Category Archives: Charter schools

Baton Rouge’s charter school turnaround

Last year, Arnold Ventures commissioned CREDO (out of Stanford University) to study the effects of charter and innovation schools in select cities across the country.

Most of the cities included in the study were cities where Arnold Ventures (and now The City Fund) have partnered with local leaders to expand high-quality schools.

The results just came in for Baton Rouge.

The Historical Underperformance of Baton Rouge’s Charter Sector 

After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans’ public charter schools drove impressive achievement gains for the city.

Baton Rouge civic leaders and educators tried to replicate this strategy. It didn’t work. The charter schools that opened performed poorly.

A typical response to these weak results would have been to abandon the strategy.

But this is not what happened in Baton Rouge.

Civic leaders, led in large part by the leadership of New Schools for Baton Rouge, came to the conclusion that the charter strategy was right but that the execution was flawed.

So they began the hard work of recruiting new charter leaders as well as working with struggling schools to wind down their operations.

7 Years Later

New Schools for Baton Rouge was founded in 2012. It took many years to raise money, build a civic coalition, and recruit great educators.

Now, in 2019, we’re beginning to see the results of the work.

The slides below are a bit hard to read, but they capture the achievement effects of magnet, charter, and traditional schools in Baton Rouge between 2014 and 2017.

The study compared students in these sectors to their peers across the state (controlled for demographics and other salient factors).

Math Effects

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Reading Effects

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If you look at the small dotted lines tracking the [C] results, you’ll see major improvements in the Baton Rouge charter sector.

In 2014, the charter sector had -.13 effects in math (yellow lines) and -.16 effects in reading (blue lines).

These are pretty bad results.

But only a few year later the charter sector had gone from negative effects to neutral effects.

Improving an entire sector by ~.15 standard deviations in just three years is an impressive feat. Keep in mind that New Orleans achieved ~.4 standard deviation impact in the six years after the storm; so to grow .15 standard deviations in just three years is nearly on par with the growth we saw across the city in New Orleans.

While test scores aren’t everything, it’s rare that schools with very negative test effects deliver positive long-term life outcomes.

So this turnaround of the Baton Rouge charter sector is wonderful to see.

Lessons for Other Cities

In CREDO’s study of urban charter sectors across the country, around 20% of cities had negative effects for their charter sectors.

If I were a leader of one of these cities, I’d get on a plane and take a trip to Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge leaders are showing that it’s possible to turnaround a city’s charter sector. The strategy is fairly simple. Open up annual cohorts of good schools and replace underperforming schools.

But the execution is difficult.

It took a great board and team at New Schools for Baton Rouge to give good charter operators the confidence they could grow in a city that had a struggling sector.

It took major investments in teachers and leaders to grow the talent base to support operator growth.

And it took a coalition of advocacy organizations and political leaders to create the policy conditions to rebuild the sector with a much stronger emphasis on performance.

Even cities with good charter sectors could learn much from Baton Rouge’s wholistic approach.

Of course, the goal for Baton Rouge charters is not to achieve neutral effects.

But given the baseline, neutral is the first stop toward positive.

And given the rich entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s been built in the city, I’m optimistic that educational opportunity will continue to expand across the city.

Not just a great teacher. Not only a few good schools. An entire city.

Last year, Arnold Ventures commissioned CREDO (out of Stanford University) to study the effects of charter and innovation schools in select cities across the country.

Most of the cities included in the study were cities where Arnold Ventures (and now The City Fund) have partnered with local leaders to expand high-quality schools.

The results just came in for New Orleans.

Worries of Stagnation in New Orleans

Many observers, including myself, have been worried about the stagnating proficiency scores in New Orleans.

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One of the major problems of looking at proficiency cut-offs is they are a somewhat arbitrary cut-off line. For example, if a student started off extremely below proficient, but then improved to one test score question away from being proficient, the student would still show up as not proficient.

