Five Minutes of (Updated) Fundraising Advice for Charter Schools

By Melanie Horton, Senior Marketing Manager

Originally published October 24, 2017; last updated November 16, 2020

All charter schools can use a few extra dollars to fund projects and programs that support the success of their students. Wherever your school is with its fundraising strategy, there’s always room for evaluation and improvement. We’ve put together a list of five simple actions schools can take to increase donations, as well as a fequick tips to help strengthen the connection to potential and existing donors.  

Five Fundraising Actions Your School Can Take Today

1. Participate in #GivingTuesday: Celebrated the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, GivingTuesday was started in 2012 as a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world” (www.givingtuesday.org). The movement provides an opportunity for charitable organizations to rally their communities and encourage donations to their causes through the use of the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media. For GivingTuesday 2019, online contributions reached $511 million, an increase of nearly 28 percent from the previous year, and the organization estimates that total online and offline donations totaled nearly $2 billion. That same year, the hashtag earned more than 20 billion social media impressions!  You can find several resources to help plan for #GivingTuesday 2020, which falls on December 1 this year, at www.givingtuesday.org, including a toolkit for nonprofits with links to social media templates and messaging along with other ideas for engaging your community. Don’t worry about implementing all the recommendations the first time you participate; you can start by incorporating #GivingTuesday into your existing social media plan, and set aside time well in advance next year to develop a more comprehensive strategy. 

2. Register on Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. There is a simple registration process, so you will need access to the school’s EIN and bank account information. Once you are registered, remind parents, teachers, staff, and other stakeholders to bookmark smile.amazon.com, where they can select your school as their charitable organization of choice; they only need to do this once, and all future eligible purchases made at smile.amazon.com will result in a 0.5% donation to your school.  Once an individual makes a purchase that results in a donation, they’ll be able to view and keep track of the total amount donated to the school across time; this is a fun, useful feature that allows donors to see the collective impact of several small donations made by members of the school community across time.  

3. Remember to ask donors if their employer participates in a matching gift program. Some individuals may not be aware their employer offers a matching gift program, leaving potential fundraising dollars on the table! Make sure to include this reminder on your website’s donation page, as well as in any direct mail fundraising campaigns. While there is technology available for purchase that can be linked to your school’s website, which allows donors to check their employer’s matching gift policy and guidelines on the spot, this is also easy to do without the help of extra tools. Just include a simple, noticeable message that prompts donors to ask if their employer, or their spouse’s employer, participates in a matching gift program. You can also prompt donors to check a box if they already know they have access to a matching gift program and remind them to proceed with the necessary paperwork. Asking donors to check a box makes it easy for you to follow-up about matching gifts.  

What happens next? The donor will then need to request the proper paperwork from their employer (as well as verify that the school is eligible for a matching donation) and submit a matching gift form to your school. Upon receipt of the form, a school employee will need to confirm donation from the individual and submit the form to the employer.  

You may want to check this list of top matching gift companies and share it with your community so those who donate have a quick way to verify if their company has a matching gift policy. This list is not comprehensive as it only covers larger companies with strong matching gifts programs, but it’s still a helpful reference to have. 

4. Register with local supermarkets and other retail stores. Several retailers offer programs that allow customers to donate a percentage of their purchase to the charitable organization of their choice. For example, the Kroger Family of Companies, which operates over 2,700 grocery retail stores across the country, has a Community Contribution Program that allows rewards card users to select a community organization to donate to. If Kroger doesn’t have a presence in your community, you may want to pay a visit to your local retailers to ask if they have similar programs.  

5. Don’t leave grant money on the table! There are hundreds of grant opportunities available to charter schools, some of which require no more than a simple application form.  It can be difficult to make time to focus on grant writing when there are so many other things to get done, which is why EdTec offers grant research and writing services for busy school leaders.  If you wish to speak with someone about how we can customize our services to meet your school’s needs, please send us email to learn moreFor more information about upcoming grant opportunities for charter schools, you can sign up to receive our monthly grants email. 

Three Ways to Strengthen Your School’s Fundraising Program

1. Make your case. The stronger your story, the more compelled your stakeholders will feel to give. Is your per-student funding rate less than the state average? Less than the neighborhood school district? Share these facts with your audience and include numbers when you have them. You’ll also want to include a list of things you aim to accomplish through fundraising, be it reducing class size, purchasing new musical instruments, enhancing facilities, or starting an after-school STEM program, as well as a tally of funds raised to date (if any) and what you’ve been able to accomplish as a result. Give your potential donors proof that their money will be put to good use!

2. Be thankful! Always send timely thank you notes, preferably within two weeks of receiving a donation (and sooner if you can). While it is a nice gesture to send hand-written notes, this is not always feasible, especially for larger schools. Have a template thank you note ready to go, personalize the letter with the donor’s name and donation details, and ask the school’s principal or executive director to sign it.  You might also consider putting together an annual publication that recognizes donors for their contributions and includes information about the projects and improvements that were made possible by their generosity. Donors will enjoy being recognized and be more compelled to give in the future.

3. Stay in touch. Add all donors who are new to your community to your contact list and include them in relevant communications such as newsletters and invitations to upcoming invitations as a way to remind them of all the great things happening at your school and why they should continue to give! It’s always more difficult to reconnect with donors when they haven’t heard from you since their last donation. Donors are important stakeholders, and we want them to feel like they are a true part of the school community. The more we nurture donors, the stronger these relationships will grow over time.   

