Gotham Schools’ indispensable Rachael Cromidas and Philissa Cramer take a fascinating look at plans to replicate New American Academy, an innovative New York City public school that loops teams of students and teachers from kindergarten through 5th grade, as a charter. The current New American Academy would continue to operate as a NYC DOE school, but a second campus would open as a charter.
The potential for replication has always been a big breakthrough and potential advantage in the charter sector. There have always been examples of exemplary district-run public schools. But traditionally, replicating that success required convincing teachers and leaders at another school to copy what the successful school was doing--and that kind of replication by imitation strategy tends to produce pretty mixed results.
The charter sector, in contrast, offered the opportunity to replicate a high-performing school by growing the organization that operates it to operate additional schools--as high-performing charter networks like KIPP, Achievement First, YES Prep, Aspire and Uncommon Schools have done. That’s still not easy--replication with fidelity is incredibly difficult, and not all charter replications are successful--but replication by growing an organization has some clear advantages. Replicators are growing an existing organization with established culture and practices--not trying to convince a different organization to imitate what they’re doing. And organizations can develop their own human capital internally in that culture and practices with a view towards replication.
That’s why I find this replication so interesting--a district is trying to use the replication advantages of the charter sector to replicate a district-run school model. Even more interesting is the involvement of UFT, which worked with the current New American Academy school on a separate contract to implement its unique model, and hopes to represent teachers at the new school. There’s a bunch of other interesting nuances and outstanding questions here (such as the fact that the current New American Academy school is still very new--most authorizers wouldn’t consider a charter school this new a candidate for replication), and it’s well worth diving into Cromidas and Cramer’s article to read about all of them!
The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.