June 2017 Regents Action Reduces Spring 2018 Testing Days

Actions taken during the NYS Regents June 2017 meeting will reduce the number of NYS grade 3-8 testing days from three to two days.


Final 2016-17 Title 1 Allocations

If you find that your final allocation is higher than your spring 2016 estimate, you have two options.  You may amend your Title 1 budget and request the additional funds now, using the FS 10a form.  Or, you may choose to leave the funds in carryover status until the following year, so long as the additional amount does not exceed carryover limits.

If you find that your final allocation is lower than your spring estimate, you have two options.  You may amend down your Title 1 budget using the same FS 10a form.  Or, you may simply use the FS 10f to close out the grant at the end of the period, and cap the total requested amount at the lower final allocation, if that is the case.  If there are any questions, please let us know.  See allocations below.


Case Study: Identity Matching and Strategic Planning

Case study based on a charter school located outside of New York City serving grades K-8

In August 2016, this charter school received its latest scores.  They were well above charter-sector averages again, exceeded the local district and rivaled state averages.  On paper, the school’s renewal submission in summer 2019 should be straight forward as a very strong candidate.

However, when we walked through renewal step one (Identity Match) with the school, the results were revealing.  Despite the public’s perception of the school as a high flyer, the school’s leadership and board were not comfortable with what the school had become.  Parents thought the school took absolute student performance a little too seriously and emphasized the state test as the “end all, be all.”  In their eyes, the school had lost the positive energy it once had.

The school’s authorizer felt the school’s high results were skewed because of low representation of students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and English language learners, and an insistence on not back-filling seats after October each year.

Teachers, although highly satisfied in general, felt that an emphasis on test preparation was hampering their creativity. Finally, the school’s board and leadership felt that while chasing ever-increasing targets for student achievement, the school had drifted from its arts-infused, inclusive mission.

These findings inspired the school to write a strategic plan covering the three years leading up to its renewal deadline in 2019. Some of the objectives contained in the plan included:

All Schools Should be Operating with Strong Action Plans

Great action plans are formed by a close look at your school’s data, have achievable outcomes, are aligned with your professional development, and understood by all of your stakeholders.  Here are some recent examples from charter schools in New York.

Plan: “Our extremely close look at the 2014 and 2015 data revealed that we had the vast majority of our 400 tested students clustered in the high 2 range on the NYS ELA exam.  We were so close. The data showed this majority was getting fatigued on testing day three, and the data shows they didn’t have the writing skill set to perform well on the most difficult extended responses.  Therefore, we are going to emphasize writing wherever they go.  In Math, Science, everywhere, students are going to face challenging writing exercises.  We were previously letting them off the hook by limiting their exposure to writing.”

Result: 2016 scores in ELA doubled, and students reported feeling far more at ease with the most challenging parts of the ELA exam.  They are excited for 2017.

Plan: “Our school had a profound teacher turnover problem.  We had the leadership, curriculum, and professional development systems in place, but by the time we trained a first year teacher, they took that training to another school.  We knew that if we were constantly starting over each year with brand new teachers, we would never see the achievement outcomes we wanted.  In 2014, our Board activated a personnel committee.  Our committee met openly with all teachers to gather data on why they considered leaving.  We learned our situation was not just about pay, but a host of other factors that were well within our control.  We worked with our administration to implement incentives for recruitment referrals, even more targeted PD, graduate school reimbursement support, and more common planning time.  Although each school would find its own answers, these seem to be working for us.”

Result: 60% of teachers left in summer 2014, 24% in 2015, and 12% in 2016.  Our scores in ELA and Math are still not outstanding but they are now in the ‘high 20s’ and two years ago in the low teens.



NYS Board of Regents Approve Three New Charter Schools

The NYS Board of Regents recently approved three more charter schools.  Two are in NYC and one is in Syracuse.


Interview With a Former Charter School Teacher About Teacher Retention

DP: Where have your years so far been spent?

Teacher: I taught third and fourth grade for five years in one district after college, then three years in two different charter schools, then the last four in my current district setting. It will be 12 years total this month.

DP: You left a somewhat nearby charter school four years ago to take your current district job.  What were the main reasons you left the charter school to take the district position you are in now?

Teacher: I left in September of 2012, after the year had started.  I was driving almost three hours per day total, on top of the longer charter hours.  It wasn’t sustainable.  Especially since I was starting a family around that time.  It was resulting in an 11-hour total day, BEFORE working from home. The school’s leadership was in upheaval during that year. We had three different principals in 15 months, and that is no way to have a stable and normal feeling school year.

DP: What was positive about the charter school experience?