This is why Arnold Ventures funded the CREDO analysis. CREDO’s methodology allows us to examine achievement growth across all of the performance spectrum.

CREDO Analysis of New Orleans 

Fortunately for kids in New Orleans, CREDO found that New Orleans schools are continuing to outperform the state on academic growth.

Here is the most important slide from their analysis:

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The statistically positive achievements effects indicate that students in New Orleans are catching-up with the state somewhere in the range of .05 to .1 standard deviations a year.

To put these gains in some context, the black white achievement gap in the United States is .8 standard deviations.

These are strong, citywide annual gains. And it’s very important to emphasize that these are city level effects.

In most cities, the longer poor children stay in the system the further behind they get. In New Orleans, the opposite is true: the longer you enroll in New Orleans public schools, the closer you get to your peers across the state. 

This is not the case of a few charter schools doing well. This is about the whole city making gains.

The goal of city based education reform should be for all kids to benefit, not just a few.

And that’s happening in New Orleans.

Hopefully, these gains will continue to compound and, eventually, further raise citywide proficiency, graduation, and post-secondary success rates.

Julia Galef interviews me on the Rationally Speaking podcast

I just did a podcast with Julia Galef of Rationally Speaking.

You can listen here.

We cover: New Orleans, the evidence base behind urban charter schools, common critiques of charter schools, how to balance evidence and lived experience, what we do know and don’t know about what happens when charters expand, what we do know and don’t about what parents want…. and more.

Here is a teaser:

Juli: Right. Has anyone yet proposed a nudge system, where we try nudge parents to pick the schools that actually improve scores more?

Neerav: There are experiments being run right now about how you show information to parents in these systems, and figuring out what that means. Now, again, you want a balance. Do you know what the right thing to show is? Because if you’re nudging, that means you have an opinion on how parents should be making decisions.

Julia: Right.

Neerav: Versus, do you want to be a little more humble and say, “We’re just gonna show the information as neutrally as we can and let you know”? Those are pretty complicated decisions for policymakers, on how to design choice systems.

Julia is an excellent interviewer.

If you have 30 min at the gym, on a walk, or during your commute – give it a listen.

Ohio’s urban charter schools are (finally) better and more cost effective than you think

Fordham just put out a good brief on charter schools in Ohio.

In case you haven’t been following the charter school story in Ohio, here’s some headlines to catch you up.

 

Some of these headlines were earned by terrible behavior of online charter schools. Some of these headlines were earned by the historical unevenness in the Ohio charter sector, which has faced large rounds of closures over the past few years.

But how are the schools doing today?

Most education researchers agree that growth is the most accurate measure of a school’s quality when it comes to test scores, and Ohio’s accountability system provides good growth data.

Comparison of Ohio’s Big 8 Districts: Charter vs. Traditional

Ohio’s Big Eight districts include: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown. They serve a lot of Ohio’s lowest-income and minority students. In 2017–18, these eight districts enrolled 41 percent of of the state’s black and Hispanic students.

Here’s the charter (brick and mortar) vs. traditional school breakdown:

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28% of Ohio’s urban charters score and “A” or a “B” on the value-add system compared to 17% of traditional schools.

When you look at students instead of schools, the gap is even bigger: 31% vs. 16%. 

72% of traditional school score a “D” or an “F” on the value-add system compared to 59% of Ohio’s urban charters (numbers are about the same if you look at students).

Urban charter schools in Ohio are not amazing. But they are now better than Ohio’s urban traditional schools at increasing student learning (as measured by the state test).

Hopefully all of Ohio’s urban schools, charter and district alike, will get better overtime.

Ohio Charters Receive $3,000 Less Public Funds to Educate Public Students

A recent analysis on per-pupil spending found a 27% gap (about $3,000 less per student) between charter and traditional schools.

I would like to see a deeper breakdown of enrollment of students with severe special needs before making hard conclusions, but it appears Ohio’s urban charters are higher-performing and more productive.

The fact that charter school receive so much less money than traditional schools remains under-discussed in the media. Too many kids get less public resources simply because they attend a public charter school.

