Articles Tagged best practices

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.