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Charter Schools: Do Right by Your Irreplaceable Teachers

Charter school leaders: what would you do if you had a teacher who consistently produced student learning gains of a half a school year more than other teachers in the building? You would do everything in your capacity to keep that teacher, right? Would you also make use of the teacher as a mentor for struggling or new teachers, encourage teachers to visit his/her classroom to observe, try to find a way to compensate the teacher for outstanding performance? Perhaps you would provide career opportunities such as becoming a lead teacher, coach, or part of the leadership team at the school? Fortunately for public charter schools, each of these strategies is doable right now because charters have the autonomy and flexibility to identify, reward, and retain good teachers.

A new report by The New Teacher Project (TNTP) suggests that many traditional school districts are unable and/or unwilling to identify and do what it takes to hold on to teachers they call “Irreplaceable.” Irreplaceable teachers are defined as those who “help students learn two to three additional months worth of math and reading compared with the average teacher, and five to six months more compared to low-performing teachers” (p. 2). Irreplaceable teachers generate bigger student learning gains and provide a more engaging learning experience for students, yet the report estimates that nearly 10,000 Irreplaceable teachers will leave the largest school districts each school year. Nearly half of the Irreplaceable teachers surveyed said that their schools made no effort to retain them.

The report calls out the usual culprits that help to explain why traditional districts and schools neglect their Irreplaceable teachers and have such a hard time getting rid of low-performing teachers: policy barriers (e.g., tenure, meaningless evaluation systems, lock-step compensation, the dance of the lemons), school culture and working conditions (e.g., low morale and teachers aren’t treated as professionals), and the lack of training among traditional school principals to retain the best teachers.

Charter schools are free from many of these barriers. So here is the big question for charter school leaders: are you taking advantage of your ability to identify and retain high quality teachers?

Here are a few resources to make sure you’re finding and retaining the best possible teachers:
• NAPCS Issue Brief on recruiting and selecting teachers
• The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project
• Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE): Managing Human Capital Project
• New Leaders for New Schools
• TNTP Teacher Talent Toolbox










Graphic via Google Images