Monday, December 5, 2011

What Works in Replication

A new report, mapping the replication landscape in Colorado, has just been released. Dr. Dick Carpenter and Krista Kafer published, Charter School Replication in Colorado, for the CO Dept of Education.

While all sets of multiple schools under a single governing board or charter can be called replication schools, the structure for how these schools operate and share services can vary significantly. Education Service Providers (ESPs) is the term for both for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) and nonprofit charter management organizations (CMOs). CMOs tend to be local, either within the same geographic region or within a single school district. Many EMOs operate in multiple states.

Colorado has both EMOs and CMOs. The recent trend has been for more CMOs, however. Particularly, this is happening in Denver where West Denver Prep, KIPP and Denver School of Science and Technology are operating multiple campuses with many more planned. These schools operate under the umbrella of a single governing board. Most have their own charter contract, but it's nearly identical to those of their other schools. Quite often, students flow between the associated schools.

But are students in these types of related structures doing any better than grassroots startup charter schools? Not yet says the Center of Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Public Policy Research report on CMOs. Future blogs will dig into this report further.

Why would policy makers and charter school authorizers favor existing charter schools that want to add additional campuses? They're a known commodity. Decision makers know what the new charter school will look like and how they perform, it's not simply someone's "vision," like a new charter school application.

Since U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is encouraging more charter school replications to address the lack of quality options for students in urban areas, we'll probably be seeing many more replications in Colorado. The question will be in how these existing charter schools can bring their schools to scale and if quality remains the same in the additional schools.

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