For Charter School Renewal, It’s About Active Listening

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For Charter School Renewal, It’s About Active Listening

Guerschmide Saint-Ange served as executive director of La Cima Elementary Charter School, where she led the school through the global pandemic. She is a co-author of NACSA’s 2021 NACSA Supplemental Renewal Guidance.

NACSA’s 2021 Supplemental Renewal Guidance encourages authorizers to approach COVID-era renewals with both an equity and high-quality accountability lens. The guidance offers sample questions and responses for authorizers, but is neither a checklist nor a rubric. That’s intentional. We believe this is an opportunity for authorizers to engage in quality listening and good judgement to achieve our commitment to increasing access to great school options.

As I noted in August, renewal gives schools the opportunity to tell their stories. But in order for authorizers to understand and act on these stories, authorizers must actively listen to get to a deeper conversation. 

So without a rubric, what makes a quality response that authorizers can use to assess conversations with school leaders?

Components of a quality response from school leaders — or what authorizers should listen for:

  • Reflection and thoughtfulness: School leaders demonstrate a thorough analysis about what is going well and what needs to be improved. While discussing what is going well, authorizers should listen and probe for (especially with follow-up questions) how school leaders used quantitative and/or qualitative data to determine the efficacy of the program. When transitioning to what needs to be improved, authorizers should listen and probe for a plan that is informed by qualitative and/or quantitative data and sound education practices that drive student outcomes. 
  • Responsible use of data: Whether citing the use of qualitative or quantitative data, school leaders use a sample size that is not anecdotal in nature.(100% of the school population is not necessary, but the data should be representative of demographics of the school.) Authorizers should listen and probe for how school leaders make reasonable efforts to collect more data and/or address the root cause of low participation rate (such as addressing a lack of access to technology). Authorizers should listen and probe for how leaders collect information and data about student needs and performance and how they take action informed by that data. 
  • Sound decision making: Just as great authorizers make decisions based on what drives student outcomes, great school leaders do the same. Authorizers should listen and probe for how school leaders take data-driven actions that have academic and social-emotional learning outcomes for students. Authorizers should understand how school leaders make timely decisions, proactively collect data about the efficacy of their decisions, and make real-time adjustments to improve outcomes.  

Active listening plays a critical role in the authorizer-school partnership, one that can help lead to achieve equity and quality in our schools.

If you are looking for more support on renewal guidance, reach out to Amy Ruck Kagan about office hours and make sure to register for our conference where we’ll have sessions dedicated to understanding and implementing this guidance. 

Guerschmide Saint-Ange served as executive director of La Cima Elementary Charter School for three years, where she led the school through the global pandemic. She previously served as an authorizer with the New York City Department of Education. She is a co-author of NACSA’s 2021 NACSA Supplemental Renewal Guidance.


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