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Rethinking “Innovation Schools”: Strengths and Limitations of Autonomy-Based School Improvement Plans in Contexts of Widening Racial Inequality

School districts around the country have launched new reform strategies that are designed to expand autonomy for public schools, often called “Innovation Schools.” Pursuant to these state- and local-level plans to create more autonomous schools, school leaders are granted greater amounts of authority over school operations such as curriculum, budgeting, and hiring, while districts continue to manage services related to teacher payroll and benefits. The authors explore what supports districts should provide to empower educators in improving education quality, and what role districts should play in the reforms. The brief provides recommendations to further autonomy and democratic participation while ensuring that the responsibility for addressing equity is shared at the district and the school levels.