sara Solar and funding partner Terence Patterson from the Hyde Family Foundation will share Memphis’ talent-seeking strategy for priority schools.

Watch Now Spotlight on Public Engagement: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Moderated by Christine Campbell, Policy Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education
Presented by
  • Pastor Raymond Jetson, President and CEO of MetroMorphosis
  • Chris Meyer, Founder and CEO of New Schools for Baton Rouge

Public schools in Baton Rouge are some of the lowest-performing schools in the country. In 2010, a demand for better schools began to percolate within the community. Baton Rouge’s unique approach to improving its schools and implementing a portfolio approach has prioritized internal community demand. Participants will hear how community organizers have effectively made space for authentic and different voices to be heard and channeled education reform ideas into a unique city strategy to actualize change in their community. 

Watch Now Measuring the work: Impact, evidence and results
Presented by Betheny Gross, Center for Reinventing Public Education

This session will explore the evidence strategy that funders should look for and/or encourage their grantees to develop around their efforts. The portfolio strategy emphasizes accountability. It is important to be able to quantify the impact of initiatives on a district and a city. Measuring inputs like the impact of budget autonomy and whether success has been achieved in providing more great schools, helps guide where future investments should be focused. Betheny Gross from CRPE will guide funders through measurement best practices and talk about how portfolio management initiatives measure up across the country.