Wednesday, January 13, 2010

*Really* Small Schools


The Race to the Top application highlights McKee’s umbrella organization, the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, and its hopes to expand in 2011 by contracting with two charter school operators. Achievement First would open a K-12 school serving students in Cranston and Providence, and MATCH Charter Schools would open a grade 6-12 school serving Blackstone Valley and Providence students.

In addition, Rhode Island Mayoral Academies has asked if its original charter to serve 1,175 students can be doubled, to 2,350, although that request has not yet been taken up by the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education.

Quick thoughts: If I had to pick a "no excuses" CMO to work in Providence, Achievement First makes the most sense, as they've got a track record in Connecticut cities similar to Providence. MATCH is to me the poster child for un-scalable, un-realistic charter school designs. You can probably pull off one in a city like Providence, with an Ivy League school and finding loads of outside funding, but it is so obviously not a more general solution. MATCH is to me a better argument for the impossibility of improving urban education than the opposite. If that's what it takes, we need to find a way to redefine the problem.

But the thing that strikes me most right now is: damn, those are small schools. The Achievement First schools seem to average about 50 a grade. Divide that between two cities and you're talking about a program that will probably graduate 25 Providence kids a year. Which is great in itself, but it is a very slow method of transformation.

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