Identifying Indicators of Distress in Charter Schools: A School Leader and Board Member Master Class

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Introduction

As a school leader or board member, your goal is to provide students attending your charter school with a well-rounded and high-quality education while positioning your school for long-term sustainability. Given all that goes into accomplishing this goal, both internal and external to your school, it can be easy for challenges to bubble up and go unnoticed. The purpose of NCSRC’s Identifying Indicators of Distress research is to help schools understand the early warning signs of school decline and provide tools and resources to mitigate these challenges to school sustainability.

NCSRC has created a number of resources to help school leaders and governing boards leverage this research in their own context. This includes an introductory workshop on the indicators of distress, a report on findings gleaned from interviews with school leaders and board members about school failure, and a workshop on how to stave off distress. It also includes a set of asynchronous videos designed to facilitate dialogue around these findings with school leadership teams and board members.

Learning Objectives

After engaging in the resources below, school leaders and board members will gain an understanding of:

  1. The factors that demonstrate that a school is showing early signs of distress and
  2. Tools they can use to assess their operations to better identify schools showing early signs of distress. 

Master Class Contents  

Module #1: Webinar - Indicators of Distress and What They Mean in the Charter Sector: A Workshop for School Leaders on Using the Early Indicators of Distress

Module #2: Report - Identifying Indicators of Distress in Charter Schools, Part 2: The Roles and Perspectives of Charter School Leaders and Board Member

Module #3: Webinar - Preparing, Preventing, and Responding to Stave Off Distress in Charter Schools

Module #4: Facilitated Discussion Videos - Preparing, Preventing, and Responding to Stave Off Distress in Charter Schools

Additional Recommended Reading/Viewing


Module #1: Webinar

Indicators of Distress and What They Mean in the Charter Sector: A Workshop for School Leaders on Using the Early Indicators of Distress

Charter school leaders and board members attended this session to explore the findings of NCSRC’s Identifying Indicators of Distress in Charter Schools – Part 1: The Role and Perspectives of Charter School Authorizers report. During the workshop, participants learned about the indicators and why they matter for schools and charter management organizations. The report’s researchers shared key details to help leaders and board members obtain a deeper understanding of the factors authorizers identified as “red flags” that appear in a school prior to failure.

Participants then engaged in small group discussions on how the indicators may be applied in their own contexts. Participants also received a self-assessment tool to help them evaluate their schools related to the indicators shared in the report. 

Webinar Materials (also available on the sidebar at the top right of this page)

Supplemental Workbook 

Slide Deck


Module #2: Report

Identifying Indicators of Distress in Charter Schools, Part 2: The Roles and Perspectives of Charter School Leaders and Board Members

Cover of the Identifying Indicators of Distress reportThis brief describes the characteristics of schools when they show signs of early distress from the perspectives of school leaders and governing board members.

The findings in this report support school leaders and governing board members in creating and sustaining high-quality schools by recognizing the various signs of early school decline before schools spiral into failure. Identifying schools in distress affords schools, and the ecosystem supporting them, the opportunity to intervene earlier, before failure is too deep, systemic, or extensive to recover. 

 

Resource Webpage

Download Resource
 


Module #3: Webinar

Preparing, Preventing, and Responding to Stave Off Distress in Charter Schools

NCSRC hosted an interactive webinar to support charter school leaders and board members in applying the findings from the report Identifying Indicators of Distress in Charter Schools, Part 2: The Roles and Perspectives of Charter School Leaders and Board Members, above. The event was convened to answer the question, “How can we identify whether a school is falling off track and help them get back on track?”

During the session, NCSRC provided schools and governing board members with knowledge and tools to help them stave off distress in their schools by understanding the importance of identifying distress early and creating systems, processes, and procedures to prevent or mitigate potential stressors. Together, attendees explored why they should be aware of indicators of distress, the report’s findings about common indicators of distress, and how to use this information to get their school back on track.

Webinar Materials (also available on the sidebar at the top right of this page)

Slide Deck


Module #4: Facilitated Discussion Videos

Preparing, Preventing, and Responding to Stave Off Distress in Charter Schools

Now that you’ve explored the early warning signs of school distress, it is time to put that knowledge in to action. NCSRC has prepared three videos, each full of facilitated activities, to help your team and governing board explore how to prepare for, prevent, and respond to distress in your school.

Directions:

  1. Invite your leadership team and members of your governing board to three meetings—either in-person or virtually—to explore whether you are showing early signs of distress. Schedule your first meeting for 90 minutes and your second and third meetings for 75 minutes each.
  2. When you invite your team to these meetings, share Identifying Indicators of Distress in Charter Schools, Part 2: The Roles and Perspectives of Charter School Leaders and Board Members and/or the accompanying webinar recording above, and ask that they read the report or view the webinar in advance of the first meeting. 
  3. Also, share the supplemental workbook (also available in the list of resources on the top-right of this page) with your attendees and ask that they may reflect upon the questions in the workbook prior to the first meeting.
  4. At the start of the meeting, hit “play” on the corresponding video. Pause the video when prompted to further discuss questions and concepts with your team.
  5. Hold yourself accountable to the action items your team prioritizes and schedule check-ins to ensure you are making progress on addressing areas of distress.

Video #1: How to Create Effective Systems that Prepare for Distress

Video #2: How to Scan Your Context to Prevent Distress

Video #3: How to Pivot in Response to Challenges to Prevent Distress


Additional Recommended Reading/Viewing

Four Domains for Significant and Sustainable Charter School Improvement: A Systems Framework for the Charter Context

Webinar: Don’t Stop Improving: A Strategic Approach to School Improvement Using the Four Domains


Tell Us What You Think

After using this learning module, please share your feedback in this survey, especially any additional resources that would help you apply the indicators of distress to your context.