Dropping a Bomb Before National Charter Schools Week

As I was reading the news online yesterday, this from the Old Grey Lady: A pretty tough dissection of the tough slog charter operators like Imagine have gone through when trying to embark on the non-profit course and bring value to education systems and management in the United States. It’s not an easy process, and the system isn’t really designed, yet, to facilitate excellence at scale. We are bound to hear a lot about that which doesn’t work until we get there.
The article tries to tell us that charter school management orgs don’t work. Not true.
Charter networks are the most important development of the last decade. They deliver consistent quality and lower cost than traditional public schools. Charter management organizations (CMO) like Charter Success, Achievement First, and Village Academy in NYC are consistently the top performers. Networks like Green Dot, Alliance, and ICEF run great high schools in Los Angeles under the most difficult conditions in the country.
Imagine manages 71 pretty good schools for non-profit groups around the country. With a highly decentralized education ‘system’ the challenge is quality at scale and Imagine is attacking this problem through management techniques that encourage surplus, which are taken as fees. That’s the natural result of working to create value and to help manage an effective organization.
Given the need to form separate independent boards for each charter school and for the CMO to invest more than 18 months of time and often lots of resources to get a charter approved, the board challenges that
Strom points out are understandable.
Connections Academy, a leading supporter of virtual charter schools, is known for fair and transparent board relationships. This is the trend for the development of charter school networks and CMOs. The education reform movement is set to democratize education, to ensure that everyone who goes to school benefits from that experience in the most open and transparent way.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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