Learning to Succeed at Scale

Given the desperate plight of urban schooling and the disheartening track record of conventional reform, dynamic new ventures like the KIPP Academies, Edison or Green Dot Public Schools are increasingly being asked to stand in for failing district schools.

While promising, these ventures have thus far typically been characterized by "one-off" examples of success that are extraordinarily reliant on talent and passion, philanthropic funding and exhausting work schedules. Many of the most frequently cited brands (such as Green Dot, High Tech High, Aspire, Uncommon Schools, St. HOPE, and Achievement First) run fewer than one or two dozen schools nationally. These pockets of excellence have produced tangible benefits, but the challenge of bringing them to scale has remained elusive. Former Harvard Business School lecturer Stig Leschly has estimated that only about 250 of the nation’s 4,000 charter schools deliver impressive results--there is little evidence that the rest are demonstrably superior to existing alternatives.

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Monica Higgins is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and the director of education policy studies at AEI.

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About the Author

 

Frederick M.
Hess
  • An educator, political scientist and author, Frederick M. Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include "Cage-Busting Leadership," "Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age," "The Same Thing Over and Over," "Education Unbound," "Common Sense School Reform," "Revolution at the Margins," and "Spinning Wheels." He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog, "Rick Hess Straight Up." Hess's work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, National Affairs, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind.  Hess serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.


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