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The National Study of Charter Management Organization (CMO) Effectiveness: Report on Interim Findings

Charter management organizations (CMOs) are implementing many innovative practices, but they also face significant challenges in extending their reach, according to this report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and Mathematica Policy Research.

This report is the first of two that will emerge from the National Study of Charter Management Organization (CMO) Effectiveness. With the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund commissioned this study to better understand the impact that CMOs are having on student achievement, as well as the internal structures, practices, and policy contexts that influence these outcomes.

The interim report finds that CMOs place great emphasis on teacher accountability and student achievement: they focus intensely on the schools they oversee, make extensive use of data on student and school performance, emphasize continuous academic improvement, and are more likely than school districts to pay teachers for performance. CMOs also offer significantly more time in their school day and year than the average school in the U.S.

But as these organizations have grown, they have also encountered problems, the study shows. Larger CMOs subject affiliated schools to increasing amounts of oversight and central control. CMO leaders also said that they struggle with extending their designs, many of which are based on elementary and middle schools, to high schools. Other challenges cited include collaborating effectively with school districts, increasing the pool of capable educators, and reducing staff burnout associated with longer days and a “no excuses” approach to instruction.

This interim report was based primarily on visits to CMO central offices and CMO-operated schools, a survey of CMO central offices, interviews with school district officials, and a review of financial data, business plans, and other CMO documents.

The final report, due out in summer 2011, will report on CMO outcomes, such as test score results and measures of ways charter schools benefit, in terms of organizational health and instructional coherence, from affiliation with CMOs.

Read the full report here.