 

Grant Opportunities for Charter Schools – October 2020

This post includes grant opportunities with deadlines starting in November & December 2020. 

EdTec is here to help your school secure additional funding for day-to-day operations or special projects. We’ve put together a list of regional and national grant opportunities currently available to charter schools. See below for more information.

If you’re interested in receiving timely information about upcoming grant opportunities, sign up for the EdTec grants newsletter here.

Nationwide Grant Opportunities

 

Toshiba America Foundation

Purpose: Grants to USA sixth through twelfth-grade teachers at public and nonprofit private schools to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math learning. Funding is intended to increase student success-rates by introducing creative project-based learning ideas that will make STEM learning fun.
Grant Amount: $5,000
Deadline: November 1, 2020
Learn more.

 

DiscoverE

Purpose: Grants of up to $1,000 to USA nonprofit organizations for educational engineering activities and events for youth. Priority will be given to events, programs, and activities geared toward underserved K-12 students. Funding is intended to provide hands-on learning experiences that inspire an interest and understanding of engineering and take place in or around Engineers Week.
Grant Amount: $1,000
Deadline: November 14, 2020
Learn more.

Regional Grant Opportunities

 

Stocker Foundation

Purpose: Grants to nonprofit organizations in multiple states to improve the academic performance of PreK-8 public school students in eligible counties. Funding is intended to upgrade educational practices and introduce STEAM learning programs.
Region: California – Alameda and San Francisco Counties
Grant Amount: varies
Deadline: December 31, 2020
Learn more.

 

Sunwest Bank Charitable Foundation

Purpose: Grants to California nonprofit organizations for programs that support vulnerable families and children, and provide basic needs such as housing, food, education, healthcare, and safety.
Region: California
Grant Amount: up to $20,000
Deadline: ongoing
Learn more.

 

AMPED, Kids in the Game

Purpose: In-kind grants of youth exercise equipment to schools or an exercise program that encourages children to be active. Interested applicants are required to register as “active schools” prior to applying. The equipment is intended to be used to implement a morning walking/running exercise program designed by the funding source. Each tool kit includes bands, charms, tracking system, sound systems, ropes, and other apparatus.
Region: Northern California & Atlanta, Georgia
Grant Amount: in-kind
Deadline: ongoing
Learn more.

 

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

Purpose: Grants of up to $500 to California K-12 teachers in public schools serving low-income populations. Funding is intended to provide materials that will enhance classroom instruction in life sciences and chemistry.
Region: Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties
Grant Amount: $500
Deadline: first come, first serve
Learn more.

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If you’re interested in receiving timely information about upcoming grant opportunities, sign up for the EdTec grants newsletter here. EdTec can also provide support with grant writing – reach out to our grants specialist to discuss your school’s needs!

From Crisis Management to Strategic Planning: A Four-Step Framework (Part II): Insights & Exercises

(Part Two of a Two-Part Series)

By Guest Blogger Annie Crangle, Partner, Friday

October 2020

Four months ago, as the Friday team prepared to spend the summer taking school leaders through a strategic-planning bootcamp, the following questions were top of mind:

  • Will a short-term crisis turn into an everyday reality? 
  • Can long term-strategic planning be valuable in a crisis? 
  • Could a pandemic actually present a unique opportunity to innovate? 
  • Will the level of overwhelmedness and uncertainty decrease for school leaders, students, and families?

After helping 15 school leaders develop strong reopening plans grounded in a long-term strategic vision, we have more clarity on these questions, as well as some guidance and resources for schools in need of support.

Unfortunately, the crisis has turned into our everyday reality as many school leaders returned to school by extending their distance-learning model. And school staff, parents, and kids are exhausted from the continuous scramble. On the flipside, strategic planning has proven its worth in times of crisis, revealing “lightbulb moments” and helping leaders get a clearer understanding of their ultimate goals.

The connection between short-term planning and long-term planning is now clear in my mind—and becoming more clear in our strategic plan. Now, when I think about reopening our school, I have a much better sense of both the forest and the trees.” —Stacy Emory, Executive Director, San Carlos Charter Learning Center

Before we share more about our process and provide you with tools to start your own planning, here are some takeaways from our summer cohort:

  • Long-term planning provides short-term motivation: Leaders were able to get out of survival mode by establishing a vision for what’s possible on the other side of the crisis. Leaders’ confidence was restored by connecting short-term decisions to long-term solutions, and leaders felt empowered to seize the opportunity presented by the crisis to not only respond, but adapt and re-invent. 
  • A design thinking approach to strategic planning provides structure and flexibility: With frameworks for continuous evaluation, leaders were encouraged to reflect on past circumstances and plan for the future. For example: What did we need before that we don’t need now? What do we need now that we never needed before? What do we have that we can re-purpose in new ways? 
  • School leaders need a space where they can be vulnerable about failures, open with questions, and generous with resources: During and after the cohort, school leaders reported lower levels of anxiety, a high degree of learning, and access to a wealth of new resources and knowledge.  
  • Engaging staff in strategic planning exercises enriches the process and outcomes: After modeling strategic-planning exercises with the leadership group, we discussed how they might adapt these exercises to engage their staff. Many reported repeating the exercises with staff, and those diverse viewpoints strengthened their planning even more. 
  • Strategic planning is a meaningful way to train new leaders: Schools participated in teams of 3-4, some of whom were newly appointed vice principals early in their leadership career. At the end of the cohort experience, these new leaders reported greater awareness of the skills and responsibilities of school leadership and they felt more equipped to step into the role.
  • It’s possible to build relationships and community virtually: Our entire process was facilitated in a virtual environment—through the use of breakout rooms, virtual whiteboards, and play, we were able to collaborate and communicate effectively and build enduring relationships. Our summer cohort requested 3-, 6-, and 12-month check-ins to stay updated on each other’s progress.

