CHARTER SCHOOL EDUCATORS - seeking opinions

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Ruby Slipper, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Mar 13, 2018

    I'm seeking opinions from educators who have worked or do work for charter schools, specifically charter school organizations that are not attached to a public school district.

    I'll share some background. I currently work for the second largest public school district in the country. I started in 2000. I began as a secondary substitute teacher, was a full time 'emergency credentialed' teacher for a year, went back to subbing, and eventually got my MA and school counseling credential in 2005. I've been working as a school counselor since then, the past 9 years at a large public high school.

    During those years, I've learned a lot and become very disillusioned with the school district I work for, as well as the school where I currently work. The school is mostly a reflection of the district, though, so that's where the issue really lies. However, I have some seniority and job security with the district and am currently making a fairly decent salary, mostly thanks to a strong union push a few years back to break the moratorium on raises which the district had put in place for several years.

    My disillusionment has lead me to look for work both within and outside of the district for the past several years. I've applied, unsuccessfully, to other schools in the district, and applied, also unsuccessfully, to other districts. I'm beginning to lose hope that I'll be able to make a positive change and leave the school where I currently work, and, possibly, leave the district.

    The one area of education where I haven't looked, however, is charter schools. I have to admit, I haven't heard too much about them other than they're non-unionized, allowing administration to fire and hire at will, and what little else I've heard has mostly been negative. But when I consider the information is mostly coming from public school employees, I realize it might be better to gather information from actual charter school employees and see what they think.

    So I post my query here, seeking opinions - good, bad, indifferent, and anything else you might want to share - from any charter school educators who might be on these boards and have something to say. What is your experience like (or was your experience like, if you're no longer a charter school employee)? What charter school org do you/did you work for, and have you worked for more than one? I'd love to hear from counselors, but since I suspect most educators here are teachers, I'm happy to hear from teachers, too. I'd love to read any of your responses to help me decide if this is a career possibility I should pursue, or not, as the case may be.

    Thanks for reading. I look forward to your responses.
     
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  3. phillyteacher

    phillyteacher Comrade

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    Mar 14, 2018

    I worked for one year in a charter school. I found that everyone was paid a lot less there than in the non-charter public schools, the hours were longer (longer school day), and more was asked of us. Specifically, there were more requirements about attendance at evening events, more dictation of how things were done, and also they took up multiple prep periods per week for specific types of grade group meetings that took the whole prep period. All things considered, I prefer non-charter.

    That said, I don't think all charters are bad, and there's a lot of variation. I do think most of the charters here have longer school days and take more of your time outside of school. I'm not sure if that's true for counselors as well as teachers but I imagine it probably is. Some do pay more to compensate a little bit for that extra time, I think.

    I have friends who have worked almost their entire careers (we're mid-30s, so we're talking 15 years, not 30) in larger charters that are part of national charter networks. I think they find the hours challenging but overall I guess they like it enough to stay.
     
  4. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Mar 14, 2018

    Thanks for your input. Is it ok if I ask what charter school org you worked for? I live in CA and there are a few different charter school orgs here, some that are also in other states. I've read a few positive comments about 1 of those charter orgs on FB from people who work there, but I'm looking for more opinions. Thanks.
     
  5. Backroads

    Backroads Fanatic

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    Mar 15, 2018

    I have taught 4 years at one. I am done this year. Mine was a pretty independent school, a charter that had broken off from a Catholic school years ago.

    I was paid and worked comparably to the local school districts. In general, I enjoyed my time at this school and felt it had a good program.
     
  6. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Mar 15, 2018

    Thanks for your input. Can I ask why you're leaving if you enjoyed your time working there?
     
  7. Backroads

    Backroads Fanatic

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    Because I no longer enjoy it. The population is too difficult and has been for a couple of years. There's also some subtle but nasty politics. I also just want to find a better fit.

    It's time.
     
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  8. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Mar 16, 2018

    I completely understand. I feel pretty much the same way about my work situation, except some of the politics aren't so subtle. I also don't have the luxury of leaving without having another job set up. I'm single and provide for myself, so even though I'm deeply unhappy, I have to stick with it until I can find something else. Which I've been trying to do since 2012, but it hasn't worked yet. That's why I was asking about charter schools, which isn't a direction I've looked in yet, but it sounds like it's not much better than my current situation.
     