Also: Ohio’s Virtual Charters Score Very Very Poorly

Everyone of Ohio’s virtual charters scored an “F” on growth:

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This is not a pretty picture when it comes to academic performance.

I worry that that virtual charters have set back Ohio’s charter school sector a decade.

Lastly: Overall District Performance Across the Big Eight

Here’s the value-add score breakdown across the districts (combining charter and traditional schools):

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I was surprised by the amount of variation across the districts.

Toledo has 25% of its schools score an “A” or a “B” and 43% of its schools scoring an “F.”

Cincinnati only has 4% of its schools scoring an “A” or a “B” and 85% of its schools score an “F”.  

I’m not sure why Cincinnati is scoring so much worse. Given the relative amount of talent and resources in the city, I would have expected much better. Am I missing something?

The great charter closure wave of 2017 and the bad charter politics of 2019

I was recently reviewing historical charter school data and was stuck by the amount of closures in 2017.

Across just five states, authorizers closed 142 schools (TX, CA, AZ, FL, OH). In Ohio, nearly 10% of charter schools  were closed.

These closures impacted 2% of total charter schools nationwide.

In this same year, only 309 charter schools opened.

I think these trends will continue. The charter community is increasingly policing its own; parents are walking away from bad schools; and the worsening charter school politics means less political tolerance for the worst actors.

One potential irony of anti-charter activity is it will make overall charter school quality better.

The worst schools will be more likely to be closed. And new openings will be increasingly dominated by established operators with good track records who have the resources to grow in bad conditions.

To be clear: I don’t love the current tough politics around charters. I think it will slow down growth and innovation, which will reduce educational opportunity for kids who struck in really bad public schools.

But, relatively speaking, it will increase charter school quality.

I predict that in 2023, if CREDO replicates its 2013 national charter study, the charter effect will be higher (with statistical significance).

 

New Orleans, the New Yorker, and the perils of flawed comparisons

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Gary Sernovitz just wrote an interesting piece in the New Yorker on the New Orleans public school system.  He argues that the New Orleans public school system is designed around free market principles that are, at times, being poorly applied to the public sector. Gary draws lessons from his time serving on the board of a charter school that eventually lost its charter for financial reasons.

Before considering his arguments, I just want to give a thank you to Gary. He joined a charter school board and devoted a lot time trying to make public education better. It’s great to see people with his commitment and intelligence serving on charter boards. I hope more people follow his lead.

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Gary argues that the New Orleans public education system is designed around “the engines of the free market – autonomy, competition, and customer choice” but that these design principles are currently inadequate to meet the aims of public education in New Orleans.

Gary points to three main problems with the New Orleans system: rewards, incentives, and start-up capital.

Rewards

Gary argues that New Orleans’ schools demand crazy work hours but offer mediocre compensation. Unlike for-profit founders, there is no dream of a financial exit for charter founders or their teams.

I don’t disagree with these facts. If you want to get rich, starting a non-profit charter school in New Orleans is not the way to go.

But this is the problem with Gary’s premise: the New Orleans public school system was never designed to mimic all parts of the free market. The goal of working in a charter school is not to get rich; it’s to do good while earning enough to live a middle or upper middle class lifestyle.

The reward model provides a different set of rewards for different kinds of educators.

Many teachers teach in charter schools for 3-5 years, work long hours, and are rewarded with the meaning that comes with knowing you helped others. They then go onto other things.

A minority of teachers find that teaching is their lifelong calling. Their hours tend to go down overtime as their mastery of teaching goes up. The most skilled teachers in New Orleans can achieve in 50 hours a week what it takes a novice to achieve in 70 hours a week. Their rewards come from the joy of doing good work, building meaningful relationships with children, and earning a stable middle class income.

Another set of teachers move into administrative roles. They tend to spend another 5-10 years working in leadership positions. Their rewards come from the challenges of leadership, seeing impact at a larger scale, and earning an upper middle class income.