As noted in our last post, our process was structured around a four-question framework. For inspiration, here are some sample insights that our cohort participants reported at each phase of the process. And for guidance, we’ve also included some of the tools we developed to help you guide your own strategic planning exercises:

1. What opportunities and challenges do we face? Develop a clear picture of our new reality and identify the most pressing challenges and risks to our model and the communities we serve. 

We asked school participants to complete a PEST Analysis: a summary of opportunities and threats due to Political, Economic, Social, and Technological forces.

We then asked schools to assess how their organization is equipped to respond to these changes by completing a SWOT Analysis: What are the strengths and weaknesses of our program (S&W)? How are we positioned to capitalize on opportunities (O)? How can we mitigate threats (T)? Lastly, we asked schools to put it all together: Based on our external analysis (PEST) and our internal assessment of our organization’s readiness to respond (SWOT), identify our top five strategic priorities.

Through the exercises, one school identified the challenge of redirecting parent volunteers while campus was closed. The school team established a strategic priority to revamp family and community engagement, ultimately developing a system for parents to teach enrichment classes via Zoom.

Another school reflected on their community’s differing views on social justice issues in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter protests. Leaders identified the need to create and implement (in whatever medium) an engaging and effective curriculum aligned with a learner-centered approach, through the lens of social justice and critical consciousness.

2. How will we adapt? Sharpen your focus on critical academic model and operational shifts, and opportunities for innovation. 

We guided school leaders through the essential shifts in developing a new academic plan, illustrating how to: be responsive to students’ changing academic and social-emotional needs; support clear communication and progress monitoring; maintain a commitment to the school’s instructional philosophy and approach; and adhere to new compliance requirements.

“Circumstances may be changing, your process may be changing, but your vision remains the same.” —Jennifer Reyes, EdTec, Guest Facilitator 

Through these exercises, one leader recognized the importance of keeping grade-level learning top of mind, adopting a “high expectations and high support” approach. Another school team reiterated that students craved feedback, so they decided to use formative assessments, hoping students would be motivated by seeing their own progress.

Second, based on their new academic plans, we walked school leaders through three steps to understand the operational and financial implications, asking them:

  • What new people, materials, resources are needed?
  • What existing people, materials, resources can be leveraged in new ways or redirected? 
  • What existing people, materials, resources, can be eliminated or reduced?

“The program drives the budget.” —Dena Koren, EdTec, Guest Facilitator  

School leaders saw opportunities to redirect robust professional developments budget to technology needs. Existing resources such as noise-canceling headphones used in Special Education classes were made available for students to check-out for home use. Another team decided to leverage classroom instructional aides to assist with implementing new health and safety protocols.

3. What’s our plan for making it happen? Map a realistic and financially viable short-term action plan; brainstorm near-term opportunities and long-term vision.

We asked school teams to reflect on five design-thinking questions to ensure each organization not only responds, but adapts, and reinvents through this period of change. (Many leaders repeated this exercise with staff using a virtual whiteboard—something we recommend for every school.)

One school team recognized that moving to a distance model has given them the opportunity to re-envision some foundational instructional approaches.

During week 6 of the 8-week process, we helped leaders collect their planning efforts into a 2020-2023 Strategic Plan Framework, with a focus on what makes their school unique, three-year core goals, key strategies, and vision for success.

4. How will we communicate effectively? Develop your message and communicate key shifts to your students, families, staff, and partners.

Communication is foundational to effective change management. We helped school leaders to engage in a stakeholder-mapping exercise to generate communications strategies and tactics that emerged from the following questions:

  • What is our compelling vision for each stakeholder group? How is that message communicated and reinforced? 
  • Where are people now, and where do we want them to be? 
  • What are the range of perspectives in each stakeholder group? 
  • What initial and ongoing communication is needed to support desired changes?

“Put yourself in the mindset of the stakeholder, what’s the first question a teacher is going to ask when you announce a new change?” —Elise Randall Hill, Rocketship Public Schools, Guest Facilitator 

One school team decided to establish weekly one-on-one check-ins with teachers who were struggling with distance learning, as well as more frequent all-staff meetings for greater communication, camaraderie, and support.

It was a whirlwind eight weeks, but we agree with the school leader who commented at the end of our final session, “Can we start again from the top next week?”


We hope these resources and insights are helpful. And if you need more help to generate a new strategic plan in the midst of this constantly changing landscape, call us. Friday is launching more cohorts this fall, and we invite you to join us.

