Time for Charter Schools’ Strategic Planning

 The COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc on charter schools, and all schools, across the country. While the pandemic led to many students’ significant learning loss, it has also created a unique opportunity to reflect on how schools can best meet the needs of their students and leverage federal stimulus funds. The Learning Collective can help schools determine the best next steps forward.

Specifically, The Learning Collective suggests schools, especially charter schools, create strategic plans that provide a roadmap for student and school success over a 2-3 year period. With our experiences in strategic planning, evaluating hundreds of brick-and-mortar schools nationally, and online learning, The Learning Collective (TLC) is uniquely positioned to lead the development of schools’ strategic plans.

TLC has extensive experience in assisting charter schools with strategic planning. TLC has recently worked with the stakeholders of several New York charter schools – Academy of the City (Queens), Charter School of Inquiry (Buffalo) and Discovery Charter School (Rochester) – to develop their multi-year strategic plans. TLC’s work contributed to authorizers renewing the charters of Academy of the City and Discovery Charter School and we anticipate Charter School of Inquiry’s charter also being renewed. Additionally, TLC has led strategic planning initiatives with dozens of charter schools in California and Minnesota. TLC has also worked with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and other organizations on school evaluation and strategic planning projects regarding Idaho, Florida, New York and Oklahoma authorizers. In 2019 and 2020, TLC worked with the Tennessee State Board of Education to lead its strategic planning and goal-setting process, determining the five-year direction for all 1,700 public schools in Tennessee representing approximately 1,000,000 students!

Typically, there are three steps to our strategic planning:

STEP 1: WHERE THE SCHOOL IS

TLC conducts a school quality review based on TLC’s school quality review process. School board members, school leaders, teachers, parents and students participate in the school quality review. Instructional leaders accompany TLC on classroom observations. TLC then writes a report based on that school quality review.

STEP 2: WHERE THE SCHOOL WANTS TO BE

In this step, the entire school community defines the school’s preferred state. Facilitated by TLC, and informed by the TLC Remote School Quality Review Report and the school’s latest student assessment results, the school develops an updated vision and mission. Through online document editing and in-person focus groups with board members, school leaders, teachers, parents and possibly students, TLC helps define the elements that were, and should stay, unique to the school while keeping an eye toward continually improving student outcomes. The updated mission is succinct and clearly understandable by all stakeholders; the finalized mission statement should pass the “t-shirt test” by being printable and legible on a t-shirt.

STEP 3: HOW THE SCHOOL WILL GET THERE

Facilitated by TLC, the school determines the desired outcomes and action steps to meet the school’s updated mission. Specifically, through in-person focus groups and online document editing, the school determines SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timebound) Goals. To support the SMART Goals, school stakeholders (board members, school leaders, teachers, parents and local community leaders) consider a range of Action Steps (through online surveys, online document editing and video conferencing). TLC coalesces the recommendations into a draft document that the board and school leaders study, and provide input on, leading to TLC delivering a cohesive final version of the strategic plan.