Charter School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts
Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
January 2012


Charter schools—public schools of choice that are operated autonomously, outside the direct control of local school districts—have become more prevalent over the past two decades. There is no consensus about whether, on average, charter schools are doing better or worse than conventional public schools at promoting the achievement of their students. Nonetheless, one research finding is clear: Effects vary widely among different charter schools. Many educators, policymakers, and funders are interested in ways to identify and replicate successful charter schools and help other public schools adopt effective charter school practices.

Charter-school management organizations (CMOs), which establish and operate multiple charter schools, represent one prominent attempt to bring high performance to scale. Many CMOs were created in order to replicate educational approaches that appeared to be effective, particularly among disadvantaged students. Attracting substantial philanthropic support, CMO schools have grown rapidly in the past decade. Some of these organizations have received laudatory attention through anecdotal reports of dramatic achievement results.

The National Study of CMO Effectiveness aims to fill the gap in systematic evidence about CMOs, providing the first rigorous nationwide examination of CMOs’ effects on students’ achievement and attainment. The study includes an examination of the relationships between the practices of individual CMOs and their effects on student achievement, with the aim of providing useful guidance to the field. Mathematica Policy Research and the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) are conducting the study with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation and project management assistance from the NewSchools Venture Fund. This updated edition of the report provides key findings from the study on CMO practices, impacts, and the relationships between them. A forthcoming report will explore promising practices in greater depth.

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