Harvard Business School: Charter School Savvy

Harvard Business School's alumni magazine with a piece about charters, including a few of our friends:

Instead of establishing stand-alone charters, (Scott) Given wanted to bring the charter mentality inside school dstricts, importing new structures and idealism to traditional schools or building an emerging form of charter—within a school district, but with autonomy in operations and curricula. Essentially, he'd be "restarting" the schools, changing the administration but keeping the students in place. The City of Boston took him up on his idea, and granted waivers on budget authority, use of time, curricula, and certain union work rules.

Scott's schools, called Unlocking Potential, are incredible for rookie teachers. I don't say that lightly. We've had several from our teacher residency take their first teaching jobs at UP. The support is terrific: both in curriculum, and in exactly how to build relationships with students.

Then there's Kevin Hall, who runs Charter School Growth Fund. The average charter in the USA is not that impressive. More average schools? What's the point? Some argue in favor of this, citing the value of increased parent choice, irrespective of academic gains on test scores. Hall rejects that logic.  Instead he only vies for growth of the subset of charters that happen to be good.

The setup, Hall explains, is much like a venture capital fund. "We basically seek the highest-performing charter school organizations, and give them philanthropic funds to help them build a long-term sustainable model," he says. CSGF has seen a strong return on investment so far: The 2013 Stanford study that showed a wide disparity in learning gains among CMOs in 23 states found that those organizations backed by Hall's fund had significantly higher learning gains than other CMOs or independent charter schools. "We are trying to build the capital market to help high-performing charters grow," says Hall, who expects to commit up to $250 million over the next five years to create about 500 new charter schools. The Fund typically targets operators that run one or two successful charter schools and want to scale up to eight or more schools.

Then there's a character named Stig Leschly. He's the Match CEO, an HBS alum, and actually taught there for years. Stig talked about our grad school (where I am a board member). 

Master's candidates pay $4,000 in tuition when they've obtained the degree. Employers, meanwhile, pay Match a finder's fee of $6,000 to get linked to the second-year teachers. "Having revenue from the employers is a kind of accountability that's good for us," says Leschly. "And the program is success-based: The master's students pay us only after the second year, when they get their degrees."

Well said, Stig.  Particularly for an English Language Learner. 

We're very pleased that our 40 teacher residents have all been placed for the 2013-14 school year, even the one who is moving to Pittsburgh (thanks Julie!)

Our first masters degrees will be granted this fall, once we're done evaluating how our folks actually fared in the classroom -- based on principal evaluation, student evaluation, test score data, and outside observers.