  9. Backroads

    Backroads Fanatic

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    Mar 16, 2018

    I... actually don't have another job lined up. We figure that time is on our side, though, Husband and I, to find something.
     
  10. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Mar 16, 2018

    Yeah, if you have a second income to rely on, that's helpful. I don't. I'm single and provide for myself, so as I wrote above, I don't have the luxury of leaving my current job without another one lined up. Good luck in your search.
     
  11. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Mar 18, 2018

    The charter school I used to work for was a new start up, so that could have been part of the issues it had but...It was a hot mess with high teacher turn over, lower pay, much more expectations, many more duties, and lower test score than my current district school.

    Without Union protections the teachers were very taken advantage of in terms of the expectation for night and weekend work. The attitude of admin was that if you didn't want to work 60+ hours a weeks, working most Saturday's, then you weren't dedicated to the school and your students. We were also not able to advocate for their students. If we tried to speak up for the things that they needed, including following the the laws regarding their IEPs and ELL instruction we were basically branded trouble makers.

    There was also a serious lack on money for basic supplies and materials, even things required by the curriculum...when we had curriculum.

    All but a handful of the teachers interns or in their first couple of years of teaching. They didn't want to pay higher salaries. It created a culture were many staffed were in survival mode and unable to work as cohesive, colaberative, supportive teams.

    I would hope that things would be better in more established charters but, I had such a bad experiance that I'll never know, becuase I'll never try to work in another charter again.
     
  12. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    Mar 18, 2018

    The charter schools in my state, with a few exceptions, are viewed very poorly. They perform below average, and quite a few have been closed for mismanagement and fraud.
     
  13. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Mar 18, 2018

    Not counting my substitute years, I have only worked at stand-alone charter schools, and the experiences could not be more different. My first school was an online school that, due to several issues, was shuttered mid-year this year. The at-will element of employment was much more evident in the upper tiers of administration. I remember hearing about the superintendent starting a meeting, being called out after his opening remarks, and never returning. All I heard was he had been replaced without notice or much fanfare. The teachers, on the other hand, were usually given many chances to retain their employment. It was extremely rare for a teacher to be let go without cause and multiple attempts to improve their performance. The biggest problem I had at this school was that it had grown too large and was much less student-focused than it had been when I started seven years before. They got greedy and were more concerned about enrollment money than with student engagement, at least in my view, and I left two years ago.

    The school I am at now is currently managed out of another state but is sponsored by one of the best organizations in Ohio. It is a small school with an almost skeletal faculty, but we have a great deal of latitude in our work with our students. The most important thing is growth in each of our individual students. I LOVE that we have the ability to flat-out tell our students that they may be at the wrong school for their needs and we will help them look elsewhere.
     
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  14. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Mar 19, 2018

    Thanks for your input, teachers. It backs up what I've heard before about charters - that the non-unionization is troublesome and can result in quick firings, and that teachers are expected to work a lot of overtime hours without pay, which is completely not ok. I can't say I'm all that surprised, though, since I do a lot of things as a public school counselor that aren't counseling duties. I do a lot of things administrators should be doing and don't get paid admin salary for it. We're also expected to work some overtime hours without pay, but it sounds like not nearly as much as most charter schools expect of teachers.

    @catnfiddle - I'm glad to hear you had a better experience with the charter schools where you worked. Can you clarify what you mean by "stand-alone charter schools"? I'm not quite sure what you're referring to. I assume you mean schools that are their own self-contained organization, meaning not part of and run by a bigger school org, but I just want to make sure. And it sounds like the school where you're working now is run by a bigger organization and they do a better job of running things? That gives me a little hope if I decide to look in the charter school direction. The biggest charter school org in my state is currently Aspire, but there are a few other charter orgs running schools that I've considered checking out, too. Maybe things are better with an established charter school org.