Four Ways School Leaders Can Promote Equity-Driven Distance Learning

September 4, 2020

Equity is a driving force for charter schools in their quest to provide high-quality education options for all students, regardless of zip code. The COVID-19 pandemic and related school closures have created new challenges in this quest. As we learned this past spring, low-income students are at a greater disadvantage due to disparities in access to infrastructure needed for distance learning. Many schools across the country are starting the new year with either distance or hybrid learning, putting pressure on school leaders to determine how their school will continue to provide equitable learning opportunities for all students and families.

We’ve been following what charter schools are doing in this area and put together a list of suggestions for how school leaders can practice equity-based distance learning in the upcoming school year.

1. Check-in on Students and Families to Ensure Needs are Being Met

The students who are most in need are less likely to have access to a conducive learning environment, technological devices, internet connectivity, and parental supervision. Schools can play a role in helping to connect families to organizations that provide access to technological devices and internet service for reduced or no cost. You might want to check your state department of education’s website for a list of local companies providing discounts. For example, the California Department of Education shares information about special offers by various internet providers across the state. Common Sense Education also shares information about organizations helping to facilitate access to low-cost and free internet service, devices, and educational content.

Schools can also provide families with information about community organizations that can help to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, and childcare. For example, schools can create a list of community resources with instructions on how to initiate contact and make the list easily accessible to all families by sharing it in newsletters and posting it on their website. Alpha Public Schools created a microsite Alpha Family Resources Hub to provide families with information about resources related to distance learning, housing, food, and more.

2. Prioritize Staying Connected with Students to Support Academic Success and Mental Wellness

During distance learning, regular live interaction between teachers and students is important to maintain connection and encourage stronger learning outcomes School leaders are tasked with overseeing the quality of communication between students and teachers while ensuring check-ins are done regularly with different modes of communication such as text, phone, video, small groups, and social media. Maintaining a consistent, open, two-way communication between your school and students and families will allow insight into how students are adjusting to the new learning environment and coping with other issues.

School leaders can create a space for informal and formal conversations with students by implementing virtual advisory groups or individual online meetings. For example, Memphis Merit Academy created a hotline for parents and students to call for help with schoolwork, LifeWork Hotline | Virtual Teacher, to support students’ academic success. A similar model could work to connect students to counselors to support students’ mental health and wellbeing and help students cope with the stresses brought about by the pandemic. School leaders may also call upon social and mental health services by directing families to their teletherapy services while emphasizing mindfulness, playtime, and exercise to help parents and guardians structure time at home.

3. Provide Flexibility That is Responsive to Students’ Unique Needs and Abilities

It’s important to consider students’ unique needs and experiences when planning your school’s distance learning strategy for the 2020-2021 school year. School leaders might consider distributing surveys that solicit student and family feedback on digital learning experiences as well as their home environments. This feedback will make you aware of any barriers to learning such as access to technology, home language, caretaking responsibilities and/or the presence of caregivers, and can help to inform your distance learning strategy and tailor your approach to serve different groups of students. For example, the survey results can help to identify which students have familial obligations during the day and need access to asynchronous instruction, as well as those who require synchronous instruction to keep them engaged and on track.

A survey can also help improve family and student engagement. For example, at the start of distance learning and after noticing that only a few students were engaged in daily learning, Rocketship Public Schools surveyed their families each morning to inquire what students needed to learn at home and worked to address those needs throughout the day. By the end of the school year, nearly every student was engaging in daily learning.

4. Focus on Mitigating Learning Loss

A recent study by NWEA predicts that students will experience a learning loss of 30 percent in reading and 50 percent in math due to school closures related to the COVID-19 crisis. To help mitigate potential learning loss, school leaders can focus on strategies that accelerate student learning. Accelerated learning strategies require that students consistently receive grade-level materials, tasks, and assignments while making the work accessible. This Learning Acceleration Guide might be a helpful starting point for planning your strategy. To make up for the learning loss, the accelerated student learning plan should start as soon as possible, and ideally should be put together by a diverse team of teachers, administrators, and school leaders in a series of planning sessions. It is helpful to plan several instructional delivery scenarios and have a high-level plan for each scenario. You’ll also want to identify what unfinished learning needs to be addressed, and when and how. This document from Achieve the Core helps educators identify instructional content priorities in math and ELA in order to stay on grade level while addressing related prerequisite skills.


School leaders across the country are tasked with the challenge of developing strategies that maximize equity outcomes and address the diverse needs of their students during this unprecedented time of school closures. Equity-based distance learning helps to ensure that the most vulnerable students are supported during and beyond the pandemic. The resources cited here can help school leaders to implement school policies and processes that support equitable learning outcomes, as well as to train teachers to diagnose unfinished learning while providing acceleration support to the students most in need. What is your school doing to achieve equity in distance learning? Let us know in the comment section below!

Grant Opportunities for Charter Schools – August 2020

This post includes grant opportunities with deadlines starting in September & October 2020. 

EdTec is here to help your school secure additional funding for day-to-day operations or special projects. We’ve put together a list of regional and national grant opportunities currently available to charter schools. See below for more information.

If you’re interested in receiving timely information about upcoming grant opportunities, sign up for the EdTec grants newsletter here.

