News Archive

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.

http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2016/2016-11/p-12-education


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.

 


Training for Charter School Board Members

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.

We organized this workshop to address a common challenge many charter school boards face today: proper oversight of a school’s academic program. Board members without an academic background consider this task to be daunting, especially in an environment with continuously changing assessments and moving targets. Our March workshop will help board members sharpen their oversight skills to…
  • 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

 


Charter Schools Renewal Webinar

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.


New York State Education Department Board of Regents: Spring 2015 Summary of 28 Renewal Actions

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.

 

 


NYSED Invites 15 Applicant Groups to Submit Full Applications

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.


More Short-Term Renewals in Winter 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
NYCDOE 15 6
NYSED 0 4
SUNY 1 8
Total 16 18

*Table updated February 11 to reflect reversal of 3 Board of Regents Authorized short-term NYSED renewal recommendations. These three became full-term renewals.

Sources:

 


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.

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/psc/startcharter.html