History and Impact


ERS was formally established as a non-profit consulting firm in 2005. By that time, our President and Executive Director Karen Hawley Miles had already worked intensively for over 10 years with a variety of school districts, from Los Angeles Unified School District to Providence Public Schools, to analyze their funding systems, school level resource use, and human capital systems. This year, 2015, marks ERS' tenth year doing this work!


Since 2004, we have worked hand-in-hand with nearly 30 school systems nationwide, including 16 of the 100 largest urban districts, on topics such as teacher compensation and career path, funding equity, school design, central office support, and budget development. In the last few years we have begun to partner with states as well.

We believe our work has impact when it causes changes in understanding, action, and resource reallocation—all with the goal of improving outcomes for students.

Transformation in Leading Urban School Districts and States

  • Boston Public Schools implemented a comprehensive plan to invest in key priorities while closing a $63 million budget gap. This plan included school closure and consolidation, restructuring of special education and ESL instruction, a weighted student funding system, and  a new strategy for supporting its lowest performing schools.

  • Baltimore City Public Schools leadership put more resources at the school level (especially those serving struggling students) by cutting $40 million in central office expenses and devolving another $70 million to school control. They also implemented new student-based funding system that allocated dollars to schools based on student needs, significantly increasing equity across schools.

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools moved resources towards teaching effectiveness and turning around low-performing schools by: 1) finding cost efficiencies in special education, 2) increasing non-strategic class sizes through a performance-based layoff process and use of on-line course offerings, and 3) supporting “Strategic Staffing” that targets individual attention and leverages teaching expertise.

  • Denver created a central function to support Strategic School Design that builds the capacity of school leaders to organize for high performance, and also increased transparency and flexibility in their funding system. In addition, our analysis led to increased funding for ELL students to reflect their greater needs. Our strategic review of their compensation structure contributed to a major effort to evolve their compensation system to include teacher leadership roles. 

  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District signed a ground-breaking collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union that was approved with 71 percent of the vote—and which our resource analysis helped shape. ERS supported CMSD by reviewing district data, best practices in teacher compensation, relevant laws, and contractual provisions, and then laying out options for the contract. 

  • DC Public Schools evolved its compensation and evaluation systems to invest in teacher leadership roles; implemented a strategic school closure process that considered school design, cost and performance together; and revised its budget development and staffing processes to help schools focus on strategic imperatives.

  • Georgia Department of Education: Through our work with the GADOE, five school districts have made changes in resource use; we are working particularly closely with two districts—Marietta City and Fulton County—to support compensation redesign as well as school design. For the first time, the GADOE is creating statewide measures that tie resource use to student learning.

  • We have supported Departments of Education in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Texas and over 100 districts across those states in rethinking district resource use, and are partnering with the Council for Chief State School Officers and the Public Innovators in Education (PIE) Network to build state capacity nationwide.

Leadership and Collaboration to Change the National Conversation about Resource Use

  • Over 10,000 people have played School Budget Hold’em, our interactive budget exercise, including district leadership teams, state leaders, parent groups, school boards and even a combined district/union group in Cleveland. We consistently hear feedback that Hold'em changes the way people think about school budgets, and allows differing perspectives to come together in a new, collaborative way. Seven academic administrator preparation programs have added Hold'em to their curriculum.

  • Recently, we delved deeply into Teacher Compensation and Career Path and Teacher Professional Growth, thanks to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The resulting series of briefs and tools (including videos, calculators, and a compensation design workshop) breaks new ground by tying the financial implications of different compensation, career path and professional growth approaches to their impact on teacher quality and student growth.

  • ERS authors regularly publish in major publications (EdWeek, Kappan, Ed Leadership, School Administrator), and we are represented in a variety of national forums on education reform, including the Secretary of Education’s Commission on Equity and Excellence and the Aspen Institute’s Urban Superintendent’s Network. We regularly partner with leading reform organizations including the PIE Network, the Council of Great City Schools, CCSSO, EdTrust and the Center for American Progress.

  • We have hosted two very successful summits, the 2010 Fair Student Funding Summit and the 2011 Turnaround Summit. Both summits brought together district practitioners with partner organizations for productive conversation about how to catalyze real improvement in our lowest performing schools.