Citywide Education Progress Reports

The Center on Reinventing Public Education has been studying the evolution of public school choice for more than two decades. This project uses a citywide lens that includes all public school options, district and charter, to map results and progress in 18 cities that provide school choice to families. Individual city reports, a cross-city analysis, and an online comparison tool let education leaders and policymakers see what is and is not working across cities and learn about promising strategies.

Our updated Citywide Education Progress Reports focus on education strategies from the 2017-2018 school year. Our analyses reflect developments through June 2018. The updated 2018 reports do not include changes in school or student outcomes.


The Citywide Education Progress Reports look at how cities are doing across three goals:

 The education
system is continuously
 All students
have access to a
high-quality education
The education
strategy is rooted
in the community

Across each goal we present indicators of what the cities are doing (what we call “system reforms”) and how they are doing (what we call “outcomes”). We summarize the results in a series of city-by-city Education Progress Reports.


The 18 Citywide Education Progress Reports offer a picture of how each city is tackling the complex task of educating all students well. We cannot say that employing a certain strategy will lead to a particular result, or even whether a particular strategy “is working” in these cities. But the reports can help us to see how a strategy is working and what problem areas remain. This analysis uses data for district and charter schools to look at all schools within municipal boundaries, rather than just one sector or district.

To understand how well cities are doing, we used state and federal data to track school improvement, graduation rates, and student access to high-quality schools. Our student and school data cover the 2011-2012 to 2014-2015 school years. We used publicly available state and federal data, which makes our results reproducible and transparent, but because of the time it takes for states to release data, the results may not reflect the most recent developments in any of the cities. To understand city strategies and identify early progress, we relied on interviews, surveys, public documents, and news reviews to understand strategies from the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years.

AtlantaHoustonNew York City
CamdenKansas CityPhiladelphia
ClevelandLos AngelesSan Antonio
DenverNew OrleansWashington, D.C.

We chose our cities because they have some similar policies. All provide choice to families through district and charter schools and hold those schools accountable for meeting performance standards—resulting in intervention or possibly closure if they do not meet the standards set out for them. Most give at least a subset of district schools decisionmaking autonomy over staffing, curriculum, and/or budget.

However, the cities differ in how long and to what extent they have been pursuing reform strategies. Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., were early adopters of charter schools in the mid-1990s. Throughout the 2000s, Denver, Indianapolis, and New Orleans launched comprehensive initiatives to improve school quality and family access to public school options. The two most recent cities to do so were Cleveland in 2012 and Camden in 2013. Atlanta, Kansas City, San Antonio, and Tulsa are in the midst of implementing strategies to improve school quality and the choice process. Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and San Antonio have explicit strategies to provide all schools with greater decisionmaking authority.

Cities differ in the size of the school system, from 10,500 students in Camden, New Jersey, to over a million students in New York City. Each city has a different share of students enrolled in charter schools. New Orleans has the highest percentage of students enrolled in charter schools (92 percent), while Tulsa has the lowest (8 percent).


CRPE has been researching public education strategy and problem-solving for well over two decades. This project builds on two prior CRPE projects, the Portfolio Implementation Snapshots and the report, Measuring Up: Educational Improvement and Opportunity in 50 Cities.

CRPE measured district implementation of the portfolio strategy from 2012 to 2016. For each of these five years, we published a Portfolio Implementation Snapshot for over 35 cities across the country. The Snapshot identified how districts were doing across the seven components of the portfolio strategy: school choice, autonomy, pupil-based funding, talent seeking strategy, external school support, accountability, and public engagement.

In 2015, CRPE released Measuring Up: Educational Improvement and Opportunity in 50 Cities, which measured outcomes across 50 cities based on test scores and non-test indicators. Measuring Up offered a jumping-off point for city leaders with a complex mix of school districts and charter schools who were interested in taking responsibility for the quality of all the public schools in their city, not just some of them. It looked at how well each city’s schools were doing overall, and how they were doing for students from low-income households and students of color. It did not, however, provide any information about the policy environment or what reforms the school systems were pursuing.

This report follows up on the Portfolio Implementation Snapshots and Measuring Up by offering a deeper look at policy, implementation, and outcomes within a subset of cities.


City education leaders, city-based education nonprofit “harbormasters,” advocacy organizations, foundations, mayor’s offices, and community groups can use this information to identify progress and spur specific initiatives. District and charter leaders, including school boards and authorizers, can use this for problem-solving.


In many cities across America, the school district is not the sole decision-maker for public education. Rather, charter schools, nonprofits, and, in some cases, the mayor’s offices or state departments actively engage in educating students. When we say “the city,” we mean the city leaders who are responsible for educating students, and when we say “citywide,” we are referring to all public school options, not just the schools associated with the city’s most prominent district.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education is a research and policy analysis center at the University of Washington Bothell developing systemwide solutions for K–12 public education. Questions? Email crpe@uw.edu.