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2019 renewals: New York charter school authorizers

Renewal decision trends from January through June 2019 from all New York State charter school authorizers are shown below.  Like in previous years, the capacity of a school to recruit and retain special populations (ELL, SwD and ED) and perform above accountability expectations are the two most important factors.

2019 New York State Renewal Decisions
Authorizer Total Number of Renewal Recommendations Total Short Term Total Long Term
NYCDOE 26** 13 13**
NYSED 24 15 9
SUNY 14 0 14
Total 64 28 36
**Includes one school renewed upon condition of restructuring board and leadership team.

In our analysis of renewal recommendations and conversations with schools and authorizers, demonstrating capacity continues to be a factor in renewal term length. The “gold standard” for a five-year renewal term are those charter schools that demonstrate consistent academic results, meet enrollment and retention targets, and stay financially healthy over time. Schools that do this show their capacity for continued success in a five-year term.

Below are some tips to consider when reviewing your school’s capacity in three key areas: academic growth, governance, and financial reserves.

Capacity to continue academic growth

Schools with slow growth in overall proficiency will need to show capacity for future growth and demonstrate a sense of urgency for academic improvement.

💡Consider adding coaches or data specialists to increase the teacher-to-coach ratio and the rate of observation, feedback, and follow up.

💡Examine support for teachers, both monetary (longevity bonuses, continuing education), and professional (leadership pipeline, well-developed and supportive coaching system).

💡Consider revising your evaluation tools to align with the school’s goals and job descriptions. Some boards also adopt a coaching model for the school leader, with a structure for goal setting and mid-year check-ins.

Capacity to effectively govern

At a minimum, boards must meet monthly and reach quorum. Boards with real capacity for long-term success continue to refine their practices, ensure that members are informed and engaged, and make thoughtful, mission-aligned long-term plans front and center.

💡Examine your videoconference practices. Are they compliant with the open meetings law?

💡Ensure that new and diverse voices are represented on your board, and that an effective system exists for rolling trustee recruitment.

💡Consider holding an annual retreat to deepen board knowledge of important topics such as what questions to ask of an academic leader, or the difference between management and governance.

Capacity to invest

Schools with adequate funds aligned to real improvement plans demonstrate the capacity to deliver on future promises.

💡Worry less about the actual amount you have in unrestricted reserves. Focus on sharing exactly where those funds will be directed with your authorizer.

New Year, Better Board

Click here to read our January 2018 newsletter.

2017: Year in Review

Click here to read our December 2017 newsletter.

Winter 2017 Charter School Renewal Decisions: Recap

Renewal decision trends from January through March from all New York State charter school authorizers have been similar. Schools that come close to matching the three subgroup populations of the local district, and have higher achievement outcomes, are typically awarded the longest renewal terms. Although it is important to consider other factors such as organizational and financial viability, little we have seen so far in 2017 stacks up to those aforementioned areas.

With another group of recommendations expected in April 2017, we expect that these will mirror the trend set so far. The table below reflects all of the 26 renewal decisions to date, with four 2-year terms, five three-year terms, 17 5-year terms, and one non-renewal.


Three Questions Every Charter School Board Member Should Know How to Answer

These are the three most basic questions that all charter school board members should be able to answer:
  1. Who do you serve?
  2. Where do you stand?
  3. What are you working on?
Here are examples of how a well-informed board member might answer those three questions.

Question: Who do you serve?

Sample Answer: For fifteen years since our inception, our school has served a student population that is 75% African-American and the balance Hispanic.  This composition reflects the neighborhoods we typically draw from.  Our enrollment has a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students than our local district, but we lag slightly behind in students with disabilities and substantially behind the district in English language learners.

Question: Where do you stand?

Sample Answer: Our performance on state exams has historically been higher than our local district but we are still a long way from the state average.  We feel our leadership is quite strong but we suffer from one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the sector. This is largely due to limits in compensation packages caused mainly by our private facility costs.

Question: What are you working on?

Sample Answer: Our Board acknowledges that restructuring our upcoming facility lease renewal will allow for badly needed funds to support stronger compensation packages.  We are unsustainable without it.  Per our teacher survey, competitive pay is our faculty’s number one reason for seeking positions in other schools.  Once we do this, our principal should see a return on our investment, and she will not have to keep starting over every year with mainly first-year teachers.

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.


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.