Culture is Key. But Where Do You Start?

lead image

Charter school leader and students from Digital Pioneers Academy with National Alliance for Public Charter Schools branding

While every charter school is unique, in many ways, charter schools strive for the same outcomes: Students who succeed in environments designed to help them thrive. Teachers who are empowered to practice their profession in innovative and effective ways. Schools that are safe, welcoming, and exciting places to learn each day.

While these goals may be clear, the trickier question is—how do you achieve that vision? This is a challenge faced by charter school leaders across the country at every type of charter school. And while the problem may seem difficult (and it is!), a key part of the answer is clear: build a strong, effective school culture.

The School Culture Toolkit: Practical Resources for School and Network Leaders, released by the National Alliance in partnership with TNTP, outlines the core elements of a strong school culture—hiring top talent, retaining great teachers, and providing ample compensation and career pathways—and gives school leaders the resources they need to make their vision a reality.

Hiring Top Talent

The decisions school leaders make in hiring teachers is a key factor in establishing a strong school culture. And because charter schools are empowered to hire outside of the traditional educator pipeline, this is an opportunity for school leaders to bring in the teachers that will best match their school’s and student’s needs. The toolkit offers guides for conducting effective interviews, using demo lessons to assess candidates, and—on the flip side of the coin—pitching your school to teacher candidates to recruit top talent.

Retaining Great Teachers

Once the right teachers are hired, it’s equally important to ensure these outstanding educators decide to stay year after year. The toolkit offers templates for effective teacher recognition emails, guides to minimize teacher burnout, and a case-study of smart teacher retention.

Compensation and Career Pathways

Like all professionals, salary, benefits, and career advancement are critical components of job satisfaction for teachers. These elements are very connected to overall school culture and can impact whether teachers feel valued and excited about their long-term potential at a school or within a network. The toolkit offers an example of a performance-based compensation system, a sample teacher career ladder, and a sample application for a teacher leadership opportunity. Both school and network leaders can use these resources to help ensure their compensation and career pathway policies reinforce strong cultures at the school level while giving their best teachers more opportunities to shape policies and practices beyond their own classroom.


Kat Sullivan director of advocacy communications at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


Download the School Culture Toolkit!