Yes, current model does rely on younger teachers, who work more hours, and leave the classroom more frequently than their traditional peers. But this model is delivering better results for children than the old talent model. And it has been doing so for over a decade, which leads me to believe that the talent model is sustainable.

That being said, I’m open to the idea the current model is not optimal. I can think of two potential improvements: raising taxes to increase educator salaries, or simply encouraging charters to be for-profits so there can actually be financially exits and equity based compensation. But New Orleans is a poor city in a poor state, so I’m skeptical that New Orleans will be able to raise salaries by large amounts. As for for-profit charters, while a reasonable idea in theory, their results to date have been underwhelming, so I’m not holding my breath here either.

Rather, I think New Orleans has organically evolved to the best talent model under very imperfect conditions.

Incentives 

Gary’s main criticism of the New Orleans public school system is that it does not fully fund the costs for students with special needs. In market terms, it gets the price wrong.

Gary sat on the board of Cypress Academy, which intentionally enrolled a lot of students with special needs. These students cost more money to serve well.

The New Orleans per-pupil revenue system is designed with this reality in mind: I believe New Orleans has the most weighted per-pupil system in the country. Schools receive up to 3x of the regular per-pupil to serves students with severe special needs.

Because of this model, numerous schools in the city are able to serve a lot of students with special needs. Many networks have even developed specialized programs for high needs students.

I’m open to the idea that the weights need to be further increased. But the Cypress financial model should have been built around the existing financial regulatory regime. It is well known to all charter operators in the city, and Cypress should not have opened if they did not have a viable financial model to serve the students they wanted to serve.

If Cypress thought the per-pupil funding system was wrong, it should have advocated for policy change before opening its doors. Instead, it opened with an unsustainable model. This was a mistake.

Start-up Capital 

Gary argues that there is not enough start-up money to help a new charter school get to scale.

I don’t think this is true.

When I worked at New Schools for New Orleans, we helped 10+ new charter school start-ups open schools, and none failed for financial reasons. Rather, all of them received enough funds (usually $500K to $1m in philanthropy) to cover their operations until they reached scale.

My understanding is that Cypress Academy received start-up grants in the range of other successful start-up charter schools in New Orleans, such as Bricolage Academy.

And, again, none of the financial realities should have been a surprise to the founders of Cypress. If they knew they were going to run a deficit over the first few years, they should not have opened unless they were fairly certain they could raise the necessary philanthropy to cover this gap.

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Dozens of new charter schools have opened successfully over the past decade. These schools operate sustainable talent models, serve students with special needs, and scaled with the support of philanthropy.

Cypress Academy failed for reasons that seem to be mostly predictable. The balance of the fault appears to be with the school, not with system.

Lastly, it’s worth emphasizing that the New Orleans public school system is not designed to be a free market. It’s a publicly funded system operated by non-profit organizations.

Yes, it has more market mechanisms than a traditional government operated system, but it’s so far from being a free market that most comparisons to free markets obscure more than they illuminate.

What is California telling us about what parents want from public education?

I sit on the board of the California Charter School Association (CCSA), which is one of most effective charter associations in the nation.

Their data team put this slide together.

It’s a little complicated, but it’s very informative.

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To build the chart, CCSA looked at schools that are serving the same type of demographics and then compares their test scores.

A school that outperforms similar schools, gets a higher score (8-10 is really good); a school that underperforms similar schools, gets a lower school (1-3 is pretty bad).

This methodology – absolute test scores controlled for demographics – is imperfect, but it’s the best methodology you can use given California does not publicly report student growth scores.

Charter schools serving students in poverty outperform district schools on state tests 

43% of charter schools with higher concentrations of poverty outperform similar schools.

In California, if you are a low-income Hispanic or African-American child, you are more likely get a better education (as measured by test scores and parent demand) if you attend a charter school.

This is good news for the educators and families who are working together to create better educational outcomes in at-risk communities.