Nationwide Grant Opportunities

 

P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education

Purpose: Grants to educators for projects that enhance educational programs through art. Funding is intended to provide students in grades Pre-K to 12 with increased learning opportunities, which can strengthen motor skills and concept training. Eligible use of funds includes the purchase of visual arts supplies to be incorporated into non-art disciplines, including math, science, and geography.
Grant Amount: $1,000
Deadline: September 30, 2020
Learn more.

 

National Society of High School Scholars

Purpose: Grants to high school teachers to benefit students from diverse populations or rural areas, as well as for teachers involved in inclusion and diversity programs for their school or community. Funding is intended to support expenses for field trips, materials, supplies, and other instructional resources used to assist in course delivery.
Grant Amount: $1,000
Deadline: October 1, 2020
Learn more.

 

Constellation

Purpose: Grants to schools for projects that provide students with opportunities to engage with current and future energy challenges. Funding is intended to enable students in grades 6-12 to engage in educational projects that will enhance their understanding of science and technology, and inspire them to think differently about energy.
Grant Amount: $25,000
Deadline: October 1, 2020
Learn more.

 

GameTime

Purpose: Grants to purchase outdoor recreational equipment. Funding is intended to help communities provide children and families with more opportunities for play.
Grant Amount: Up to $50,000
Deadline: October 30, 2020
Learn more.

Regional Grant Opportunities

 

City National Bank

Purpose: Grants to K-12 educators to enhance literacy. Funding may be used to purchase books, software and hardware, CDs, DVDs, and other educational resources.
Region: California (multiple counties), Georgia (Fulton County), Nevada, New York (Manhattan and Suffolk County), Tennessee (Davidson County)
Grant Amount: $1,000
Deadline: October 31, 2020
Learn more.

 

Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation

Purpose: The Foundation is placing an emphasis on capital requests.
Region: California (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties)
Grant Amount: Varies
Deadline: Ongoing
Learn more.

 

Walter and Elise Haas Fund

Purpose: Grants for education to support preparing all Oakland and San Francisco public school students for college, career and civic life.
Region: California (Alameda County and San Francisco)
Grant Amount: $5,000 to $150,000
Deadline: Ongoing; must first submit LOI
Learn more.

 

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If you’re interested in receiving timely information about upcoming grant opportunities, sign up for the EdTec grants newsletter here. EdTec can also provide support with grant writing – reach out to our grants specialist to discuss your school’s needs!

Tracking student engagement and enrollment during distance learning

Tracking Attendance and Engagement During Distance Learning

By the EdTec Data Team 

August 18, 2020

This past spring, many schools learned that tracking student attendance and engagement during distance learning can be a complicated and often messy process. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be! There are many ways to track attendance and engagement in this new learning environment, and you’ll be in better shape if you clearly define which methods your school will use from the start. Accurate data is not only necessary for reporting purposes, it will also help your school to identify students who are not engaging and risk falling behind. We’ve put together a few tips to help schools get a plan in place to track student attendance and engagement this school year.

 

#1 Continue to take attendance on a daily basis 

Most schools need to collect daily attendance to provide evidence of whether a student is present or absent to fulfill state, district, and/or other reporting requirements. This data is also important so that school leaders and teachers have an accurate picture of which students are participating in distance learning and which are not. This data can be used to inform optimal resource allocation and determine the appropriate interventions and supports for those students who need it most.

 

#2 Develop a consistent process for taking attendance that can be applied across learning models 

Schools will likely switch between different instructional models during the 2020-2021 school year, so there should be processes and systems that allow for a seamless transition in attendance recording. To minimize confusion, consider setting up a daily Advisory or Homeroom class that can be used for taking attendance both when the school is offering fully remote instruction and when the school is ready to transition to a hybrid model.

 

#3 Have a system in place for tracking in-person attendance versus virtual attendance 

Even if your school intends to or has already reopened with fully remote learning, plan to have separate codes in place if, and when, the school returns to some form of in-person instruction. Given the vastly different nature of remote learning, the ability to distinguish between and report on the two types of attendance will help schools identify students who may require additional resources and support. Keeping your attendance system as clear as possible will help ease any confusion when in-person instruction resumes.

 

#4 Rely on multiple sources of information to document and verify student engagement 

While the guidance on what qualifies as sufficient documentation of student engagement varies across districts and is evolving, schools should keep track of and be able to demonstrate how students and teachers are being held accountable to one another.

Some sources might include:

  • Gradebook assignments and assignment scores
  • Log in records and log in duration from learning platforms or student portals
  • Daily logs (electronic or paper) that can be saved or stored in a student’s file
  • Online polls or chat history
  • Attendee logs from video or audio calls

If your school uses PowerSchool or Aeries as a student information system, you can reach out to our school data experts for ideas about how to prepare your system for the new school year.

Having a clear plan in place to monitor student attendance and engagement will help your school to collect accurate data for reporting as well as determine which students may need additional support to keep them engaged and learning. How is your school tracking student attendance and engagement? Let us know in the comment section below!

School Reopening Resources

Resources to Help Charter Schools Navigate the Reopening Process

August 3, 2020

As schools prepare for the 2020-21 school year, there are so many factors to consider. We know there is a lot of information out there, and it is difficult to keep track of all the updates. We’ve compiled a list of guidance and resources from government and health agencies as well as charter organizations to help school leaders quickly access the information they need to make critical decisions and prepare for the continued education of their students, be it through remote, hybrid, or in-person instruction.

