In July 2011, NewSchools launched a four-year, $12 million fund that focused on adding new, high-quality charter school seats in Boston. The Boston Fund took important steps toward ensuring that all children in Boston have the opportunity to attend a quality school. By helping establish high-performing school ventures and by developing a supportive ecosystem, the Boston Fund was able to double the size of the highest-performing charter sector in the country. This report looks back on the successes, challenges, and lessons learned over the four years of the fund.
NewSchools team members Jim Peyser and Maura Marino provide an overview of charter school closure and the need for both solid evidence of necessity and political will.
They explain that charter schools serve a variety of purposes, empowering parents by giving them more educational options from which to choose; providing opportunities for innovative educators to implement new approaches to teaching and learning; creating schools for specific student populations or neighborhoods that are underserved by local school systems; and putting competitive pressure on school districts to change and improve.
The charter sector is thus driven by diverse purposes, and authorizers have different reasons and motivations for chartering schools. Despite these differences, a bedrock principle of the movement is that charter schools must have the freedom to determine their own course within the broad parameters of their charters, and in return, they must be held accountable for their results — and closed when they’re not delivering on those results.
This chapter was written for Accountability in Action:A Comprehensive Guide to Charter School Closure, a publication of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
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.
An increasing number of states and districts are taking action to turn around chronically underperforming schools—resulting in a rapidly emerging market for school providers willing to help school systems tackle this challenge.
Charter schools’ growth is hamstrung by a lack of sustaining capital, which is required to fill the gap between per-pupil funding and the amount charter schools need to provide both consistent, high-quality education services and back office support for their schools.
This article – from the Fall/Winter 2006 issue of Urban Education journal, published by the Rossier School of Education at University of Southern California – examines the evolution of the capital markets for charter schools, including for-profit and nonprofit providers, and explains how the capital barriers are limiting the further development of this market.
For more than a decade, charter schools have been an important means for improving public education. However, the charter school movement must find new ways to increase the quality and supply of these public schools in order to meet the scale of parent and community demand.
This article discusses the emergence of nonprofit charter school management organizations (CMOs), which address the need for increased scale, sustainability and consistent quality among charter schools. NewSchools Venture Fund believes that these CMOs are uniquely positioned to reach a larger scale, ensure consistent quality across schools and, over time, achieve sustainability. In addition to providing much-needed educational opportunities for low-income and other traditionally underserved students, these charter school systems may also demonstrate effective alternative approaches to running a system of public schools – making them a powerful agent of systems change in public education.
One of the most persistent challenges that charter school entrepreneurs face is in finding, developing and paying for school facilities. Charter school operators and systems are forced to excel in two businesses simultaneously: the business of educating our nation’s most underserved children, and the business of real estate development.
NewSchools Venture Fund believes that a promising way to remove this burden is to establish nonprofit real estate trusts (NRETs), expert intermediary organizations that acquire, develop and lease education facilities to a broad portfolio of charter school operators. By aggregating capital from multiple sources and consolidating expertise within an NRET – rather than in the principal’s office or the central office of a charter school system – these trusts can help facilitate the continued growth of the charter school movement.
The Bridgespan Group, NewSchools Venture Fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have been working individually and collectively with a wide range of school development organizations to increase the number of high-performing centers of learning.
In the process, we have identified two levers that play critically important roles in determining how quickly and consistently successful schools and design models can be replicated. One is the degree of managerial responsibility, support, and control the organization chooses to exercise. The other is related to specificity of school design. Leadership’s choices about each will affect not only how quickly the model can be deployed, but also the human and financial capital required – and ultimately the likelihood of achieving consistent high-quality results.
This paper examines the school development landscape in the context of these levers, with examples of organizations that have chosen different paths with different tradeoffs and outcomes.
Although charter schools are public schools, and often serve the neediest children in a given area, they rarely receive adequate funding for facilities. While charter schools are expected to deliver improved academic results in return for freedom from many state and local mandates, the lack of facilities financing leaves them competing with traditional public schools on an uneven playing field.
A number of states and private foundations are working to address this inequity. Their innovative solutions, profiled in this 2004 article in the quarterly journal Education Next, have the potential to provide charter school students with the productive learning environments they deserve.