None of Us Are as Good as All of Us: Early Lessons From the CORE Districts

Joel Knudson and Mark Garibaldi

“None of us are as good as all of us.” The refrain is common from educators who are turning to cross-district collaboration as a vehicle for improving schooling. A growing body of research recognizes the important role that school districts play in creating the conditions for school success. District leaders also have increasingly recognized the value of working with their peers in other districts to tackle their most pressing challenges. Without careful attention to the factors that help cross-district learning occur, however, education leaders looking to achieve systemwide change may fail to capitalize on the potential of working together across district lines.

This AIR report seeks to identify some of these factors by examining the CORE Districts, a collection of 10 California districts that collectively serve more than one million students. The districts have attracted attention and scrutiny for receiving the only district-level waiver from the accountability provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Yet, well before it pursued the ESEA waiver, CORE existed as a learning community focused on issues of teacher quality and classroom instruction. As it enters its fifth year, CORE offers important lessons from its experiences as a mature and evolving district partnership that can accelerate the learning and progress for educators pursuing cross-district collaboration. This report tells the beginning of the CORE story and identifies those key lessons.