Organizations that manage charter schools are trying out some innovative practices and experiencing some growing pains as they seek to extend their reach, according to interim findings from a national study.
Charter schools are public schools allowed to operate largely free of the rules that govern regular public schools. Charter-management organizations, or CMOs, are nonprofit entities that manage them.
The study, released last month by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington and the Princeton, N.J.-based Mathematica Policy Research, draws on visits, interviews, and surveys with charter schools and CMOs across the country. Researchers also reviewed charter operators’ financial data and interviewed officials in school districts.
They found that CMOs are using data to improve schooling, emphasizing continuous improvement, and are more likely than regular public school districts to pay teachers based on performance.
As the charter sector grows, though, charter operators are also subjecting their affiliated schools to increasing amounts of oversight, relying heavily on philanthropic donations to fund their central offices, and struggling to extend schooling models built around elementary and middle schools to high schools, the report says. It also says CMOs face challenges in finding ways to reduce staff burnout and enlarge the pool of capable educators from which they hire.
A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2010 edition of Education Week as Charter-Management Organizations