Pointing out that schools that willingly embrace the challenge of serving disadvantaged students are doing well, but not exceptionally well is hardly the most generous, kind or empathetic hobby. It is a necessary task in today's policy environment, however.
Because the simple "charters are better" argument is rapidly collapsing -- the data just doesn't support it. So now you have the much more sophisticated "the better charters" -- in particular the best "no excuses" CMO's -- are better" variant. Aside from being an obviously unfair comparison, the burden of proof is pushed onto a small set of schools. There is not a lot of room to winnow that set down longer before you're just left with a handful of exceptions and outliers, not a strategy. And there is a firehose of public and private money being plowed into this group of CMO's. So we can and must put a microscope on their claims and performance.
If only half of KIPP's schools in NYC are in the top 25%, that's important. If none of Achievement First's are, that's important. If neither of the HCZ's are, that's incredibly important. If "no excuses" charters have, over time, the same ups and downs as every other kind of school or, for that matter, human institution, that's not surprising, but that's not what's being sold.
It isn't my fault; I'm not the one that made such grandiose claims and placed so much importance on such a small number of schools.
In the local context, the argument for importing "no excuses" schools as Mayoral Academies has been that not only are they good schools, really qualitatively different than even the successful local charters, like Paul Cuffee, that we already have. I'm not the one who made those claims, but I'll be watching to see if they prove out. It isn't a fair comparison, but it wasn't my idea.