Top Charters Need Greater Emphasis on Expansion, Says PPI, Public Impact Report

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Posted: February 22, 2011

A February 2011 report from the Progressive Policy Institute and Public Impact suggests that the best charter school organizations could greatly expand their reach by adopting high growth as a top priority and using the methods of businesses that have grown dramatically.

The report, Going Exponential: Growing the Charter School Sector’s Best, says that perhaps the most important barrier to fast growth for charters is an “insidious fear factor that stifles fresh thinking and the will to grow.”

“Many leaders of successful schools and networks also fear that rapid growth is impossible without undermining excellence,” the report states. “While understandable, this fear has squelched the motivation and innovation needed to reach more children with excellence.”

The report, which draws on the experience of companies such as Starbucks, recommends that the charter sector commit not just to excellence but to:

  • Reaching large numbers of children.
  • Financial rewards for staff tied to successful growth.
  • “Micro-reach” efforts that put charter teachers or programs in other school venues.
  • Charter contracts with performance-based funding.
  • Strategic acquisitions and alliances.

“Rapid growth prevents entry by less successful players and ups everyone’s game,” the report states. “The charter sector must grasp this new fundamental if it is to achieve its greatest potential impact.”

Philanthropic organizations that support charters can play a role, too, by asking “top-notch charter grantees to consider more ambitious growth targets” and funding charter quality advocates to “shine light on authorizers that squander money on laggard schools while forcing high-performing charters to beg for private money in perpetuity,” the report states.