Charter schools and successful charter management organizations that run them have grown significantly over the past decade but they must dramatically increase their scale in order to meet the demand for high-quality public school options for America’s children. Today, the nearly 5,000 existing charter schools represent 5 percent of the nation’s public schools. For charter schools to be a viable alternative to the more than 2.5 million students in the nation’s lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, the number of slots in high-performing charter schools needs to grow almost tenfold.
Historically, however, charter schools have opened at a consistent sectorwide rate of approximately 300 schools to 400 schools per year, a pace that simply will not meet the need. The upshot: Better-performing charter management organizations, or CMOs, must grow at much higher rates, which will require significant resources, including talented people, to make this happen.
The limited supply of effective leaders and teachers is one of the key barriers standing in the way of more rapid growth for CMOs. Current research on rapid growth among highly successful companies suggests that the reliable supply and strategic use of high-quality talent is critical to any organization’s growth. Researchers find that the number-one school factor affecting a student’s learning is the teacher, and effective school leaders also significantly influence student outcomes.
Additionally, the National Study of CMO Effectiveness found that CMO leaders “overwhelmingly expressed belief that their success hinges on the strength of their people, primarily in schools, but also in the central office.” At the same time, other recent studies indicate that CMOs have an inadequate pipeline of school leaders and face a looming shortage of teachers on the horizon. Unless CMOs find strategies to overcome this challenge, they will not be able to meet the demand for growth.
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