If parents are demanding schools with good test score impacts, the government’s response should be obvious: let more of these schools open.

Charter schools serving middle class students underperform district schools on state tests 

But not all charter schools are outperforming their peers on tests scores.

47% of charter schools serving middle class students perform worse than similar schools. And only 26% perform better.

So perhaps California should close some of these charter schools that serve middle class families? Research covered in this post shows that schools with negative test impacts tend not to have large positive life outcome impacts.

But here’s the odd thing: presumably, middle class families have a decent amount of information at hand when making school choices. It takes all of two minutes to scan Zillow or Great Schools to get a quick read on the absolute test score performance of any school in the state.

So why are all these relatively well resourced families sending their children to lower-performing charter schools as measured by state tests?

I’m not sure. It would be interesting to focus group and poll them to learn more.

And with regards to closure, while I surely disagree with middle class Californians on many policy issues, I’m not sure that I think I know enough about their children to close schools that have modest negative test impacts but high enrollment demand.

Charter schools don’t exist unless parents want their children to attend them 

One of the best features of charter schools is that they don’t exist unless parents choose them. No one is assigned to a charter school.

So what are we to make of this data where families in living in poverty are choosing schools with positive test scores impacts and middle class families are choosing schools with negative test score impacts?

I think the starting point should be to assume that families, on average, are in a better position to make an informed choice than government is.

Remember, government’s default assignment algorithm is to look at your family’s address and then assign your child to the nearest school. It’s not very nuanced!

My guess is that parent choice will outperform geographic assignment when it comes to finding great fits between kids and schools.

But I do think we should be open to the idea that parents, sometimes en masse, can make mistakes. And, at times, this can warrant government intervention.

Sometimes performance might be an indicator, such as when families keep sending their children to high schools with below 40% graduation rates and /or schools with extremely negative value-add scores. If less than half the kids are graduating, and those that do are barely literate, government should step in.

Sometimes lack of alignment with our nation’s professed values might be an indicator: certain public schools have at times been captured by groups, sometimes religious, that do not teach basic democratic values.

In these cases of significant performance or culture malfeasance, government should consider intervention, ideally by handing over management of the school to a non-profit organization that can achieve better results.

I don’t know enough about individual school performance to know if what’s happening in California with middle class families equates to education malfeasance, but I’m a bit skeptical.

My hunch is that once absolute test score levels surpass a certain floor (as they tend to in middle class schools), families just care a lot about other factors.

Even if I might make a different choice, I don’t know that the situation warrants government intervention.

When government should not intervene 

While it’s difficult to decide when government should intervene, it’s still pretty clear to me when government should not intervene.

When schools have both high demand and high test score impacts with students living in poverty, government should not prevent these schools from serving more students!

California should follow this common sense policy.

Unfortunately, too many school districts do not.

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Is Nashville Progressive?

Nashville is a thriving city with an amazing culture and a booming economy.

It’s also a progressive city in a very red state.

Given the progressive value of supporting  public education, my hope was that this progressive city would be delivering a great public education to its children.

But, after digging into the data, it’s clear that Nashville’s public education system is not giving kids a great education, especially African-American and Latino children.

This is troubling for the future of the city, as it means that a whole generation of Nashville children may be locked out from benefiting from the city’s growing economy.

A Divided City

 The last few school board elections in Nashville have been contentious. Public charter schools were at the heart of the electoral fights, with some officials calling for a moratorium on charter school growth.

The supporters of the charter school moratorium made two arguments: the charter schools are not as good as people say they are, and if the charters schools expanded they would hurt the education of students in the traditional public schools.

Both of these claims deserve some attention.

Are the Public Charter Schools in Nashville Good Public Schools?

One of the best way to understand the quality of a school is to measure how much a student increases her learning by attending that school. Tennessee measures this impact on student learning by calculating a value-added score for each school. A score of 5 is really good, a score of 1 is pretty bad.*

Here’s the score for every public school in Nashville that received a composite value-added score and does not have an academic entrance requirement.** Charter schools are represented by the green bars, traditional schools by the blue bars.

