Missouri Would Be a Good Home for a Charter School Incubator
Nashville’s mayor has announced the creation of a charter school incubator to train principals. The center will start out as a nonprofit financed by private donations.
Supporters hope the incubator will teach school leaders about the features of successful charters:
Ideas about common traits shared by good charter schools — longer school days, a strong school culture — have become important training tools as the number of schools expands.
Missouri, with two cities among the top 10 list of cities with highest charter school market share, is home to several charters that principals in training could learn from. Either St. Louis or Kansas City would afford ample opportunities for incubator participants, and would be a good site for an incubator like Nashville’s.
The diversity of Missouri’s charters could make this an especially attractive place to start an incubator. Future principals who want to learn about charter schools in general, rather than one particular “brand” of charter, would be able to study a wide range of schools. Charters here are a mix of elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, so participants could observe charter classrooms at any grade level. And the Missouri charter market is not dominated by any particular chain of charters. Some charters belong to national chains and some belong to groups of affiliated schools, but there are also charters that stand alone. And still other charters combine common elements with a unique focus; one such charter that comes to mind is City Garden Montessori. This school employs the same educational approach as other Montessori charters, while concentrating on a small geographic area — which most charters don’t do.
If a charter school incubator is established in Missouri, I’m sure its proximity to a variety of excellent charters would be a key selling point. But Missouri’s less-successful charters might be instructive examples for participants, too. If a future principal who wanted to study charters came into a market where every charter was applauded, he might conclude that running a charter is always easy and glamorous. He would be in for a rude surprise if, once he had his own charter to manage, he encountered challenges or didn’t see drastic improvements in student achievement.
Missouri is already in a good position to welcome a charter school incubator, and a few improvements would make it the perfect choice. To be an even more favorable site for an incubator, Missouri could expand charter schooling in these areas:
- Online charter schools. These would be essential in training anyone who intends to work for a virtual charter, of course. And future principals of brick-and-mortar schools could look to virtual schools for ideas about incorporating technology into the curriculum. They also might want to familiarize themselves with online education in case they eventually decide to expand their schools’ enrollment beyond the classroom walls, like these private schools did.
- Single-sex charter schools. There are single-sex classrooms within charter schools in Missouri, but no all-girls’ or all-boys’ schools. Single-sex charters are growing more popular in larger markets like New York, and although Missouri probably couldn’t support a dozen of these schools, opening one or two would keep the state on the cutting edge of charter education.
- Rural and suburban charter schools. Missouri law confines charters to Kansas City and St. Louis. As charters crop up in other states’ suburbs, and as rural districts convert to charters to attract students, educators may expect to find these kinds of schools in a well-rounded market.