Last month, Greg Richmond, President & CEO of NACSA warned us in a guest blog about the potential losses of charter autonomy that could result from the state plans offered to the Department of Education in return for the first round of NCLB waivers. Mr. Richmond wondered what might happen to low performing charter schools and the role of charter authorizers.
As we approach the second round of waivers, we continue to be concerned that charter schools could lose some of their flexibility, this time as it relates to staffing. The ability to create and manage a team is a critical element of charter autonomy. Todd Zeibarth, our VP of State Advocacy & Support stated the issue clearly in EdWeek: “Ensuring that charters preserve autonomy over teacher evaluations in the face of these statewide system overhauls has been an increasing challenge across the country…Some state policymakers... either overlook or don't care about preserving charter autonomy over these decisions in the process.” This issue has come up outside of the waiver process (see here in Virginia where charter employees are considered district employees), and it has had an impact on charter growth.
Whether value-added-type measures proposed by some states for teacher evaluation are good solutions is still an open question. But, either way, let’s make sure charters aren’t compelled to use these new state plans. On top of being a threat to autonomy, it might actually be a step backwards for charter schools. Many charters have done a really good job of figuring out how to hire, evaluate, reward and retain teachers. Check out the Teacher Talent Toolbox released by the New Teacher Project this week to see what I mean.