The list includes national resources as well as links to state-specific guidance in states where EdTec currently has a presence.  We will update the list on an ongoing basis as more information becomes available.

 

National Resources

The Safe Reopening of Charter Schools by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

A collection of public resources on guidance for the safe reopening of charter schools.

State-Specific Resources

California

Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools by the California Department of Education

Released on June 8, this guidebook aims to support public school leaders as they work with local health officers to plan for the safe reopening of campuses and classrooms this fall.

COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs by the California Department of Public Health

Guidance on School Re-Openings by the California Charter Schools Association

A collection of curated research and guidelines for California schools.

Colorado

Planning the 2020-2021 School Year: A Framework and Toolkit for School and District Leaders for Feedback by the Colorado Department of Education

Reopening Schools: Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Education, and Colorado Governor’s Office

COVID-19 League Support by Colorado League of Charter Schools

Resources include news; weekly support calls by topic such as special education, instruction, and technology; and webinars.

Georgia

School Reopening Communications Toolkit by the Georgia Charter Schools Association and the State Charter Schools Foundation of Georgia.

Resources include letters to families, reopening surveys, suggested social media posts, and CDC posters in multiple languages.

Georgia’s K-12 Restart and Recovery by the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Public Health

The report provides guidance to support districts and communities in developing plans for reopening schools.

Louisiana

School Reopening Guidelines and Resources by the Louisiana Department of Education

Reopening Guidance by the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools

A list of links to information on statewide and city-specific guidance on reopening schools.

Nevada

Nevada’s Path Forward: A Framework for a Safe, Efficient, and Equitable Return to School Buildings by the Nevada Department of Education

Guidance for Path Forward Programs of Distance Education by the Nevada Department of Education

A memo with information on minimum requirements for distance education plans, attendance requirements, hybrid learning, professional development, and more. All schools must submit a plan for a Path Forward Program of Distance Education as a contingency plan in the case of future school closures.

New Mexico

Reentry District and School Guidance by the New Mexico Department of Public Education

New York

Reopening Schools: Recover, Rebuild and Renew the Spirit of Our Schools by the New York State Department of Education and the Board of Regents

A website designed to help schools continue to educate students, whether in-person, remotely, or a combination of both.

School Reopening Resources by the New York State Department of Education and The Board of Regents

Resources for teachers and administrators as they plan for the 2020-21 school year.

Tennessee

School Reopening Toolkits and Guidance by the Tennessee Department of Education

A series of 20 toolkits provide guidance on topics such as school nutrition, transportation, special populations, technology, well-being and mental health, charter schools, and staffing.

School Reopening Toolkit: Charter Schools by the Tennessee Department of Education

A collection of checklists, best practices, and resources for charter schools as they prepare for a safe reopening.

 

We will update this list on an ongoing basis as more information becomes available. If you are aware of additional resources that you think would be helpful for us to share with other charters, please let us know in the comments section below!

Leading in a Crisis: Charter School Leaders Share Their Experiences

June 25, 2020

Here at EdTec, supporting charter schools to succeed is at the heart of everything we do, day in and day out. As we navigate this difficult time together, this blog series will address various topics to help school leaders identify the tools, resources, and support they need to lead effectively.  

This time, we reached out to our charter partners to learn more about their experiences over the past few months, including how they’ve tackled distance learning challenges and supported their school communities, as well as what they expect for next school year. We’re grateful to share insights from school leaders at two of our partner schools: Ms. Jade Rivera, Founder/Executive Director of Albuquerque Collegiate Charter School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Dr. Hassan Dornayi, Principal of Para los Niños Charter Middle School in Los Angeles, California.  

 

What has been the biggest challenge of implementing a distance learning plan? How is your school tackling this challenge?

Ms. Jade Rivera: I think the biggest challenge of distance learning that we’ve faced is not being able to maintain the same systems, routines, and structures that are so integral to our school’s overall culture. Our teachers have worked hard to create and implement strong and predictable routines for Kindergarten-2nd grade students, which help our students experience that positive success every day, even if on an online platform.  

Dr. Hassan Dornayi: The uncertainty.  Things are constantly in flux and often you don’t know what things are going to look like even a month ahead, let alone the next school year. For us, this means that we need to be flexible for whatever might come our way.  We have a vision and plan moving forward, but also have in mind how we can change and update if and when we need to, while still ensuring our students and families have what they need to succeed. 

 

What has worked best for you when it comes to managing faculty and staff remotely? Do you have any tips for other school leaders who might be struggling to lead their team from a distance?   

Ms. Jade Rivera: In the normal school setting, we start every day with a quick 5-10 morning huddle. In light of the pandemic, we’ve shifted this to a beginning and end of week huddle. It’s certainly not perfect, but it gives us an opportunity to check in with one another, share wins and highlights from the week, as well as brainstorm how to tackle challenges together. We’ve also held a few informal Zoom happy hour chats, where we can just hang out as friends and share updates from our personal lives. I’ve certainly missed seeing my teammates every day. We’re so much more than just colleagues, they’re some of my closest friends. Connection, now more than ever, is so important.   

 

Are there any resources that have been especially helpful to your school during this time, that you would recommend to other school leaders? This could be an online learning resource but does not have to be – we’d also love to hear about other online tools, community resources, nonprofit organizations, etc.  

