Four Strategies for Scaling a Successful Program
Run a good school or program? Thinking about how to increase your impact? Replicating the program is just one of a dozen strategies for extending impact. There are four basic scaling strategies for instructional programs: school operator, school developer, advocacy, and program. Each includes a couple variations.
School Operator: Control staffing & resource allocation, provide student supervision.
- Multi-district program operated under district contract.
- Moderately difficult to form, provides moderate control.
- Risk of being discontinued with regime change (i.e., less sticky than having a school code).
- Example: AdvancePath operates contract dropout recovery academies.
- Leverage policy, finance, or transportation infrastructure of local career centers.
- Moderately difficult to form, low-risk long term, and small potential (perhaps dozens of sites).
- Moderate to high difficulty to achieve local or state authorization (varies by state).
- Challenging relationship with districts but relatively low-risk of losing a charter with effective operations (i.e., less risk than contract operation).
- Even though charters typically receive lower reimbursement than districts, charter operation may provide more or at least more flexible funding than operating under a contract.
- Best opportunity to innovate learning experiences and associated technology.
- Examples: Managed high school networks in California include Alliance, Green Dot, and Summit (see list of 40 national CMO).
School Developer: Support development of schools but without operating control.
- Franchise network: Comprehensive program requirements and supports but without direct management control.
- KIPP Foundation provides design principles, leadership development, technical and philanthropic support, and convening. All KIPP schools operate as public charters.
- Big Picture Learning provides design principles, leadership development, technical support, and convening. Schools are charter or district contract.
- New Tech Network provides design principles, a learning platform, technical assistance, and convening. (Schools are 90% district operated; $400k startup cost).
- Nexus Academies is a network of individual charter high schools that share Connections Education platform and support.
- Alliance for Excellent Education advocates for better high schools and manages the federal Future Ready grant which connects districts making the digital conversion.
- iNACOL & CompetencyWorks advocates for next generation models and competency-based learning.
- Curriculum: Project Lead The Way.
- Advising: AVID provides a guidance structure with curriculum and professional services.
- Professional services:
- Technical assistance: Envision, a school network now provides PBL support.
- School improvement services: Pearson, which purchased America's Choice.
- Professional development: School Improvement Network.
- Publications and convening: Solution Tree.
The following table summarizes scaling options ranging from limited to comprehensive school designs (Y axis) and the level of control and support (X axis). Low requirement and low support solutions are the easiest to scale but yield highly variability results (e.g., Alliance Future Ready initiative). Managed networks offer high fidelity execution and great opportunity for R&D work but they are labor and capital intensive to scale.
As noted above, NAF's addition of a certification program adds value to network membership and makes affiliation stickier. As employers begin to adopt the certification, it will build demand for network membership (more on using pull marketing in the next post).
What's the right scaling strategy for your school or program? The answer might be dictated by your ability to raise money. Each strategy has a different fund raising profile (e.g., some funders will only support charters, some will only support district programs) and every region is different. To the extent possible, test the efficacy of strategies and the funding viability before betting the ranch on national expansion.
For more on scaling, check out: