Info on Charter Schools

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Rebecca1122, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. Rebecca1122

    Rebecca1122 Comrade

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    Mar 24, 2013

    I am probably going to start applying to other jobs soon and am considering charter schools. I have heard many mixed reviews... they can be horribly run or they can be great experiences. How would you go about finding information on these places other than their own websites? What questions would you ask in an interview to get a feel for the place?

    Any input on charter schools would be great, especially if you have experience teaching in one.
     
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  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    One thing that is usually the case is that they tend to pay less than public but a little better than private. Otherwise, it's a crap shoot. Check out the school's mission statement and possibly Google any news on them.
     
  4. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    My charter school had a great web site and fancy mission statement.....it was a TERRIBLE place to work. That was only one school though.

    I will never go back to charters (even good ones) because they almost never have union protection. I was seriously steamrolled my admin last year and that never would never have happened in a district job.

    Proceed with caution!
     
  5. Rebecca1122

    Rebecca1122 Comrade

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    Thanks for the replies. I work in a parochial school now so I am used to having a one year contract and no union. The administration side of it would be my main concern though because admin is definitely not the reason I am looking right now.
     
  6. teach42

    teach42 Comrade

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    I agree with FourSquare except my charter did have a union but they were useless. I'm at the point where I feel like schools (including non-charters) just put up this great mission statement on their website and do the exact opposite. It's all about the image they want to portray and within the schools, it's all politics.

    Look up and read all the reviews and news you can about the charter and look at their statistics (test scores, etc). If you can, talk to the teachers who work there. Read their board meeting minutes to see how many teachers left. Admin will make or break a school.
     
  7. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    My charter pays slightly less than the area school district, but only because they took a paycut to avoid layoffs. (Districts typically cannot do this because of the union.)

    We are not in the union but we do pay into the state retirement system. Teachers stay at my school for a long time though, and the turnover rate is extremely low.

    My school has a high percentage of low income and ELL, but our test scores are decent and constantly improve every year. I know some charters raise scores by a drill and kill method of test prep. Mine is not like this.

    We do not teach art, music, or PE because we have other teachers for those subjects. It's wonderful. I have NO duties - recess, lunch, etc. All of those are manned by aides. I have a TA for an hour every morning because I teach first grade - upper grades have less TA time. I have 19 kids in my class and the most I can have is 20. Class sizes can only be up to 24-25 in 4th and 5th grade. Area schools have up to 25 in K-3 and NO cap (usually 35-45) in 4th and up, so we have a HUGE advantage in class size.

    I truly love my school and I can't see myself moving any time soon. I student taught in a class of 32 second graders, now I have 19 first graders. I student taught at schools where there was a lot of unrest and negative feelings - lots of very very unhappy teachers. Teachers at my school are happy because we have a supportive administration and a positive work environment. My school actually does live by their mission statement. Is it a perfect school? Of course not. But I have job security, a small class size, and fair administration that makes their decisions based on the interests of students and teachers, not based on the whims of parents or politicians.

    It varies GREATLY from school to school. I have heard horrible things about other charters in my area - I just happened to end up at a wonderful one. I really can't tell you how to find a good one. If you can find the board minutes, that might help - but I'm not sure if you'll be able to. Other than that, ask around? Sometimes you can get a feel in interviews, too.

    I always encourage people on here to not totally rule out charters because there are great ones. Just proceed with caution, I guess - but this can be said of any school, public, private, or charter. There are plenty of public schools with terrible administrators.
     
  8. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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  9. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I agree with most of what has already been said. Just like FourSquare, I will never go back now that I am out of my charter. I loved the school's mission and vision, and the principal seemed great at the interview. Turned out to be an awful place to work. I like teach42's advice about reading board minutes. Do this if you can get your hands on them. About 50% of the teaching staff left (some by choice, most NOT by choice), DURING the school year my first year working there. Although the percentage has gone down in recent years, those I still keep in touch with tell me that many are still leaving mid-year, and the admin has not gotten much better. They were a nightmare to work for.... In fact, a friend who also used to work there with me jokingly refers to it as North Korea. It was awful. I'm sure there are a few great ones out there, but I don't know that I would take my chances, unless I was already miserable where I was at.
     
  10. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Wow. I'm really happy at my charter! Some of the administration is annoying, but for the main part, I'm well-supported. My students need to be at my type of school for a reason, and I'm thrilled to be there for them.

    Google any news articles you might find on each school and weight them against what you see in your interviews.
     
  11. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Looking up news on the school is a good idea, but keep in mind that you may not get an idea of the school culture through the news. My school always looked great in the public eye. Parents loved it! Only the teachers stuck on the inside (and their family and friends who heard the gripes day after day) knew how truly awful it was to work there.
     
  12. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    I really think one of the best indicators might be the rate of teacher turnover. My school has a very low turnover rate. There are many teachers who have been there for years. Now how could you find that out...hmm.... ???
     
  13. iheartscience

    iheartscience Rookie

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    I think it's really a school-by-school basis. I'm at a public charter and love it- we're on the same pay scale and benefits as the county, have great students and teachers, and the administration works well with the teachers. My best friend teaches at a charter elsewhere in the state that's run by one of the big charter school companies and hates it- their administration is horrible, their student population consists mostly of students that got kicked out of public schools, and she gets paid less than public schools in her county.
     