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The results are stunning:

56% of public schools in Nashville that received a rating received the state’s lowest rating. 

Of the 73 public schools that received a state rating, 41 of them received a “1.” Elementary schools don’t receive composite state ratings, so this is mostly a reflection of middle and high school performance. Nashville may be a booming city, but the city’s public schools are providing a poor public education to the majority of the city’s public school students.

90% of the 41 schools that received the lowest performance rating are traditional schools.

41 schools received the lowest rating. 37 of them are traditional public schools. Nearly all of the lowest performing schools are traditional schools. The traditional school sector is in vast need of improvement.

89% of the 19 schools that received the state’s highest rating are public charter schools. 

19 schools received a top tier rating. 17 of those are public charter schools.

And these charter schools aren’t outliers. 74% of charter schools in the city received a top tier rating. Only 4% of traditional schools received a top tier rating.

Nashville’s public charter school sector may be amongst the best in the country. The educators in these schools are accomplishing amazing things.

The traditional schools, on the other hand, are really struggling. Too many kids in Nashville are getting a subpar education.

Would it be Progressive to Allow Public Charter Schools to Grow?

Chidren who attend charter schools in Nashville learn a lot more than children who attend traditional schools. It follows that the progressive thing to do is to allow more children to attend these schools.

However, if expanding these schools hurts the existing traditional schools, there might be a trade-off between growing these schools and improving existing schools.

Fortunately, research can help us answer this dilemma. Journalist Matt Barnum accurately summarizes the research:

“Charter schools are unlikely to have significant negative effects on student achievement in traditional public schools — and may, in fact, have small positive effects on nearby schools. At the same time, there is research indicating that charters may in fact harm school district finances.”

If anything, public charter schools tend to increase the academic performance of students in traditional public, likely due to increased competition.

That being said, it’s undeniable that when the traditional system loses students, it also loses money. Given that this does not lead to a drop student achievement, it’s unclear to me that this issue needs to be solved. However, in cases of rapid charter school growth, the state might consider giving the local district some transition aid.

But the bottom line is that expanding high-performing public charter schools can increase the academic performance of students in both charter and traditional public schools.

It’s hard to get more progressive that.

Here’s hoping that Nashville’s progressive leaders do the right thing over the coming decade: they should allow great public schools to serve more children.

 

 

*See below for TN description of each level of performance:

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** I excluded the following schools for having selective requirements: Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School, Hume-Fogg Magnet High School, Meigs Magnet Middle School, and Middle College High School. If I got this wrong, let me know!

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A great report from Princeton on charter schools… with one major mistake

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Sarah Cohodes just published a report on charter schools in a joint Princeton and Brookings publication.

Sarah does a great job of summarizing the research on charter schools: on average, charter school do not outperform traditional schools, but urban charter schools (particularly the No Excuses model), perform much better than traditional urban public schools.

It is so rare in publicly policy that something… works best for disadvantaged students, gets better as it scales, costs 20% cheaper than the existing system, and has positive to neutral effects on the existing system’s performance.

With urban charter schools, we’ve found something that works at scale with almost no trade-offs.

It’s truly amazing and makes me hopeful for public education in this country.

So kudos to Sarah for writing this report.

But she does make one mistake, and it’s a common mistake, so it feels worth addressing.

Sarah writes:

The charter sector is growing by 300 to 400 schools a year. Let’s consider a thought experiment in which further expansion focuses on high-quality charters. What would happen to the achievement gap in the United States if all of those new charter schools were opened in urban areas serving low-income children, had no excuses policies, and had large impacts on test scores like Boston, New York, Denver, and KIPP charters?

So far so good. I think about this thought experiment a lot.

Sarah continues:

Expanding charters in this way certainly could transform the educational trajectories of the students who attend. But if we consider the US achievement gap as a whole, it would have a negligible effect. Charter schools represent too small a proportion of overall enrollment for such an expansion to reduce nationwide achievement gaps.

