Scale Falls From Our Eyes?

Rishawn Biddle has some interesting thoughts on the issue of scale in education. He’s right that making a fetish of scale is counterproductive. But, considering the size of the education enterprise in this country a system of one-offs, whether schools themselves or ventures servicing them, isn’t practical.   One issue he doesn’t get into though is just how consistently wrong education’s wise men and women generally are about scale.  I can remember meetings just a few years ago where the “experts” solemnly informed us that KIPP (the high-performing network of public charter middle schools) was nice but would never get past a dozen or maybe two dozen schools.   Now there are 100.  Will there be 10,000?  Probably not.  More than 100?  Certainly.  Or consider Teach For America, still widely derided as marginal.  And sure, it will never replace other methods of teacher preparation but it is the largest teacher preparation program in the country (5K a year coming up) – and gets the best results overall. The list goes on. The point is that a lot of ideas that haven’t been tried are now being tried and we have a lot to learn about scale and scaling.   In addition, there are a lot of policies and barriers. On charter schools, for instance, it’s sort of ridiculous to talk about scaling them when they get 20 percent less funding than other public schools.

9 Replies to “Scale Falls From Our Eyes?”

  1. It is in a sense unfair that charters get less funding when compared to regular public schools. If that changes, would charters across the board, for scale purposes, still have as much of an incentive to drive achievement?

    Would expiration of a charter license be enough incentive alone to drive achievement?

    The unequal funding is like a chip on charter’s shoulders, which in part, in my opinion, motivates them to show up regular public schools.

  2. This “anti-scale” argument is pretty weak. To suggest that companies are just doing their own thing is false. Look at the proliferation of apple-like touchpad phones and tablet computers. When one company does something good others try to copy them. They are hindered by regulations like copy-right laws that to a major extent don’t exist in education. In fact, unlike the private market many educators are actively trying to disseminate their practices.

    Quality is important, but scale is essential. Remember: Quality + Scale = IMPACT

  3. Trust me, unequal funding not a chip on charter schools’ shoulders, it is an unfair burden that my children are forced to bear because of the lack of equity in the funding of charter schools.

    It’s even worse in Colorado. Not only do we lose funding to the district for “administrative overhead” (our mysterious 20%) but we also have to pay for our buildings out of our Per Pupil Ratio (PPR) as charters do not qualify for local capital building funds approved by voters. Charters have to raise their own money for buildings by issuing Certificates of Participation. This means that our children’s funding is significantly reduced as the building’s mortgage comes directly out of our per pupil funding. Only charters must pay for their buildings in this manner, district schools are built with monies outside of their per pupil funding.

    In our district, 1 child in 6 is enrolled in a charter school! The inequity is a very real issue for charters as charter parents feel our children are “doubly taxed” as we pay the taxes which help build new buildings for the district, but our charter schools are ineligible to be funded. Charter school families are penalized for sending their children to a charter with less money to educate their child!

    Let’s not talk about scale until we can talk about equity! Charter school parents pay taxes too! And our children should be treated the same as any other child in the district when it comes to tax dollar appropriations.

  4. As soon as charters stop booting low performers and start accepting ELLs and those with IEPs they will deserve consideration.

  5. There is an unfair burden on parochial schools as well. They don’t get nearly the same funding as regular schools, nordo they even approach the level of funding charters get.


    For those charter nay-sayers who think that we only serve the cream of the crop educationally! Public charters in Colorado are Schools of Choice and we must take students with IEP’s 504, Advanced Learning Plans, Free and Reduced Lunch, ELL, etc.

    Parochial schools have put the unfair burden on themselves! If they stop teaching religion, maybe they could qualify for state and federal funding. The whole voucher argument is just a way to fund religious education.

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