Growing good charters

Could the top 10 percent of charter networks expand by 40 percent annually? Going Exponential:  Growing the Charter Sector’s Best, a  Public Impact report (pdf) for the Progressive Policy Institute calls for successful charter leaders to think like Starbucks.

Among other things, that would require importing entrepreneurial leaders from other sectors.

“Thinking outside the box” should include  thinking outside the school, writes Emily Hassel, one of the authors.

Fast exponential growers also intensely seek out ways to reach more customers in different ways. Think Starbucks selling coffee on grocery store shelves, reaching millions who don’t live near a Starbucks.  What if charter operators could similarly reach students without setting up entire new schools, sidestepping the need for a school leader and facility?  What if they could engage in “micro-reach,” supporting select teachers in existing schools to deliver their programs in their own classrooms?  What if a teacher, a small team of teachers, or a community-based organization could form a “micro-charter,” serving just 10, 20 or 100 students without the a full-scale school building and administrative structure?

The report also calls for extending excellent teachers’ “reach” by “redesigning jobs to concentrate teacher time on instruction, putting star teachers in charge of more children’s learning, and using technology to extend top teachers’ reach and meet their standard.”

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  1. The biggest hurdle is getting approval of the charter. In many places, it is incredibly difficult for charter petitions to succeed. It’s all about $$$. In these times of budget cuts, the traditional government-run schools don’t want the competition and the resulting loss of funds.

  2. Great teaching is highly personal. You can’t dilute it with greater teacher::student ratios and get the same results. I can only grade so many essays — and what’s in those essays determines what I teach/assign — it’s a feedback loop. Knowing when a student has reached and excelled — or slacked off and needs to be called out for turning in crap — depends on knowing the student well.

    Our work day IS focused on instruction. In fact, the perception is we are not working unless we have children in front of us. This leaves the important work of designing that instruction and evaluating the results to weekends, evenings, etc.

    (And we know that “schools within schools” doesn’t work — ask Bill Gates.)

    Hmm. Yeah. So I think these folks need to do their research before issuing any more “Impact” reports. Children aren’t commodities.

  3. Spreading good teachers thinner sounds like a recipe for failure. The best schools are small enough that teachers know all of their students individually. Small class sizes mean nothing if a teacher is seeing 100+ different students a day.

  4. I am just wondering if the Governor of Wisconsin and all of the members of the Wisconsin legislature are going to change THEIR BENEFITS to match those of the teachers and other public employees in Wisconsin? When I last checked the members of the state and federal governments–politicians, that is–paid nothing toward retirement or benefits, but had the BEST pensions and benefits for LIFE without even putting in half the number of years required by teachers, police, fire and other public servants!

    I believe we should all pay toward our health benefits and pensions, but in PA the teachers have done that for years, and the state government has not required school districts to pay their share for years using a politically induced loophole so now OUR CHILDREN pay the price because the pension fund is underfunded and local funds now need to be dumped into pension funds instead of schools because politicians, superintendents and school boards wasted pension funds on pet projects like sports stadiums, renovations and advanced technology that is supposed to make children learn better????? The only things that help our children learn are parents who provide basic needs and at least the time to teach their children the ABCs, colors and shapes BEFORE THEY ENTER kindergarten and a good, caring teacher to build on that foundation without having to spend 80% of the day worrying about the child having food, heat, clothing and safe living conditions AT HOME…teachers are now social workers, teachers, parents, and educators all rolled into one! I used to sit in judgement of teachers when I worked in industry, and now that I work in the system, I realize I WAS WRONG..these kids are not the kids we had in our classrooms as children, and these teachers are not those same teachers either…THE KIDS ARE TOUGHER AND THE JOB IS FAR MORE DEMANDING!!! Kids are expected to READ during the first few days of kindergarten; not just learn to: tie shoes, recite the alphabet, select basic colors and shapes, and interact appropriately with peers! Get with the times people….the majority of teachers work hard like the others in public safety do and all they get it criticism! Let’s see how the Americans compete with the Chinese 10 years from now AFTER all the teacher and public safety cuts are done; but the politicians keep their luxury jobs at the KIDS EXPENSE!

  5. I’d pay a lot more attention to people with innovative ideas for schools if they had spent even 10 hours learning about what the average teacher knows, and what the average teacher is given for curricula.

    Entrepreneurs from other sectors might think they know something about the problem, but until they can accurately articulate what’s wrong with K-8 education right now, they will be solving the wrong problems.

  6. Well all you fierce defenders of the educational status quo might want to start your memento collections because the public education system’s on track for wrenching changes and changes that’ll make the last ten or so years look like the good old days to the self-involved “teachers” who tie themselves into knots coming up with rationalizations for their outrageous compensation that makes that compensation look like something other then what it is, avarice.

  7. Didn’t Starbucks overextend itself and have to close a bunch of its new projects shortly after they opened? I can think of two locally; there may be more.

  8. Yeah, they closed a bunch around me, too. I think the price of milk weakened them for a little while (since that’s what they mainly sell). Still, overpriced coffee poured by underemployed liberal arts majors is an interesting model to choose.

    My region happens to be swimming in charters; their scores are the same or lower than the unaccredited urban district’s.

  9. What a coincidence! About half the Starbucks in Detroit are slated to close as well.

    Oooh, did I write “Starbucks”? Well shut my mowf. I meant Detroit district schools!

    Yeah, it looks like the state’s finally gotten tired of waiting for one of the best-funded school districts in the state, and worst performing in the country, to figure out how to balance its budget. So the state’s doing it for them and half of DPS’s schools are going to be shut down.

    I wonder what’ll come in to fill the void? Gosh! Do you suppose it’ll be charter schools?

    You know, I hear they don’t do any better district schools. Still, they can be run for half of what Detroit Public Schools spends and all they have to do to be better is hold the body-count down.

    I think they can manage to achieve that relatively low threshold.