Which Leadership Job Will He Take?

Short story. Charter school teacher goes to grad school. Leadership program. My view is he is very talented. We'll call him Jeremy Chin.

Jeremy has 2 placements as a grad student. One is a No Excuses charter. One is a traditional district school* - what Roxanna calls a "Choose Your Battles School." Impressed, they offer Jeremy an assistant principal job for next year.

Sort of. There are lots of rules about when and how he can get a job offer.

He is conflicted. One on hand, he wants to take ideas that helped him as a charter teacher and bring it to new school to help teachers there.

On the other hand, he doesn't fully respect the principal. He doesn't run a tight ship, so teachers deal with all sorts of nonsense that could be avoided. Some teachers are quite good, others are okay and hungry to improve, some are burnt out.

He is leaning towards taking the job.

A kid at the school tells a teacher: Fuck You. The principal does NOT discipline the student. No penalty.

Instead, the principal criticizes the teacher! Jeremy knows the details, and says the principal did not do any defensible, helpful "Hey teacher, let's talk together about the causes of this event, and try to come up with ideas on reaching this kid." It was a straight out: Teacher, your fault, shape up.

Jeremy is shocked. He leaves for the day. He decides cannot work for a principal who treats teachers that way.

He activates a charter job lead by emailing a guy he knows. The guy writes back in 45 minutes to set up a time to talk. Within 2 weeks, they've had several interactions. Jeremy is offered a leadership job. He takes it.

* * *

No real "moral of the story" to offer. Two thoughts:

1. This isn't a charter v. district story. The national data says many charters are quite like district schools in performance (Boston is an outlier). And therefore I suspect there may be a proportional number of bad charter leaders to bad district leaders.

In Jeremy's case, he taught in an unusually good charter, and his new school is strong too.

In our work in New Orleans -- coaching in 15 different charter schools -- we see the same distribution in principals. A mix of okay, pretty good, and very good -- but most trying hard, and most generally supportive of their teachers, even though of course there arise differences of opinion about all sorts of matters.

But a few turkeys who behave what can only be called "vindictively" towards teachers, irrationally blaming them when kids commit the most egregious forms of misbehavior.

I'd further observe that while the mechanism of school choice is supposed to erase these charters in theory, as parents should deselect them, that mechanism seems to work more slowly that we'd hope.

2. Seems like there's a Rich-Get-Richer aspect to talent aggregation.

I don't generally think there's much to the view that charters cream the good kids.**

But I do think that certain charter principals "cream" more of the effective staff.

One way these principals succeed as recruiters is by "backing up" teachers when they face stressful discipline issues. (NOT blindly backing up a teacher in every case, that's not what I mean).

**John Thompson this one is for you, I will try to keep restating the following :)

A. I don’t think charters typically serve “exactly the same kids” as district schools. I agree with John T's frame:

“We serve 90% or 95% of the same kids, and we’d like to serve them all, but I acknowledge (have long said, actually) that more of the most-difficult-to-educate kids are in neighborhood schools.”

B. In fact to be precise: in the study of Boston autonomous charter schools and district-run pilot schools by Jon Fullerton, Josh Angrist, Tom Kane, et al, both school types had students who arrived roughly 0.2 standard deviations above the Boston district average. Which roughly squares with your number above, similar kids, not exactly the same.