Success of Boston charter school expansion suggests that replication is possible
- A new study reveals that Boston’s Excel Academy, which was founded in 2003, has expanded to a network of four charter schools in the city, each maintaining high performance on test scores, Chalkbeat reports.
- Replication seems to be successful in Boston because subsequent schools have closely followed the “highly standardized model,” which includes a “no excuses” approach that focuses on strict standards of behavior, high expectations, a college prep course of study and student uniforms.
- Studies of the expansion of KIPP charter schools nationwide and other charter networks, however, have indicated declining performance as the number of schools increased, even though these charters still outperformed district schools in their area.
According to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, replicating existing charter school models is “the most rapid strategy to increase the number of new high-quality charter schools available to children.” While these attempts have had varying degrees of success, the Boston study indicates that some key factors in successful replication may be the proximity of the schools (and the attendant similarities in school environment) as well as the degree to which the parent model is followed.
The idea of replication has also been successfully employed by traditional public schools and has the advantage of preventing district leaders from having to reinvent the wheel. In Phoenix, AZ, the Balsz Elementary School District decided to embark upon its turnaround effort by replicating the success of the nearby Creighton Elementary School District, which was already several years into a comprehensive district improvement effort. In that situation, district leaders came away with two key lessons.
The first lesson was the need for customization. “No matter how similar two districts, the context is always different, and you have to understand that context,” said Joseph Sassone, the director of integrated services for WestEd’s Comprehensive School Assistance Program. Another important lesson Sassone noted was the commitment and hard work needed to drive the process.