How’s that for click bait.
Here’s my take on three biggest weakness of the high-performing charter sector, and why the high-perfoming charter sector won’t scale unless these weakness are overcome.
#1: Teacher Pipelines
As charter sectors scale, they need more teachers. A simple rule of thumb for sizing teacher need is: total students in charter schools divided by 18 times .25.
So let’s take a school system with 100,000 students. At 10% market share, the charter sector needs ~140 teachers a year.
At 90% market share, the charter sector needs ~1250 teachers a year.
That’s a big difference.
Right now, the pipelines many charters rely on (TFA, TNTP, residencies, etc.) have not demonstrated the potential to scale in a cost effective manner.
Charters will only be able to scale if other pipelines are developed.
My current opinion is that there is only one way to scale cost effective pipelines: train future teachers when they are in college and are willing to pay tuition.
If I were a funder, I would invest heavily in organizations that were attempting to develop educators while they are still in college.
#2 Family Organizing
Charter schools have a built in constituency: their families. Given all the political obstacles preventing charter school growth, organizing families seems like an obvious solution to scaling the sector.
Right now, most charter schools are terrible at empowering their families to be effective advocates for educational excellence and equity.
If this does not change, high-performing charters will grow at significantly slower rate.
#3 New School Incubation
Most of the nation’s highest performing charter management organizations started off in the same way: a great entrepreneur launched a single school.
Right now, far little too attention is paid to new operator creation. There’s only a couple of organizations that incubate schools at a national level; and city based incubators vary significantly in quality.
My current thinking is this: what TFA did for the status of teaching, we need to do for the status of launching charter schools. The nation’s most talented entrepreneurs should be launching charter schools. Imagine if 10-20% of the nation’s top business school students applied to charter incubators after graduation. Students in this country would be able to attend so many more awesome schools.
It’s worth noting that ten years ago this list would have been much longer. The sector is maturing in numerous ways.
Moreover, while I think funders should invest in the above areas, they should definitely not stop investing in all the current supports that are enabling high-performing charter growth.
But, ultimately, if we don’t solve these three issues, the high-performing charter sector’s growth will stall, and millions of children will be denied the rich educational opportunities they deserve.
Lastly, drop a note in the comments if you think I’m missing any big rocks. I’m sure that I am.
Conflict note: I have worked, will work, or am working with organizations on all the above issues. You can take that as a sign that I really believe that these issues need to be solved, or that I’m making all this stuff up in an effort to divert funds to clients.