Charter Management Organizations are the most important development in American education in the last decade.  They provide an opportunity to design and launch a system of schools from scratch around the goal of preparing all students for college and careers.  CMOs have demonstrated at scale over time that it is possible to do better than replicating social class.  Execution is the innovation that CMOs brought to the sector—they are responsive to students, parents, and teachers.

In Los Angeles or Oakland, CMOs can improve potential life outcomes by an order of magnitude compared to neighborhood schools (i.e., 6% of local kids graduate from college compared to 50-60% from top CMO schools)

Those are some of the headlines missing from the CMO report issued by Center for Reinventing Public Education today just in time for the National Charter School Conference.

The descriptive interim report finds that CMOs are usually a tight network—a common school model implemented with fidelity.  Compared to traditional schools, CMO schools:

  • spend more time on instruction
  • emphasize teacher accountability
  • reward performance over experience
  • face less political disruption

The bad news in this report is that CMOs still require philanthropic support to scale.  That’s why Rocketship’s blended model is important—it has the potential to drop enough margin to fund most of their growth internally.

Paul Hill and Robin Lake are some of the best researchers in the charter space, but it feels they bent over backwards to write a ‘balanced’ report and missed some stuff that cheerleaders like me find obvious.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.



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