Ms. Jade Rivera: Our co-teaching model has lent itself well to collaboration and multi-pronged support for distance learning. Teachers were already used to working in tandem, so team teaching on Zoom with 2 adults per class was a fairly easy transition. Furthermore, it has been a huge help to have co-teachers for online lessons, with one teacher able to focus solely on instruction and the other teacher able to help with technology needs, of both students and teachers.   

 

Are there any unique actions your school is taking to support teachers, students, and/or families that you would like to share with other schools?

Dr. Hassan Dornayi: We are constantly pushing for ways to not just support our students, but also how to support their families.  A student can’t succeed if they don’t have safe, stable, and secure homes. Our integrated services work to ensure our students and families thrive – through education and wraparound support to address concrete needs, and build sustainable growth. These times have been challenging for students and families in a number of ways and we can’t expect students to be academically successful if we haven’t supported their other needs as well.  

 

What has worked well for your school when it comes to supporting students with learning disabilities?  

Ms. Jade Rivera: Our special education teacher maintains very close communication with our special education students and ancillary providers, which helped a great deal when transitioning to online provided services. Continuous communication and flexibility have been absolutely necessary to ensuring our scholars maintain their provided services and learning opportunities.   

 

How do you think the extended school closures will impact “business as usual” once schools reopen? What will learning look like then?

Ms. Jade Rivera: One thing is certain, school will look and feel different come the fall. Our hope is that we are able to continue to implement a strong academic program for all students, while being incredibly thoughtful about the safety and health measures we put in place for everyone in our building.  

Dr. Hassan Dornayi: I think everyone will need to take on the approach of doing whatever is needed to meet a student where they are and address their needs, whether it be fully online or a hybrid model.  I think for our teachers, because many of them are already going above and beyond to help our children, this will be an easier adaptation. Schools that don’t already have an integrated model like ours in place might need to have more preparation to determine where the students’ needs are and how they can help them persevere. 

 

Have you been able to connect with other school leaders during this time to share resources or adviceHow has this helped you to work through challenges?   

Ms. Jade Rivera: I’ve been really fortunate to be able to connect with both local New Mexico leaders, as well as leaders from charter schools across the country. These connections have been tremendously helpful as we worked to design our distance learning plan, and as we begin to think about a hopeful return to school in the fall. Beyond the practical sharing of resources and ideas, it has also been a great support to have a network of colleagues who fully understand the challenges of the work.  

 

Share something good that has come out of this for your school.  

Ms. Jade Rivera: Our families have been so supportive throughout this entire process. From ensuring students stay engaged in their learning, to helping us creatively celebrate our teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week, they have never wavered in their backing and care for our school community. We are lucky to have them.

Dr. Hassan Dornayi: This crisis and transition to remote connection, has shown what an amazing culture we have at the middle school.  We started teaching the Monday after we went on ‘shelter in place’ and our teachers haven’t looked back.  We have virtual classes, assemblies, and connections with our students that keep our positive attitudes and collaborative spirit alive. It has been incredible to be part of this effort.  


While every charter school is different and what works for one school might not work for another, many charter school leaders have found it helpful to hear from their peers to get a fresh perspective and be inspired to try news ways to serve students and families during this challenging time. We hope you found these insights to be helpful, and we would love to hear what has worked well for your school, too – please share your thoughts in the comment section below! 

Leading in a Crisis: Engaging with Prospective Families During School Closures

June 18, 2020

Here at EdTec, supporting charter schools to succeed is at the heart of everything we do, day in and day out. As we navigate this difficult time together, this blog series will address various topics to help school leaders identify tools, resources, and support that can help them lead effectively. This time, we’re providing a few ideas about how schools can utilize virtual and online tactics to engage with prospective families and drive enrollment for next school year and beyond, and have included a few examples of how our school partners and others are already doing that. We are not recommending or endorsing any particular tools or products, but simply sharing a few ideas for inspiration and further discussion among school leadership teams.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, charter schools relied heavily on in-person enrollment strategies such as school tours and special events that showcase student life and the programs and activities the school has to offerBut what happens when prospective families can’t get to campus?   

Like organizations in other fields, there is an opportunity for charter schools to tell their stories and keep their audiences engaged through the use of creative virtual events and other online tactics. We’ve pulled together a few ideas for how your school can focus on digital efforts to move prospective families from consideration to enrollment. Please note that like any other school activities, these ideas and approaches all have to be planned and carried out in accordance with all school policies and legal/ regulatory requirements.  

Social Media

Now is the time to use social media to connect with current and prospective families and the community at largeWith many establishments closed for business as usual, folks are using social media now more than ever, and there is an opportunity for school leaders to use the tools at their disposal to foster engagement.  Before sharing photos or video content on your school’s social media accounts, website, or any other online medium, make sure you reference your school’s media release policy to ensure you are in compliance and only sharing content featuring those students whose parents or guardians have given the appropriate permissions. 

Keep Up with Posting

Rather than curtail your use of social media or scale down on posting, use it as a tool to tell your school’s story and provide a sense of connection within your communityYou can use social media to share how the school is handling distance learning and supporting students and families, as well as to highlight what makes the school unique. As one example, Para Los Niños shared quotes from teachers about why they enjoy teaching at the school during Teacher Appreciation Week. These posts serve to both celebrate teachers as well as communicate the school’s strengths to prospective families.

