Posted on December 17, 2016
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:
- Writing an open letter to our families revealing the results of our recent retreat to discuss our school’s identity and pledging ongoing attention to the matter.
- Increasing recruitment efforts before the next enrollment season of winter 2017 to target the three special populations. The efforts included all-new school promotional brochures that emphasized the arts-infused mission and enrollment inclusiveness.
- Working with school leadership to ensure that the school schedule and PD calendar for 2017-18 included more opportunities for teachers to practice creative planning and autonomy and that arts instruction was indeed infused throughout the schedule.
- Updating the school’s authorizer on its intended improvement plan and inviting the authorizer to visit the school.
Posted on December 5, 2016
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.
Posted on December 5, 2016
The NYS Board of Regents recently approved three more charter schools. Two are in NYC and one is in Syracuse.
Posted on June 28, 2016
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.
Posted on June 28, 2016
- 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.
- Compensation. Charter 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.
Posted on January 28, 2016
Announcing Academic Oversight for Charter School Boards, a free workshop for charter school board members on March 8, in New York City
Update: the workshop has reached capacity and the RSVP list is now closed. If you would like to receive updates about future workshops, please sign up for our monthly email updates.
- Provide detailed academic analysis during authorizer renewal visit interviews
- Engage in meaningful discussion about academics with a school’s leadership team
- Improve renewal candidacy through oversight of academic programming
Posted on August 13, 2015
As charter school consultants, we have worked on over 50 renewal applications. We receive many requests for a simple yet effective plan to prepare charter schools for renewal. In response, we have put together this 3 minute webinar to assist in today’s renewal environment. Over time, we have developed a five step method that is structured to help schools improve their candidacy for renewal. This webinar will help charter school boards and leadership teams in the planning and execution of a high quality renewal application.
Posted on June 18, 2015
Spring 2015 brought another batch of schools up for renewal before the New York State Education Department Board of Regents. Between February and June 2015, 28 schools were renewed. Within this group, 14 received short-term renewals and 14 received full-term renewals. Check the NYSED summary of Regents Action Taken for the full breakdown of these decisions.
Posted on March 2, 2015
The Charter School Office released its list of applicant groups that have advanced to the full application stage to establish new charter schools. The office received 38 letters of intent and invited 15 of these groups to submit a full application.
Posted on February 10, 2015
On Monday, the New York Board of Regents voted to approve renewals for 10 charters. Of this group, four schools received short-term renewals ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 years. This batch, combined with previous renewals approved this winter, points to a new trend toward short-term renewals. Since December 2014, authorizers approved almost as many short-term renewals as full-term renewals. Even schools past their first renewal are now receiving subsequent short-term renewals. The table below breaks this data down:
|December 2014 through February 2015: Recent Renewal Recommendations By Authorizer|
|Short-Term Renewals||Full-Term Renewals|
*Table updated February 11 to reflect reversal of 3 Board of Regents Authorized short-term NYSED renewal recommendations. These three became full-term renewals.
- NYCDOE: Charter Renewal Recommendations for Six Charters Authorized by the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), February 5, 2015
- NYCDOE: Charter Schools: Charter Renewal Recommendations for Thirteen Charters Authorized by the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, January 10, 2015
- SUNY: Charter Schools Committee Meeting Summary of Actions, February 3, 2015 Applications for Charter School Renewal
- SED: Renewal Decisions for Charter Schools Authorized by the Board of Regents, February 5, 2015