News Archive

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
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.



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.