This guest blog series describes approaches that seek to address one of the most critical issues facing the rapidly growing public charter school movement: its leadership pipeline. The examples from Georgia and California show how partnerships have been developed to create training programs that teach the specific skills public charter school administrators need to run a successful school. If you would like to share additional examples of leadership pipeline programs, post them to @charteralliance or #charterleadership on Twitter.
In 2012, the Charter and Autonomous Leadership Academy (CASLA) sent out a national survey to public charter school stakeholders to determine training needs for charters school leaders. These results presented a strong interest in charter leadership training. After several years of research and development, the CASLA program has created and implemented an innovative university-based charter leadership program in which participates earn a master’s degree in education (charter leadership) and a state credential authorization. Just as successful K-12 charter leaders must be entrepreneurial and creative, the CASLA university team successfully navigated the public university institutional system to create an accelerated, efficient, and personalized entrepreneurial program. The CASLA program is based on research, best practices, and creative solutions to meet the needs of charter school leaders in Los Angeles and eventually nationwide.
CASLA is housed at California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), a four-year urban public institution located in the urban city of Carson in Los Angeles County. CSUDH is one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the California State University system. The school is accredited by both the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Since California has a very high percentage of start-up schools (as opposed to conversion schools), CASLA’s innovative program is focused on start-up schools. During our research, aspiring and current charter leaders requested relevant and current content, and alternatives to weekly evening classes in traditional university credential programs—due to the traffic congestion in Los Angeles and responsibilities of charter leaders. In addition, current charter leaders requested assistance with career options beyond their tenure as charter school leaders. The CASLA program is addressing the needs.
The CASLA leadership curriculum is designed based on the knowledge, skills, and disposition as articulated by current and former successful charter leaders, as well as small area public school district superintendents. The CASLA program incorporates sophisticated video conferencing using technology-based instruction to personalize and individualize the delivery and content. Participants attend two weeklong seminars in the summer, and content courses are web-based. One charter conference attendance is required. Content courses are six weeks in length; field research, extensive reading, and personal reflection are critical components. Charter case study is a major strand throughout the 15-month credential/certificate program. The critical internship component incorporates shadowing, field-research, and residency. Current and retired successful charter school leaders teach the content courses. Participants are grouped in a cohort. Current charter leaders benefit from web-based certificate programs, on topics such as master schedule development, essential elements of instruction, conflict resolution, improve rigor through effective use of data, etc.
The elements of the CASLA program form a comprehensive system that prepares and supports charter leaders who are committed to improving teacher practice and student achievement. CASLA school leaders are now leading over 10,343 charter students in the greater Los Angeles area, with 57 percent of our CASLA leaders representing the minority groups of our diverse student population. Over 4,000 charter students have been positively impacted by our field research to improve student achievement. CASLA plans to create national regional centers. We invite inquires. The CASLA program is the beneficiary of a supportive relationship with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, our California Charter School Association (CCSA), and a federal grant funded through the Office of Innovation and Improvement in the Department of Education.
Image via CASLA website