Plenty of bad ideas make their way from the business world to education, but here's a good one: replicate successful school models via franchising. That's the argument made by business writer Julie Bennett in an essay in the new Education Next.??
In the business world, when the owners of restaurants or retail stores want to expand, they choose between two models: corporate-style growth with central management or franchising. Chains like Starbucks scale up corporately; each of its 7,087 U.S. stores is owned by and managed from its Seattle headquarters. Others, like McDonald's, follow a franchise model. Though they look and feel much the same, the vast majority of the 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the United States are operated by a founding franchisee. The advantage of franchising is that it allows an organization to grow rapidly without putting its own intellectual and financial capital at risk. While franchisees are building individual units, the central organization can spend its resources on promoting the brand and developing new products and services.
Bennett goes on to explain that KIPP, the Big Picture Company, and EdVisions Schools belong in the franchise bucket, while Lighthouse Academies, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools are closer to the corporate model. (All of these are non-profit organizations with chains of high-quality charter schools.) Both approaches have their advantages and drawbacks, but KIPP, the Mac Daddy of education franchises, has grown the fastest.
No, schools aren't businesses and kids aren't burgers, but neither is education the first field...