Many people in the charter school community across the nation have decided the best way to expand the number of high quality charter schools is to replicate already-successful models. In our state, the Cesar Chavez Academy in Pueblo has received a grant from the Walton Foundation to replicate their model. This fall a new school, called Cesar Chavez Academy--Colorado Springs opened in the central part of the city and was authorized by the Charter School Institute. Next year another new charter school will open called Cesar Chavez Academy--Central, also in Colorado Springs.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to replication. Ideally, we could clone the school leader because oftentimes that individual is critical to the school's success. In the case of the CCA school opening in the Springs this year, the principal was an employee of the Pueblo school for several years before taking on this new role.
I've admired that Lawrence Hernandez has concentrated the majority of his efforts on making his own school successful. Furthermore, he made sure there was solid evidence of increased academic achievement before he considered replicating the model. If you want to see "what works" at CCA, you need to go visit the school because Lawrence probably will not come to visit your school. And that's the way it should be!
The downside to replicating is when new charter schools are approved with a model that hasn't shown academic success. We have plenty of those in our state, too.
The Rocky Mountain News had an article today about a model that's working in Denver. When Chris Gibbons was putting together his program design, he interned at both Denver School of Science and Technology and KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy. He gleaned the best from both of these schools to create the model he uses at West Denver Prep. Chris knew that his students would have dramatic improvements in their academics because he used a proven-to-be-effective model.
The key to effective replicating is making sure the research supports the design model serving the intended student population.