Charter school anyone?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by chinamom, Apr 8, 2008.

  1. chinamom

    chinamom Rookie

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    Apr 8, 2008

    I've been offered a position at a charter school for the fall. I'm currently at a public school but the bulk of my experience is at a private school.

    My question is for anyone w/ charter school experience. What are the differences you've found-- positive and negative-- between a regular public school and charter school in terms of the experience of teaching? Or even the differences/similarities between charter and private?

    It looks like this school still has the state testing at the end of the year, but not the benchmarks. The class sizes are smaller, it's in its ground floor stage so they're seeking people who are self-starters and they want teacher input. The parents are involved, etc etc. I will say that I prefer the size and environment of a private school, and it seems like that is how this would be even though the curriculum would be the same as the county.

    I spoke to a teacher there who was previously in the same district I am now, and she says there's a lot less paperwork and she's really enjoyed it. I'm sure too it depends on the school, just wondering if there's anyone out there w/ experience in both settings so there's something to compare???

    Thanks!
    Chinamom
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Apr 9, 2008

    I'm interested to read the responses to this thread. There are a number of charter school teachers here, and most of them have had a very positive experience with charter schools.

    I'm a public school teacher, and I work with a number of former charter school teachers. I have heard nothing but nightmares from every single one of them. They talk about having to work 10-12 hour days while getting paid less than their public school counterparts. And many of them were at-will employees with no union support or tenure or post-probationary status...so no real bargaining chips in their pockets, either.

    I don't think I would take a charter school position in any event except as a last resort. I prefer being able to leave at a prescribed time based on and enforced by my union-approved contract, and I like the job security I have.
     
  4. chinamom

    chinamom Rookie

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    Apr 9, 2008

    Thanks for your response! I'm hoping as well to hear from others who've experience w/ charter schools. Surely there's someone out there????? Since my background is in a private school, the pay and union and job security thing is frankly less of an issue for me. The pay at the charter school is slightly less than I'm making now in a public school, but way more than I was making at the private school. And in the private school there was no tenure or union either, so I've never really experienced those concepts and have no expectations of either.

    The number of hours expected-- that's a whole different story. I've found that to do the job I'm in now, I'd really need to put in 10-12 hours but no way no how am I doing that w/ a 3 and 6 year old at home. So that is a concern. Honestly, my experience w/ public schools has been so negative that I've decided to give teaching one more year in a different environment, to see if it truly is still my passion. I was hoping a charter school would help me to gain some perspective back, but yikes-- now I don't know! Please anyone with knowledge, I want to know the good and the bad and the ugly!

    Hoping for some more input!!!
    Chinamom
     
  5. KinderMissN

    KinderMissN Companion

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    Apr 9, 2008

    I am currently at a charter school and I am seeking a public school position. First off- the employment issues. Texas is an at will employment state and not unionized, so I'm not losing anything in that ground. But, I do make alot less than a public school teacher and work the same hours as one. It also seems alot more falls onto the charter school teacher (we are expected to act as counselor, school nurse...since ours is out alot) etc. I also am not on a contract, so if anything happened to the school we're up a creek.
    Our TAKS testing grades are still responsible for meeting federal and state AYP. We take the standardized tests and do benchmark examinations. Our charter school is also K-12, so there are issues of inappropriate language in hallways and other shared spaces.
    Is this a school I would want to make my career at? No. It has been a good place for me to gain experience and complete my internship. However, I have a colleague who worked in public school and appreciates the freedom the charter school allows her.
    Charter schools aren't for everyone. I'd look into their mission statement and see if the parts align with your own personal philosophy of education.
     
  6. chinamom

    chinamom Rookie

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    Apr 9, 2008

    I guess I'm looking for some sort of happy medium.

    Here's a little background info:

    I spent 10 years teaching at a small private school. Class sizes anywhere from 4-18 students. Not much in the way of resources, outdated computer lab, REALLY outdated library, and I made $15 an hour. Every once in a blue moon we'd get new text books. No tenure, no union, benefits but not great ones, and the only guarantee I had of a job was through the school year. Contracts were issued yearly. My commute was at least 1.5 hours per day. I have never been happier as a teacher than when I was at that school. Everything the teachers did was appreciated even if they couldn't compensate us as well as other schools.

    When my middle schoolers were doing a life science unit on plants, we decided to plant a butterfly garden in front of our classroom where people kept cutting across the grass and it had gone bare. My students measured the area, tested the soil, researched the types of plants that would grow best and figured out how many of each we'd need. Our director piled us onto the bus and drove us to Home Depot where we bought the plants. My kids prepped the soil after researching what would be the best way to do it and did all the work. It was one beautiful garden and boy were they proud. They worked together, used planning and critical thinking skills, not to mention research skills, math, and science. I had never heard of any of the state tests in all honesty. Sometimes you can be in a bit of a bubble in private schools I suppose. Would they have fared well on those state tests? I believe so. My guess is that a lot of people would look at the situation and think that it was far from ideal. But those kids DID learn, they developed a passion for learning, and I miss it. Most of our students went on to private high schools and advanced programs in public high schools.

