Identifying and Replicating the "DNA" of Successful Charter Schools: Lessons from the Private Sector

May 2007

This brief begins with a look at the main problems faced by organizations attempting to replicate charter schools at scale, followed by a summary of lessons from the for-profit and nonprofit sectors about the process of replicating complex organizations. Finally, the discussion turns to how these lessons apply to efforts to faithfully and effectively replicate charter school designs.

The charter school movement entered a new phase of development recently, with many charter school funders and advocates pushing for a dramatic increase in the number of high-quality charter schools as a central goal, and for the replication of successful charter schools as a critical strategy for "getting to scale." The demand for replicated schools is also increasing, with districts such as Chicago and New York City replicating home-grown models and importing replicas of successful schools from other cities. Faced with mounting performance accountability demands, more urban districts are looking for fast routes to increased performance and a broader array of parent choice options. The concept of replicating successful schools holds great promise, but it is far from a sure bet. Even in the business world, where replicating best practices is arguably a more straightforward process, the majority of such efforts fail.