Notice the mistake? Sarah focuses on the absolute number of annual charter school openings rather than the annual percentage enrollment increase of charter schools.

Yes, the charter sector is growing by 300-400 schools a year.

But the charter sector’s enrollment has grown between 7-10% a year for almost a decade.

So here’s another way to answer Sara’s thought experiment: if the charter sector continues to grow at ~10% annually, it will double in size every 7 years. Currently there are ~2 million students in charter schools. That means in 25 years, charters would serve over ~20 million students, or nearly 40% of students in the United States, if current growth rates continued.

Of course, this might not occur. But it’s surely possible. I have deep experience in working in cities across the country, and I remain convinced that any major city in the America can get to ~50% charter enrollment in a 10-15 year period, if they so desire.

Again, it’s not inevitable that charters will continue to maintain quality and grow at 10% annually.

But it’s also not inevitable that districts can adopt the best practices of urban charter schools.

To the extent that there are major resource allocation considerations, I would bet more on charter school scaling than district adoption.

But I don’t think there are major resource allocation debates. Urban charters are an open book. District best practice adoption is less a matter of money than it is a matter of will.

So I think we should keep on scaling urban charters, with the hope that districts get better and all boats rise. If districts get better, more kids will get in great schools faster. If they don’t get better, charter school expansion can continue to increase opportunity.

Someone once asked me: how much charter school growth is enough?

My answer then, and now, remains the same: we should keep growing charter schools until every kid in American attends an amazing public school.

What will be normal for superintendents in 2028?

Education change happens slowly until it happens everywhere. And then a new normal exists.

Right now, it is normal for superintendents to directly control all the public schools in their city. It also normal for them to fight off educators (either within their system or external charter operators) who threaten this control.

But this is changing. A new wave of superintendents are looking to charter operators to help them solve their toughest problems. And they’re not doing so in light touch ways, like best practice sharing. Instead, they’re handing over control of some of their most struggling schools to charter schools.

Atlanta 

In Atlanta, the superintendent is partnering with the city’s best charter operators to operate underperforming schools in the city.

Here is how one Atlanta high school student responded to her plan:

Omari Hargrove, a junior at Carver School of the Arts, isn’t looking for guarantees.

At a recent community meeting, Carver students spoke about daily fights on campus, gambling at school and classmates more focused on selling drugs, than studying.

“I’m not sure if the changes they’re introducing are the ones they need, but the situation we have now is not acceptable,” Hargrove said.

“Maybe they’ll work,” he added. “At least it’s a plan.”

San Antonio 

The superintendent in San Antonio is taking a similar approach. Texas recently passed a law, Senate Bill 1882, which encourages both superintendents and charter operators to work together to turnaround failing schools.

Denver

In Denver, the district partnered with a charter operator, University Prep, to turnaround a struggling school. A year later, the school posted the highest math growth in the state of Colorado.

Indianapolis 

In Indianaplis, the district utilized the state’s Innovation law to partner with charter operators, and the first wave of schools saw an increase in test scores. One of those schools, while managed by a charter operator (Phalen Academies), was actually led by a group of district leaders who wanted more freedom (Project Restore).

Memphis

Over the past few years, the state, frustrated with local inaction, has forced charter partnerships in Memphis. But last week, the superintendent told the local paper he was willing to lead the partnership effort himself. A locally elected board member also indicated willingness: “As we look at what’s best for kids, we have to look at all options,” she said.

What will be normal in 2028?

That’s hard to tell. But I hope that what we’re seeing from this courageous superintendents becomes the new normal.

A superintendent’s job is to get the highest number of kids in the best schools as quickly as possible.

That’s a job that requires all hands on deck.

Any group of educators who can make things better quickly should be given that opportunity, charter schools included.

Over the coming decade, I hope what we see in Atlanta, San Antonio, Denver, Indianapolis, and Memphis is the new normal.