Charter schools aren’t new. California lawmakers gave charter schools the green light to teach students in 1992. The charter public school concept makes a lot of sense, especially for low-income families. Charter schools develop innovative ways to teach students the basics. But they also offer students enrichment courses that expand their talents and their creativity. Charter schools don’t charge tuition. All children can attend a public charter school because there are no entrance exams or special requirements. Some people think charter schools are private learning institutions, but the term “hybrid” might be a better term to use when describing a charter public school.
There are people who believe charter schools are controversial, but according to researchers at the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, charter schools outscore traditional public schools in math and reading. Urban areas seem to benefit from the trust, honor, and respect for diversity that are part of a good charter school’s mission statement.
Not all charter schools live up to their mission of teaching students how to learn the way they are wired learn. And that is creating issues for charter schools that don’t have teachers who know how to multi-task. Public charter school teachers don’t just interact with students. They must successfully interact with parents, other teachers, and the community. Charter school teachers are a special breed. Their ability to teach in normal, as well as difficult situations, make a difference in the effectiveness of charter schools.
One of the bright spots in the charter school space is Rocketship Education. Rocketship charter elementary schools teach students in California, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and in Washington, D.C. Rocketship sets the bar high for other public schools that try to teach low-income students the basics as well as broaden their awareness of the world they live in.
Rocketship’s CEO Preston Smith is a good example of a charter school educator who knows the value of visiting students at home. Teachers who interact with parents and students at home break down the barrier that exists between teachers and parents in normal public schools. There isn’t a “Us Against Them” teacher vs. parent mentality in the Rocketship Education mission statement. Students learn the fundamentals in Rocketship classes, but they also learn there is more to education than just books and tests.
Rocketship has a clear mission. The teachers do instructional planning that includes understanding individual learning styles as well as assessing each student’s strengths. Teachers want to bring the outside into the classroom, so that there are multi-level parent and community interaction. Rocketship knows relationships grow through transparency, purpose, and intentionality. Teachers unlock the hidden potential in students when students feel comfortable, safe, and respected.
Effective charter schools build operating systems that identify what methods are working and what methods of learning need work. Good charter school operating systems create flexibility and speed when it comes to responding to questionable events before they become issues. Good charter schools make real-time decisions, and that improves relationships and brings additional value to charter schools.
The other important piece in any charter school mission is to recruit and hire competent members of the teaching staff. Charter schools must retain quality teachers by expanding professional opportunities without complicated teaching hoops to jump through. Good charter schools focus on the potential leadership skills in their teachers. Once those skills are identified, teachers can function without constant intervention from school executives. Developing innovative and successful charter schools is a joint effort. Teachers create the desire to learn when learning is more about individual understanding, compassion, and positive reinforcement.