Blog: The Educated Reporter

Behind a kerfuffle, important questions.

Last month I read Tom Toch’s commentary and the related Education Sector report on the scale-up problems of charter management organizations. Little did I know until I read Debra Viadero’s Ed Week piece today: drama! It is no secret that the guys at the top of Ed Sector love them some charters.But I have always felt that when it comes to research, the organization shoots straightest, and aims best, of anyone.

I respect all parties in this disagreement, admire what they have built and don’t like seeing them spat (in the newspaper, no less). In the case of this report, I was glad to see these issues addressed at all.  But I will say this: I really hope several of the more dramatic parts* of Tom’s original draft of the report were removed because of space or research-related reasons, not because of ideology and an affiliation with people who have bet big on charters, as he suggested.

Forget the gossip and think about the research, and the schools. Take the politics out of it; for financial and personnel reasons alone, it will be no small feat, if it is even possible, to replicate today’s most successful charters. Hell, it will be no small feat to even keep the existing ones going. So let’s discuss those challenges fully and honestly.

*“Historically, CMO people haven’t wanted to sit in the same room with school district people,” says Colby of Bridgespan, the San Francisco consulting firm. “They were the enemy.” 

Says chief executive Toll: “Amistad is not sustainable with current funding. I wouldn’t start the school now knowing how much additional money the school has to raise to educate its students successfully.”

Many teachers and principals in leading charter networks respond to interviewers’ questions about their working conditions with answers like, “We’re exhausted.” 


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