Replicating High-Performing Public Schools: Lessons from the Field
September 19, 2006
Think creating high-quality schools is difficult? Try replicating them. This report, a collection of short papers from The Bridgespan Group (whose mission is to help nonprofits overcome strategic and organizational challenges), provides several strategies for successfully replicating high-performing schools, including thoughts on maintaining the quality and integrity of an education model, and supporting expansions with academic and central office resources.
Many of these strategies were borne of real-world experiences. Consider the example of New Tech High School in California, which rapidly expanded to 10 sites in several years. Unfortunately, not all of their new schools were thriving. By examining their mistakes, New Tech created a set of quality indicators, including funding needs, optimum school size, and non-negotiable program requirements that would produce varying degrees of success.
Two strategies for maximizing financial resources come from Bridgespan's work with charter school developers in California and Texas. In the Golden State, Envision Schools saved a bundle by opening selected charter schools two grades at a time, rather than the more common one grade per year method. And to circumvent ubiquitous charter facility issues, Houston's YES College Preparatory Schools is considering an "incubation model," by which two new schools would temporarily share one facility to promote early growth and financial stability.
The report's most interesting study involves "clustering" schools in one geographic area. California's Aspire Public Schools has consolidated costs, academic support services, fundraising efforts, and community outreach activities by operating several schools within one urban area. (KIPP is another high quality organization utilizing the "cluster" model.) Clustering also makes controlling quality and ensuring program longevity much more feasible.
Ohio's communities have much to gain from replicating high quality public schools--charters especially. This report serves as a fine primer for leaders brave enough to try.
You can download The Bridgespan Group's report here.