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School Districts

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) sought to return responsibility for educational decision-making to the local level and give school districts greater flexibility in many areas, including how they respond to chronically low-performing schools, how they evaluate their teachers, and even how they spend federal dollars. Districts can use this flexibility to innovate and improve student learning, but there is also the risk they will maintain a status quo that underserves some student populations.

Bellwether has a deep understanding of the challenges that districts and their students face and extensive experience with supporting work at the district level. Our Policy and Evaluation team conducts research and analysis on many of the key challenges and opportunities facing school districts, including teacher evaluation, changing student demographics, personalized learning, education finance, pensions, and portfolio approaches that increase quality school options available to students and families. Bellwether’s Strategic Advising teams has significant experience in supporting mid-size to large high-need urban districts as they develop strategies in response to new demands and opportunities, structure their organizations to implement those strategies effectively, and deliver quality services and oversight to students and schools. We support comprehensive strategic planning efforts, financial analysis, initiative design and implementation, regulation development, and grant writing.

The content below reflects our work on this issue:


February 8, 2021
Bonnie O'Keefe, Alex Spurrier, Jennifer O'Neal Schiess, Hailly T.N. Korman, Melissa Steel King, Allison Crean Davis, Indira Dammu, Juliet Squire, Ashley LiBetti
COVID-19 has presented new challenges for schools and families to grapple with when it comes to student learning — but the pandemic also has...
October 21, 2020
Hailly T.N. Korman, Bonnie O'Keefe, Matt Repka
Introduction Why aren’t students attending school? What will happen if these students don’t get back to school? How did you estimate 3 million...
September 22, 2020
Ashley LiBetti, Lynne Graziano, Jennifer O’Neal Schiess
COVID-19 has altered education as we know it, and no one school has found the perfect approach to distance learning. Every school struggles with the...
September 16, 2020
Ashley LiBetti, Juliet Squire, Jennifer O’Neal Schiess
Districts across the country play a crucial role in ensuring schools effectively serve students and families. Beyond federal requirements in the...
September 8, 2020
Ashley LiBetti, Jennifer O'Neal Schiess, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
Great charter school authorizers believe in the charter school promise and relentlessly pursue excellence to give every child an educational option...


November 10, 2020
Seven school districts are participating in a national cohort that has been planning more equitable and resilient approaches to teaching and learning...
September 12, 2020
The last six months have posed an unprecedented level of instructional and operational challenge as school systems navigated closure and planned...
August 1, 2020
Students need a way to get to school safely and on time each day, whether by yellow bus, public transit, personal vehicle, biking, or walking. These...

Blog Posts

October 8, 2020
Stephanie Spangler and Rebecca Gifford Goldberg
On top of immense public health and learning challenges, school districts are grappling with  critical questions about their financial...
August 11, 2020
Alex Spurrier and Bonnie O'Keefe
Across the span of three decades, several large, urban districts, including those profiled on our site, pursued reform...
February 27, 2020
Phillip Burgoyne-Allen
We have written multiple posts in recent months about the spread of “autonomous district schools,” which occupy the middle ground between...