SAN FRANCISCO, CA – March 17, 2008 – NewSchools Venture Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced the launch of an ambitious new longitudinal research study to measure the impact of nonprofit charter school management organizations (CMOs). Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., and the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington (CRPE) will serve as lead research partners for this National Study of CMO Effectiveness, which will examine the impact that CMOs are having on student achievement, as well as the internal structures, practices, and policy contexts that influence these outcomes.
Charter management organizations (CMOs) are nonprofit entities that start and manage new, aligned systems of charter schools within a specific geographic region. By centralizing and sharing certain functions and resources across schools, CMOs aim for greater efficiency and long-term sustainability. Over the last several years, the number and reach of CMOs has increased dramatically, leading to a diverse array of organizational models and school designs available for study. This field-wide study will cover 33 CMOs whose operations span 12 states; in the 2007-2008 school year, these organizations are operating 189 schools that enroll more than 57,000 students.
“Across the country, charter management organizations are serving an increasing number of our nation’s public school students – including many low-income and minority students who deserve access to a high-quality education,” said Joanne Weiss, Partner and Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, who will oversee the study. “This study will answer a number of important questions about whether and how these organizations are improving academic outcomes for the students they serve, and will contribute to our understanding of how to structure public school systems so that they serve all children well.”
The National Study of CMO Effectiveness is a multi-year, longitudinal study that will be conducted from 2008-2011, and will be led by Dr. Brian Gill, Senior Social Scientist at Mathematica. Dr. Paul Hill, Director of CRPE, will serve as a principal investigator. Also helping to guide the study will be a Technical Working Group, which will advise the researchers on all aspects of the project related to methodology and analysis, and a Stakeholder Advisory Board made up of leading practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and funders.
Mathematica and the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) were chosen after a rigorous selection process that generated 8 proposals from 19 leading research and education institutions across the country. With a solid history of quantitative research, including several recent studies on charter schools, Mathematica brings to this work a deep understanding of how best to measure whether this emerging organizational model is improving student outcomes – and to what extent.
“Charter management organizations are engaged in one of the most challenging tasks in K-12 schooling: bringing effective educational models to scale,” said Brian Gill, a senior social scientist at Mathematica. “We’re pleased that two of the key funders of CMOs have decided to support a rigorous, independent evaluation of CMOs’ success, and we’re looking forward to producing findings that will not only demonstrate whether they are succeeding, but will also explore how the best CMOs are succeeding, so that the study can directly inform educational policy and practice.” Gill noted that the findings will be subject to additional independent review as a result of the creation of a public-use dataset accessible by outside researchers at the completion of the study.
To help explain the factors that determine whether CMOs have positive impacts, CRPE will bring to bear its team’s expertise gleaned from many years of research and analysis regarding how public schools and school systems – including charter schools and CMOs – should be structured to best maximize effectiveness, as well as how public policy can support those efforts. In 2004, CRPE established the National Charter School Research Project (NCSRP) in order to bring rigor and balance to the national charter school debate. NCSRP is guided by an advisory board that guides the selection and methodology of the project’s research, and informed by independent peer reviews conducted by research professionals who are not members of NCSRP.
NewSchools Venture Fund (http://www.newschools.org) is a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that has been working since 1998 to transform public education for underserved children by supporting education entrepreneurs who create nonprofit and for-profit organizations and connecting their work to systems change. Its current investment strategy focuses on increasing the supply of high-quality public schools for underserved students, enabling traditional and charter school systems to become performance-driven in their practices and enhancing the pipeline of talented people into and across the public school system. Its investments are designed to make a significant systemic impact in some of the nation’s most challenged urban communities, including New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people-especially those with the fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. For information, go to www.gatesfoundation.org.
Mathematica (www.mathematica-mpr.com) a nonpartisan firm, conducts policy research and surveys for federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector clients. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, N.J., Washington, D.C., Cambridge, Mass., and Ann Arbor, Mich., has conducted some of the most important studies of education, disability, health care, early childhood policies, welfare, employment, and nutrition programs in the U.S. Mathematica strives to improve public well-being by bringing the highest standards of quality, objectivity, and excellence to bear on the provision of information collection and analysis to its clients.
The Center on Reinventing Public Education (www.crpe.org) was founded in 1993 at the University of Washington. From its beginning, one question has dominated the Center’s work: How can urban school systems provide strong, coherent schools that create equal opportunity for all children? Through a national program of research and analysis the Center examines a range of alternatives that rethink and challenge the current system.
NewSchools Venture Fund
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Center on Reinventing Public Education