Teacher: The impact of how much the charter students needed me.  And I actually enjoyed the intensity of charter school accountability.  It absolutely made things crazy and most times not a lot of fun, especially for the kids.  But yes, they needed great teaching, and that was an attractive part of the job, knowing those students really couldn’t afford to have an off year with a teacher.

DP: What is your district life like now?  After four years.

Teacher: I’d say great collegiality as a faculty. I also have a great Principal.  But the intensity to absolutely perform, and be pulled in many different directions is not there.  There are rules the district must follow.  They can’t just change things on a Monday morning.  It does slow things down a bit.  I also love the opportunities my students have.  Sports, music, dance, whatever they want to pursue, they can find an outlet.  But I would not be the teacher I am today without my charter school experience.  It absolutely forced me to learn how to act on my feet and figure things out.  There was really no safety net.  If you were not good, you were going to not be returning.  I would actually recommend all teachers spend a couple years in a charter.  Practically, I know that is not possible, but it would be good for them.

DP: Things have changed.  Ten years ago, districts would not touch charter teachers.  Now many are pursuing them, mostly because they are seasoned and proven, even after a couple years.  What advice would you give a charter to retain the best teachers and not have them move to districts?

Teacher: The usual things you hear don’t apply to me.  I don’t care about tenure. I didn’t fear I was going to lose my job. My charter offered a generous retirement matching option, and I took full advantage of it.

My advice is to figure out a way to really value the teacher.  Make them part of the decision making process, the scheduling, the hiring of fellow teachers, whatever you can do to make the teachers feel valued, it will help.


Teacher Recruitment and Retention Best Practices

We have spoken with dozens of charter schools and teachers this past year, and there are some consistencies with respect to how to recruit and retain well.  Here is a short list below.
  • Recruiting. Many schools with great recruiting success do place a heavy emphasis on in-house referrals of new candidates.  Let your current staff help recruit their friends and fellow classmates.  And then pay them for the referral if it all works out.
  • CompensationCharter schools must compete with district schools by offering attractive salaries. Charter schools with retirement plans, matching contributions, or additional benefits will see higher rates of interest from the top teaching candidates.
  • Focus on the Future. Many schools with great retention success continue to find new ways to really value the best teachers, whether it’s performance pay, or multi-year contracts, or shared decision-making, or coaching opportunities.  If teachers feel like there is a long term future at the school, it will bring you greater stability.
  • Less Burnout. Schools with strong retention minimize teacher burnout. Their strategies range from providing teaching assistants to perform clerical tasks, to meticulous maintenance of supply rooms so teachers can focus solely on instruction.
  • Communication. Make teachers a part of the decision-making process. Building formal structures for teachers to communicate concerns and contribute ideas is important for maintaining morale. This can be accomplished through teacher cabinets, surveys that go beyond a standard multiple-choice form, and other methods.
  • Professional Development. All highly satisfied teachers we have talked with typically rave about their school’s professional development and training opportunities.


SED Round One Letter of Intent Due at 3 PM February 10

New applicants looking to open public charter schools for the 2016-17 school year must have their Letters of Intent submitted by 3 PM February 10.


February 9-10 NYS Board of Regents Meeting Includes Several Charter School Decisions

Please see link below for the February 9-10, 2015 Regents meeting. On the agenda are a number of charter revisions plus ten renewal recommendations. Six are from NYCDOE Authorized schools, and four are from Regents schools.


Importance of Outside Academic Audits


As part of proactive planning for renewal and in an effort to ensure the strongest possible academic program, an increasing number of schools benefit from an academic audit conducted by an impartial third party. An academic audit is a multi-day visit to your school by one or more evaluators focused on determining whether there are areas of weakness that will very likely surface at the time of renewal. Would you rather wait for your Authorizer to point them out in the renewal recommendation report, or hear about them years earlier, in time to do something about them?

Wide in scope, these comprehensive visits address the very same key academic program components that your Authorizer will review at your renewal such as: the level of instructional rigor evident in your classrooms; strength of the curriculum and assessments used by your school; effectiveness of the school’s systems and techniques to serve students who are at-risk of academic failure (i.e. students with disabilities, English language learners and generally struggling students); quality of instructional leadership practices; and, evidence of a sound school culture. Topics and areas of focus typically vary based on a school’s Authorizer, school preferences, and the length of the evaluation. Audits usually culminate in a discussion of findings with the school’s leadership and/or board of trustees, and a report identifying key academic program strengths, areas for growth, and recommendations for how to address key concerns.

Many of the firms that provide such services are former employees of Authorizers. They definitely know what to look for, and their impartiality is your ally. Their summary reports can be sobering, but extremely valuable if you act on their recommendations.

If you wish to discuss how to get started with one of these visits, let us know and we will try to point you in the right direction.