  14. Rebecca1122

    Rebecca1122 Comrade

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    That's what I was thinking as well. Would it be rude/not appropriate to ask that question in an interview?

    The charter I am most interested in is run by a non-profit. They have orphanages all over the world, but this is their only charter. Their mission and how they service students is really intriguing me. I would hope they would have good admin, but who knows?
     
  15. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    In Michigan a lot of universities authorize charters. Good authorizes usually have good schools. But, admin makes a huge difference. I've gone to interviews & have left knowing that I wouldn't be upset if I didn't get the job.
     
  16. Roobunny

    Roobunny Comrade

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    I currently work in a charter and although there is a lot wrong with it, I am happy overall. Then again, I can't compare it to anywhere else as this is my first year teaching. *shrug*

    But with that being said, I cannot see myself staying for more than a couple of years. I don't feel like I get the feedback I so desperately need as a first year teacher...also, teacher turnover is high and teachers who have been there for a couple of years are often asked to move up to administration. This means that I have a cluster head who tries to give me advice when she was only in the classroom herself for two years. I am just really nervous to move elsewhere because A. It took me FIVE years to get a teaching job and this was the ONLY school that even interviewed me! B. I really like my principal and C. I feel appreciated by parents and administration

    Also, it pays A LOT less (an average of about 10k/yr) than the area Independents. Especially when you think of all of the extra time we put in (after school clubs and events, weekend tutoring sessions, weekend school events, etc.)
     
  17. Miss84

    Miss84 Comrade

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    I work in a charter as well, and I make about $8k less than my public school counterparts in the city, but I still make more than the suburban county public school systems.
    One word to describe this is chaotic. Things change all the time (high teacher/admin turnover rate), excessive professional development, 9-10 hr school days (12hr conference days), and I won't even get started on their 'curriculum'.
    I love the kids and my colleagues, but the charter school system as a whole, seems to be aimed at younger teachers (1st/2nd year) w/out families to be dedicated to all this extra time they require of you. I see myself here for a year or two, but definitely not long term when I am thinking of starting a family in a couple of years!
     
  18. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    That all sounds right in line with my charter experience. In fact, my principal admitted that she preferred to hire new teachers whenever possible because they were "moldable" and didn't come with their own pre-existing ideas. Any experienced teacher she hired didn't last more than one year.
     
  19. Roobunny

    Roobunny Comrade

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    :agreed:
     
  20. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    I understand this is a common experience, but it is not the experience at my charter. We are never asked to do things outside of contracted hours except the occasional staff meeting. Parent conferences end at 5:00pm and we can make them end earlier if we are so inclined. My conferences take far less time than my CT's during student teaching because I have 19 students and they had 32 and 34. The public schools I student taught at had recess, before school, and after school duties expected of teachers - we don't even have those. My school does not require extra tutoring, weekend hours, or giving out our cellphone number to parents. I saw all of those when applying to jobs, and refused to apply to any that stated requirements of that nature. I will say that although working outside contracted hours is not a requirement, the culture of my school is such that it is very normal for most teachers to remain at school before and after the bell, and work at home as well. For me, this was really an expectation I had anyway, so I fit right into this culture.

    As for curriculum, we have a regular curriculum like all other public schools in every subject - except the teachers at the school were part of the selection process.

    The majority of my coworkers have been teaching for between 10 and 20 years - some more, some less. I know there are lots of charter schools where the entire staff is first and second year teachers, but that is not at all the case at my school. Nearly all of my coworkers have families - not having kids makes me the exception, not the norm.

    Obviously my experience is anecdotal just like everyone else's experiences on this thread. I just wanted to point out that not all charters do things the same way. Even if there is a prevailing "oh most charters do this and that," it will NOT be true of every charter.
     
  21. ATXMusic

    ATXMusic Rookie

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    I'm at a public charter. Teacher turnover is extremely high. Our most veteran teachers are in their 4th and 5th years. Most, like me, are new teachers. Like others have said, we've lost a couple SPED guys, a 5th grade teacher, an 8th grade teacher, a VP, two nurses, a secretary, a 4th grade teacher, technology coordinator, and an art teacher all before Christmas.

    My pay is about 5-8K under nearby ISD's, but more than rural ISD's.

    This is an awful school. Like others, I can't speak for any more than my school, but I'm finding that average-to-great charter schools are the exception to the rule.
     
  22. ChoiceAdvocate

    ChoiceAdvocate Rookie

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    I work at a charter and I do get paid a lot less than what the public schools pay, but I have the freedom to teach how I want to teach. I use a ticket system / toy and candy store in which I reward good behavior with payment of tickets which can be used to buy toys and candy from the store. Good behavior also earns tickets and we also give tickets away with contests that apply to homework assignments. For instance I teach English Language Arts and I'll have them write stories and I'll tell them that the top 3 based on content, art, and spelling/grammar will get tickets and it has made them work that much harder to win (even the awful kids improve when there is a contest involved.) We had excellent grades on standardized tests and I feel that my methods wouldn't be allowed in some districts. Charters are really for people who can afford it and love teaching more than money. I find that most of my fellow teachers are younger, more libertarian, and childless. We have some older teachers as well, but the school mostly relies on younger teachers since experienced ones aren't going to sign on the dotted line for the pay that we offer. So overall it works for me.
     

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