District Design

The Strategic System is ERS’s vision for how school systems can transform resources (people, time and money) to enable every school to prepare every child for tomorrow. It was developed over a decade of deep partnership with school, system, and state leaders.

The Strategic System is built around six transformational areas (the outer ring on the image to the left) which create the “enabling conditions” for what’s at the center – Strategic School Design. These areas should not be viewed as best practices or as success factors that can be implemented independent of each other. Instead, they are an integrated set of strategies, each needed to transform education.

In each area, we have identified best practices and related metrics, that we call the Strategic System Snapshot, that allow districts to understand their opportunities for transformation. From 2013 to 2018, we called this set of tools School System 20/20. We have changed the name, but the core principles are the same.

Go deeper into the five resource-intensive areas of district transformation


The Strategic System Snapshot | Mini

A 10-minute self-assessment tool that helps district leaders and others identify which of your strategies are likely to lead to student success—and where there are opportunities to improve.

Transform Now Publication

Learn what the Strategic System is and why it matters.

Back from the Brink: A Case Study of Lawrence Public Schools

Learn how a bold vision and a focus on the effective use of resources lead to big improvements in one Massachusetts districts deeply in need of turnaround.

It Takes a System: A Case Study of Denver Public Schools

Learn how Denver became one of the fastest-improving large districts in the country by strategically balancing urgent action with the time required to do it right.

The Strategic System Snapshot | Metrics

Assess your district’s resource use relative to peer districts and research-based best practices, to build a fact base around how people, time and money are allocated.

Budget hold’em for Districts

Play Budget Hold’em for Districts as an independent or group exercise and discover the kinds of trade-offs that lead to a transformational, balanced budget.

The Rewards of Perseverance: A Case Study of Aldine Independent School District

Learn how long-term, “whole-system” approach to reform led to impressive student outcomes and narrowed achievement gaps in this high-need Texas district.