Monday, January 10, 2011

On Scaling Up Successful Educational Models

Here's Eduwonk's Andrew Rotherham who ponders
how consistently wrong education’s wise men and women generally are about scale. I can remember meetings just a few years ago where the “experts” solemnly informed us that KIPP (the high-performing network of public charter middle schools) was nice but would never get past a dozen or maybe two dozen schools. Now there are 100. Will there be 10,000? Probably not. More than 100? Certainly. Or consider Teach For America, still widely derided as marginal. And sure, it will never replace other methods of teacher preparation but it is the largest teacher preparation program in the country (5K a year coming up) – and gets the best results overall. The list goes on. The point is that a lot of ideas that haven’t been tried are now being tried and we have a lot to learn about scale and scaling. In addition, there are a lot of policies and barriers. On charter schools, for instance, it’s sort of ridiculous to talk about scaling them when they get 20 percent less funding than other public schools.


Nicholas said...

Aren't state and local governments reluctant to pump funding into some charters as there can be some real questions about whether the charter organization (in some cases kind of distant entities) is going to stick with it beyond a year or two?

There's also the issue that less of the total operations budget can be reliably put towards education, right? In New Orleans, the charters are mostly responsible for contracting their own busing, meal service, etc. unless they are part of a larger federation of charters, which means higher per-pupil costs for these logistics than larger school systems face.

Your blog is really great! I always look forward to new posts in my Reader.

NJ Left Behind said...

Thanks for the comments, Nicholas. Actually in NJ (and most states) there's a rigorous screening process for any group that wants to open a charter, which includes long-term financials. You're right that budgeting is more difficult in NJ, where there's no facilities assistance. Traditional public districts have no need to rent or buy facilities without state assistance, but here charters are on their own.

Nicholas said...

I guess the question of permanence of charter-backing here is complicated by the nature of the arrival of the charters - it seems consistently up-for-grabs how long schools/districts will remain in state (rather than local board), and thus charter, control. They are supposed to revert back to local control soon, but no one seems to know for sure and so I suppose part of the problem lies in finding financial support from investors/donors when no one can be sure that the school will still be theirs to fund a couple years down the road.