    I know that it isn't possible to duplicate that type of situation in public schools, and I know that there was probably a lot that needed improving. So I guess I'd just love to find something a little more like that, and I was hoping I'd find it in a charter school. I put in a LOT of hours there. I was counselor, nurse, coach, you name it. But I believed that I was really TEACHING and they were really LEARNING and that's what mattered most to me. I rejoiced when seventh graders learned to love Shakespeare and astronomy and sentence diagramming. I rejoiced when aloof teenagers found that they had a gift for singing or acting that they'd never known they had before or when we went camping and were able to see science lessons in action. I loved that they didn't have to worry about gangs or violence, and when issues came up they could be dealt with quickly. They could still be kids and didn't feel so much pressure to grow up so quickly.

    So that's where I'm coming from. Once I began working in our public school system, I started feeling like I was suffocated and trapped, and perhaps not really cut out to be a teacher. I guess I'm not looking to compare public vs. charter either, but charter vs. private.

    Chinamom
     
  7. KinderMissN

    KinderMissN Companion

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    Apr 9, 2008

    Oh okay. Class size is good, my class is 10. Once again though, you'd have to check the charter. My colleague that I mentioned loves integrating art into her other curricular areas, and she has alot of freedom to do so. That's definitely one of the benefits of charter schools.
     
  8. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Apr 10, 2008

    My first job was in a charter school that was just opening. All teachers with no experience, a principal with only teaching experience. It was a NIGHTMARE. I lasted two years, but it was not for lack of looking after the first year. I still have friends who teach there and the school is doing better. Every year there are new changes to how they run the school. Next year will be the forth year and they will be making more changes. I find that irritating. I personally would never go back. I would never go work at a charter school that has just started. No one knows what they are doing.
    And contrary to popular belief, I had far less classroom freedom at the charter school. In my state charter schools have five years to prove themselves, so the leaders are in classes, putting stipulations on lessons, creating school wide weekly testing, etc. Anything they can do to try and insure those test scores rise. Even though much of the curriculum did not meet state standards, we were chastised for trying to supplement. We were told to stick to the curriculum no matter what.
    Class sizes were also above average compared to other classes I had been to in the area. 25 first and second graders is a lot to me. But every class had at least 25.
    We were required to be at school at 7, even though classes didn't start until 8. We had to stay until every kid got picked up, often 45 minutes after school was out. We regularly had meetings go until 5, so the school day was 7-5 for teachers. And that did not include any planning you had to do. We had 30 minute specials every day, but we had meetings at least 3 days out of the week. We also had 10 minute lunches, because we had to supervise kids in lunch line and be there early to pick them up.
    There was 0 discipline in the school. A kid walks out of class-that's okay until they feel like coming back. Kids have a fist fight-they get a talking to (maybe) and then were right back in class. A kid hits the teacher-kids will be kids. Classroom management can only go so far, there are some circumstances that should be handled by the principal, but in the charter school I was at they didn't want to discipline. They felt like a teacher should handle absolutely everything. One principal tried to pass the buck by saying she felt she was doing her teachers a disservice by handling any discipline problems. They would only be great teachers if they could handle it all themselves.
    Clearly, I didn't like my experience. I'm not saying all charter schools are bad. There is no way to know if its a good school or a bad school until you commit. Knowing that kind of stuff is impossible with a school that has not opened yet.

    I feel the same about my charter school that you feel about your public school. I was suffocated, and unhappy. I never went home with a smile on my face. I would go home and go directly to bed. I would have dreams about my worst students, or stay awake at night thinking about how much I hated my job. At the end of the year I was looking for jobs as teacher, aide, anything to not have to go back. My husband saw a change in me this year. I leave school happy, I have more energy, he hears good stories about my day. I am much happier now, that's probably the real reason I won't go back.
     
  9. storyh

    storyh Companion

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    Apr 10, 2008

    I work at a charter school, and while I am sure all are different here is a list of pros and cons for my school.

    Pros:
    More flexibilty in some areas (such as more that 1 recess, etc.)
    great collaboration and support among teachers

    Cons:
    Very little administrative support
    very limited resources
    somedays no planning period
    lunch, recess, or pick-up duty everyday
    longer school days
    frequent meetings, etc. that require attention after-school
     
  10. chinamom

    chinamom Rookie

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    Apr 10, 2008

    Thanks so much for the input. Yikes, I don't know what to do. And I have to do something by Monday.