    That said, I'll share one story I read from a charter school teacher on another website. She said she'd been teaching for about 5 years and moved to a charter school in her area. I think it was a stand-alone school, but perhaps was run by an org; I don't know, since she didn't clarify. She was happy teaching there during her first year, but during her second year, the teachers started getting less classroom support. One evening after a particularly long day at work, she went home and vented a little on Facebook. She didn't write anything very inflammatory, just something like "I had a really long day today. My school is a complete zoo right now," or something similar. A couple of her co-worker friends saw the post and urged her to delete it, which she did, but not before some community members had seen it, people with kids who attended her school. They complained to the school, and within a few days, school admin let her go. If she'd been at a school with a union, that never would have happened and she would have been much more protected. Yeah, it was dumb of her to make that Facebook post (I'm always very careful not to post any kind of work stuff on my page; plus, I don't use my real name on social media), but it was still pretty damn reactionary of her school to let her go without any discussion of the issue, no warning, nothing. If that's typical charter school behavior, I don't want any part of it.
     
  15. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Mar 19, 2018

    In this case, "stand-alone" meant the charter was not attached to a public school. My current charter is loosely affiliated with a managing company in another state, but we report more to our sponsor than anyone else.
     
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  16. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Ah, thank you. That clears up my confusion. In the past several years, my public school district has authorized several stand alone charter schools, most run by a charter school org that my school district decided to partner with for financial gain. I only know 1 former co-worker who went to work for them and he didn't enjoy his experience there. He's only 1 of many, though, so maybe I need to check out some of those charter schools further. I don't think any of them are currently hiring, though.
     
  17. Been There

    Been There Cohort

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    Mar 20, 2018

    Have you looked into charter schools for homeschoolers yet? Some are under the jurisdiction of a public school district and some are not. Either way, they employ teachers to work with their students. I once worked as a teacher-advisor for such a charter school and it wasn't bad at all - we were paid according to the number of students on our caseload. The workload was so light that it was actually a side job while I worked full-time teaching at a public school. Talk to some homeschool parents to for more info. about potential opportunities in your area.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2018
  18. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Thanks for the suggestion, but I prefer to avoid home schools. My school district has an alternative options school that is sort of like a 'home school,' but not quite. It has small school sites located all over the district, housing 1-3 teachers. Each teacher has approximately 30 students on his/her roster, but sees the students only about once a week for approximately 2 hours. The rest of the time, the students are at home, completing their work and doing other activities. I actually worked as a counselor for this options school right after I got my counseling credential. From what I saw, it really didn't provide a good education to any students. It was just an easy way for students who didn't perform well at a traditional public school to get their credits and leave. Some students were also there because their parents would have preferred to put them in private school but couldn't afford it, and a few were there because they were doing other things with their lives - training for the Olympics, trying to start an acting career, etc. But for the most part, a majority of the students at that school were there to have an easier learning environment and/or because their parents preferred to keep them away from the more diverse populations at a traditional public school or, as one parent said to me on the phone, she took her son out of public school because his science teacher was gay. ...eyeroll.

    I'm sure not all independent studies/home school programs are like the one offered by my school district, but I do have knowledge of a few other similar programs offered by other charter school orgs in my area and have some students on my counseling case load who came from those schools. Based on what they told me, these schools operate in pretty much the same way as my district's options school, and their parents said they initially enrolled their kids in those schools because they thought they would be easier.

    I've made a concerted effort to avoid schools of that nature because I already know it wouldn't be a good fit for me. I'm looking for a different educational environment.
     
  19. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Fanatic

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    Mar 20, 2018

    If you want to work at a Charter school, I would suggest really doing your homework. I work at a private school, but we get students from charter and public schools. In general, the students from the charter schools have far more academic problems. Some charter schools are absolute nightmares. Don't get me wrong. I do know a few Charter schools that are outstanding. They appear to be the exception not the rule. The word Charter does not mean excellence or low quality education. To me it says look closer or you might be really surprised at what you get.
     
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  20. Ruby Slipper

    Ruby Slipper Rookie

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    Mar 21, 2018

    I've worked in public education for nearly 20 years. I'm well aware that simply applying the word 'charter' to your school does not mean academic excellence or quality education. I've enrolled too many students at my public high school, coming from charter schools where they barely learned anything or earned any credits. I'm not a noob to this work.
     

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