The two most common criticisms about charter schools are that A) many of them aren’t that good and B) the good ones can’t be replicated to serve enough kids to really make a difference. TIME got an exclusive first look at the most comprehensive evaluation of charter school networks ever, and although the study, which will be released on Nov. 4, underscores the challenge of creating quality schools, it also makes clear that it is indeed possible to build a lot of schools that are game-changers for a lot of students.
The study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, examined networks of affiliated charter schools, which in the education world are referred to as charter school management organizations (CMOs). There are more than 130 of these non-profit networks serving about 250,000 students nationwide. I was on an advisory board for the early conception and design of this study, the goal of which was to better understand how CMOs operate and how effective they are. The study is filled with valuable data about how CMOs manage their teachers, how much funding they get and how they use it and what kinds of students they serve. But I’m focusing here on student achievement, which is, of course, the most contentious issue in the national debate about charter schools.