Charter schools don’t appear out of thin air – they’re built with the time and energy of the school’s leaders, families, staff, board, and neighboring community. Unlike the traditional public schools run by local school districts, charter schools are often built from scratch, in many cases starting as an innovative idea of a few entrepreneurial educators.
Sleepless nights and weekends go into tackling problems like finding a school site, setting up HR protocols, and developing rigorous curricula. At CCSA, we know how challenging this process can be. As part of CCSA’s efforts to support the important work of leaders, CCSA ran a year-long school leader support effort called The Mentor Project.
Through The Mentor Project, we’ve learned a lot about how school leader support programs can help new leaders. Today, we’re publishing two short papers on school leader mentoring programs with lessons learned and recommendations for future programs.
Being the leader of a new charter school can be an immensely rewarding experience for an educator or working professional hoping to have an impact beyond the classroom. However, daily challenges as simple as cleaning up after a leaky faucet, to more complicated tasks like balancing a budget, mandatory paperwork for an authorizer, and building community relationships, all demand a leader’s attention away from instructional leadership.
We interviewed and surveyed the 15+ charter leader participants of CCSA’s The Mentor Project and found that leaders agreed having a mentor was helpful for:
- Reducing isolation
- Increasing new leaders’ focus on instruction
Based on leaders’ positive impressions of the project, we believe mentoring programs can be one way for support organizations and education-focused philanthropies to reduce feelings of isolation and distress in new charter leaders. We recommend that future school leader support programs:
- Tailor any resources to the challenges self-identified by leaders
- Emphasize similarities between new and experienced leader pairings
- Create clear expectations for participation
Click here to read our full report summarizing CCSA’s The Mentor Project, and here to read up on CCSA’s guidelines for charter leader mentoring, based on our experiences in the project. We’ve also uploaded CCSA’s Instructional Leadership Framework, a guide for leaders looking to encourage a focus on the continuous improvement of students, both in and out of the classroom.