Case Study: Charter Application Development, Leadership Coaching, and Charter Renewal

Exploration Elementary Charter School for Science & Technology is a tuition-free public charter school in Rochester, New York, serving approximately 475 students in grades K-5. In 2014, the founding stakeholders at Exploration Charter School for Science and Technology engaged SchoolWorks to develop a high-quality charter application and to manage the timely submission of all materials to the New York State Education Department’s Charter Schools Office. The application was approved by the Board of Regents in 2015, and the school launched in August of 2016. In 2021, SchoolWorks was contracted to support the development of Exploration’s first renewal application, which was submitted to the Board of Regents in August of that year and successfully resulted in renewal. SchoolWorks has subsequently provided improvement support to the school team in the form of facilitated strategic planning, instructional training, and leadership coaching. In 2023, SchoolWorks was contracted to support the development of Exploration’s second renewal application.

The Challenge
  • Support the improvement of academic, operational, and fiscal practices following Exploration’s first renewal term, which was impacted by the unprecedented school closures, student learning loss, and cancellation of state assessments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Provide capacity building and intentional support to elevate the overall quality of instruction.
  • Submit a compelling and concise renewal application.
  • Appropriately prepare the Exploration board and the leadership team for the renewal site visit.
SchoolWorks Approach
  • SchoolWorks experts provided coaching to three members of Exploration’s leadership team.
    • The process began by determining the right match of coach to leader. Each school leader had the opportunity to review resumes and interview 5 SchoolWorks leadership coaches to identify their top choice of coach. Once the matches were made, each coach engaged in an inquiry approach to learn more about the coachee, build the relationship, and use the data to inform the coachee’s year-long goal. Over the course of the 23-24 school year, the coach and coachee engaged in an ongoing and highly collaborative cycle of implementing actions and monitoring progress towards student achievement and their leadership competency goals.
    • To best support Exploration Elementary and provide continuity of efforts, the coaching supports were rooted in the school’s Strategic Plan. Using the Strategic Plan as a foundation, the dedicated SchoolWorks coaching team met monthly with key members of the school leadership team to 1) strengthen and develop the capacity of individuals and 2) provide accountability for progress toward the defined goals of the plan.
  • SchoolWorks specialists worked with the Exploration leadership team to gather data, develop attachments, and finalize the school’s application for charter renewal, due in two parts. Benchmarks 2-10 were submitted to meet the August 2023 deadline, and Benchmark 1 was submitted for the October 2023 deadline. The application reflected on the school’s charter term, presented how and to what extent the mission, key design elements, and implementation of the charter have proven effective in improving student achievement, as well as the changes envisioned upon renewal.
    • The school’s improvements, diligent work, strengths, and opportunities for growth were communicated in the application narrative.
    • The SchoolWorks specialists ensured that Exploration’s unique story was told to effectively highlight their programmatic innovations and successes.
  • SchoolWorks also helped prepare the leadership team and the board for the upcoming Renewal Site Visit through a mock interview.
    • Following the submission of the renewal application, the SchoolWorks specialist hosted two 2-hour training sessions, one for Board members and one for school leadership team members.
    • During each training session, the SchoolWorks specialist posed a series of targeted questions that were likely to be asked during the site visit and provided real-time, actionable feedback on the responses provided by Exploration team members. Following the session, the lead provided a summary of notes the board, including board members that were unable to attend, could reference.
Results
  • Provided leadership coaching in alignment with Exploration’s strategic plan.
  • Exploration demonstrated significant improvement in its NYSED 2019 Charter School Performance Ratings. Specifically, six benchmarks that did not earn a Meets rating in the school’s previous renewal were brought to a Meets in the second renewal.
  • In May 2024, the charter for Exploration Charter School for Science and Technology earned another renewal term, allowing the school to continue to provide the Rochester community with expanded school choice options.

 

"We had an absolutely AMAZING experience with SchoolWorks!"
- Rachelle Simmons, Former Principal
Dates: 2014-2024

 

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