If CRPE’s recent meta-analysis of charter-school research was an amuse-bouche,
this report (from Mathematica/CRPE) on the practices and impacts of
charter-management organizations (CMOs) acts as the entrée—and perhaps also the
dessert. It exhaustively details the characteristics of forty CMOs (of the
nation’s 130, which serve 17 percent of charter-school students), noting some
interesting commonalities: Compared to their district counterparts, CMOs
typically run smaller schools (with smaller classes). They also offer more time
in learning: Forty percent of studied CMOs provided their students with more
instructional time than all of the nation’s traditional public schools.
Completing the meal, the report analyzed student-achievement results for those
CMOs with adequate data. Echoing previous charter research, the report finds
that CMO performance varies—and widely. Of the twenty-two networks analyzed,
eleven boast significantly positive impacts in math, while ten can make that
claim in reading—this compared to a representative control group of district
pupils. (Seven negatively impact their students in math, six in reading.) Why
do some CMOs do so well while others flounder? Researchers note two reasons for
success: intense teacher coaching and school-wide behavior standards (notably
those that offered consistent rewards and sanctions and asked for parent and
student contracts). Unfortunately, the authors stop there. No after-dinner
coffee or digestif. Because of promises of confidentiality, the report names
neither the high flyers nor the low performers. Interesting data, yes, but not
much help to school shoppers or communities seeking effective CMO’s to run more
of their schools. Though a palatable and hearty meal, the report could have
used that added bit to settle the reader’s stomach.
"Charter-School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and
Diverse Student Impacts"
Bowen, et al.
Center on Reinventing Public Education