The Center for American Progress (CAP) has a released a new report, “Mayoral Governance and Student Achievement: How Mayor-Led Districts Are Improving School and Student Performance,” examining mayoral control of school districts. This model began as a strategy to raise urban school performance. It began in Boston in 1992, followed by Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, and many others. Over the last 20 years, almost 20 urban school systems have been turned over to mayoral control.
While this model has often been met by severe opposition in cities, CAP has found that mayoral-led districts are showing success. In their findings, CAP states that mayoral-led districts are engaged in strategic allocation of resources and invest more in teaching staff, instruction, smaller student-teacher ratios, and K-12 student support. Mayoral-control school districts have also improved districtwide performance relative to average school district performance statewide.
The report also makes several observations. First, mayoral governance is most effective when the mayor is active on the issue of education. The mayor must be ready to engage stakeholders, leverage resources, and facilitate a positive policy environment to overcome barriers to school improvement. Second, a city must adapt mayoral control to their unique local context. Variation in local cultures and politics must be considered. Third, mayoral control may require reinvention over time. In order to continue to show gains over time, mayors may need to revamp their strategies and practices as necessary. Fourth, mayoral control should involve the authorization of diverse providers and charter schools.