CREDO just released its new research report on the performance of charter school management organizations (CMOs).
I continue to be grateful for CREDO’s efforts. In for-profit industries, the market creates demand for this type of sector specific research. In the social sector, we tend to be more reliant on academics and philanthropists; thankfully, CREDO continues to drum up the necessary support to produce this type of analysis.
Positive, Modest Effect Sizes Everywhere You Look
CMOs are delivering solid effects with most, but not all students. It is easy to brush off these effects as “smallish.” But one could say the same of many groundbreaking innovations that make the world a better place.
We should be optimistic about the fact that CMOs tend to deliver Honda-like performance improvements: they are better than existing model, and their value increases the longer you use them.
Overall, CMOs are delivering +.03 SD effects over three years in both reading and math. These gains are driven by the fact that students benefit from CMOs the longer they stay in them:
Yes, some individual CMOs operate at the frontier of innovation: they develop new school models or operate with world class execution. And while we should praise these efforts, we should not ignore the more modest improvements that are being delivered at scale by the CMO sector itself.
Give or take, CMOs serve around a million children, and many of these children are getting a better education than they would receive otherwise.
For Disadvantaged Students, the Benefits of CMOs are Twice as Good
As with Hondas, the benefits of CMOs generally accrue to those who need them the most.
The charts below are a little tricky to interpret, but they show that African-American students see roughly double the positive effects (+.06 SD instead of +.03SD) when they enroll in CMOs (the difference between the two bars equals the marginal CMO effect).
For minority students in poverty, the effects were even bigger, equating to around a .1 effect for Hispanic and African-American students in poverty.
The only disadvantaged population to see modest negative effects was students with special needs. The sector needs to get better here.
A Good Investor to Grow the Sector
Many philanthropists do not give directly to CMOs. Instead, they give to the Charter School Growth Fund, whose management team and board then make decisions on which individual CMOs to invest in.
Over the decade, the portfolio of the Charter School Growth Fund has significantly increased in size. To date, they have also managed to maintain quality.
Schools in the Charter School Growth Fund portfolio are delivering much greater effects than the CMO community as a whole.
Almost Nothing Works, So Nurture the Efforts that Do
Very few education interventions achieve positive results.
CMOs achieve positive results. And these results continue to hold as they scale.
Under less than ideal political conditions, and sometimes with little public support, these organizations are doing a lot for disadvantaged youth.
If we continue to support their development, our nation could be much better off.