    Chinamom
     
  11. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Apr 10, 2008

    If it's an established school and you know people there that like it, I would go for it. I would just ask as many questions as possible until I felt sure I was making a good decision.
     
  12. scienceteach82

    scienceteach82 Cohort

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    Apr 10, 2008

    I'm currently in a Charter School...In Georgia!
    I teach HS though. Our school is 2 years old, and going down the drain...lol.
    Our charter is based on the EOCT's and GHSGT scores. They promised that their students would score average, or above average on all standardized testing. Yeah...that didn't happen last year.
    This is how my day goes:
    8-8:30 am- Cafeteria duty
    1st period - off
    2nd period & 3rd period- classes
    4th period -lunch class
    5th period - 7th period - classes

    We are expected to be there at 8, and stay sometimes until 5 pm. It sucks a lot. :(

    I just got an offer from a private school, and I can't wait to go!

    Make sure your school has a good reputation. Mine doesn't.
     
  13. PEteacher07

    PEteacher07 Cohort

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    Apr 10, 2008

    we had a recent story come out here in texas saying that several charter schools owe the state MILLIONS of dollars. in fact, one school suddenly closed and they owed the state $800,000. that doesn't seem to make me confident in job security.

    i know some charter schools are different, but the one that recently opened here does not allow parents to go in their child's classroom nor are the parents allowed to eat lunch with their kids. i don't like those concepts at all.

    and what about the pay and the fact that some of these "teachers" have given themselves that status but they aren't even certified teachers.

    given, this is all seen through my eyes from a distance and i have no private school experience.
     
  14. glen

    glen Companion

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    Apr 10, 2008

    I can completely understand your feelings about public vs. private. I spent 6 years in the public schools, one as a daily sub, 2 as a building sub, and three under contract as a first grade teacher. I was RIF'd the first week of June last year. We had severe budget cuts and the superintendent let all teachers who hadn't started their fourth year go the week before school let out. We lost one third of the teaching staff across the district. I accepted a job in September teaching 7th and 8th grade at a private school and I absolutely love it. Class size is a bonus, as is complete admiinistrative and coworker support, concerned parents, (mostly) focsed students, consistent consequences, freedom in the lessons chosen to teach the curriculum, no stress of costly standardized testing... I could go on. The pay cut was sizable, but the reduction in stress and the other plusses I experience are worth it.
     
  15. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Apr 11, 2008

    Another con, In my area many of the children that go to charter schools were kicked out, or on the verge of being kicked out of their public school. They go to the charter school as a last choice. And at least at my school, they stay because the discipline is lax. When you mix a lot of behavior problems with teachers with little to no experience and no administrative assistance, it's a recipe for disaster.
     
  16. teacha101

    teacha101 Rookie

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    Apr 17, 2008

    I work in a charter school in Florida. The days are long and the pay is short! It is an A+ school and that creates a lot of stress for the teachers and students when it comes to FCAT testing. We do benchmark testing 3-4 times a year to ascertain where we need to go and grow with our instruction. Overall, this charter school is a great school, but you are constantly reminded that it is a corporation and is in business to make money! The money comes from the state and is awarded to the charters based on academic achievement. There is a lack of job security because the charters basically do not have contracts like the private and public schools. They can fire teachers, just like any corporation, at any time. The one positive thing about the charters is that as teachers, you can do "what works best in schools" and use your own methods of instruction. I worked in a private school last year and teaching there was much more relaxed. No FCATS, just Stanford Achievement....teachers were very relaxed and made about the same amount of money as in the charter schools.
     
  17. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Apr 17, 2008

    For profit charter schools would be absolutely out of the question for me. Conflict of interest, IMHO.

    I'm currently interviewing for a charter and a public choice school (enrollment by lottery from the district families who want to go there). BOTH of these schools are progressive, developmental, and have multigrade classrooms (K/1, 2/3, 4/5). Both jobs are for a 2/3 position.

    BOTH of these schools could easily offer the wonderful butterfly garden scenario you mentioned. However, Given a choice, I'd go for the public choice school. It has its own campus, principal, 7 teachers per cluster, a wonderful reputation (among those who like progressive schools, that is). The charter is a result of parents being told "NO" repeatedly by their district until they went and formed a charter school. Parent support is enormous at both schools. The charter pays $5K less.

    I've never taught before (I'm a career changer) so I have no experience with private. I need to clear my credential and that means a 2 year induction program which is free if you teach in public (including charter) schools.

    Good luck with your decision. What's your gut reaction? When you imagine saying YES to the charter, what's the first feeling you get? How about when you imagine saying NO, THANKS?
     

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