If you could use some inspiration to help you create visually-appealing social media posts, Canva is a free, user-friendly graphic design tool that offers fun, customizable templates and the ability to design communications sized for multiple social media platforms and other uses. You can also upgrade to a paid model to unlock additional graphics and upload your organization’s official colors and logos for easy reference. Canva can also be used to design and order printed materials.  

Utilize Video

Video on social media is a great way to introduce your school to prospective families. You can ask current students, teachers, and administrators to record short clips about their experience at the school using their phones; these clips can be shared on their own or combined into a longer video about the school. Video is a great way to bring your school to life during this crisis. Albuquerque Collegiate put together videos celebrating their teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week. The videos not only highlight the school’s great teachers, but also touch on why the students like their schoolYour school’s videos don’t have to be tied to a specific holiday; anytime is a good time to share stories about how your school community is staying connected, engaged, and inspired during this period of distance learning 

Go Live!

Going live presents an in-the-moment opportunity for your school to engage with families. Your school can utilize live features on either Facebook or Instagram to host Q&A sessions with prospective families. During this series of live sessionsschool leaders can answer questions from prospective families about the school’s mission and vision, academic and extracurricular programs, and how the school is responding to the crisis. Buffalo Creek Academy, a school scheduled to open in Fall 2020, holds a twice-daily broadcast on Facebook Live and Instagram Live to share information about their mission and academic programs as well as answer questions from participants. Synergy Academies hosted a live event on Instagram’s IGTV video app the night before college signing day to announce where their seniors would be attending college in the fall.  

Create Facebook Groups

Your school can use Facebook groups to connect current and prospective students and families. As a moderator of your school’s private Facebook group, you can share important updates while creating a safe place for prospective families to ask questions. It is important that you set guidelines at the start regarding the goal of the group as well as expectations for conduct.   

Virtual Events

Across the country, schools are finding unique ways to tap into virtual events to promote their enrollment efforts, such as hosting virtual school tours. In the absence of campus tours and in-person interactions, virtual events provide an opportunity for schools to continue their enrollment efforts. Below are a few ways that your school can use virtual events to meet families where they are and give them the information they’re looking for.   

Virtual Tours

Virtual tours are the new school tours during this time of school closure. It is a great way to engage prospective families and provide an on-campus experience without asking anyone to leave their homes. Success Academies used a sophisticated web-based application to put together this virtual tour of an elementary school. For schools looking for a quicker or less expensive option, a virtual tour can be recorded by anyone using phone or video equipment, and they can even narrate the tour to include examples of activities that take place in each part of the campus. If your school doesn’t have access to this equipment or the campus is not open for access right now, you can utilize existing photos to put together a presentation that describes the campus so that prospective parents and students can visualize what it might be like to attend school there 

Virtual Information Sessions

Your school can organize virtual information sessions or town halls by using a video conferencing platform you are familiar with, such as Zoom These town halls can follow the format of a typical school information session,  where an administrator gives an introduction to the school and moderates the event, and other staff or school ambassadors (including teachers, students, and parents) participate by sharing their experiences and taking questions from the audience. Always make sure to check your video conference platform’s security recommendations to minimize the risk of unwelcome guests and other concerns.   

To help ensure the event runs smoothly, require folks to register in advance; this way, you can manage crowd size and know what to expect. You can also request that participants submit questions in advance so you and your team can assign them to the person most equipped to answer and prepare to have the information needed to provide a meaningful response.   

Ethos Classical Charter School gives prospective families the option to set-up a one-on-one information session by using the Calendly scheduling tool. A callout is included on their home page, along with an email address for those with questions. The sessions are led by members of the school’s leadership team.  

To advertise the event, post the details on your website and share it on social media. Include links to additional information and prompt folks to sign-up, if applicable. You can also record these town halls and post them on your school’s website and social media to both build your content bank and share it with those who weren’t able to participate live.  

Just like with in-person events, it’s important that everyone who represents the school during virtual events has had the training to ensure consistent and appropriate messaging. 

Other Virtual Sessions

Beyond more formal virtual events such as town halls, some schools are planning virtual office hours or “coffee chats with the principal”. While most of these events target current families who may have urgent questions about the school’s distance learning plan, they can also be used as a fun, informal way to engage with prospective students and parents. 

Schools may also want to consider thematic virtual events that target specific interests. For example, school leaders could partner with a few coaches to organize a “virtual sports chat” to share information about the school’s athletic programs and accolades as well as take questions from prospective students interested in joining sports teams.  A similar event could be organized with college and career counselors to discuss the school’s track record with college admissions and spotlight a few students who were recently accepted into the colleges of their choice.  

Website

Your school website is a primary source of information about your school, and it’s the first place many current and prospective families go when they have a question. Families are likely looking for information about how the school is responding to the current environment and how it might impact the school’s plans for next school year. It is important that your website includes a section about how learning continues at your school, and that your home page includes a straightforward link to this section, so visitors don’t have to dig for it. 

Create New Landing Pages for Virtual Events

Since your school’s website is a primary source of information, it is an ideal place to include details about all your public-facing virtual events. A good way to make the event information easily accessible is to create a new page dedicated to promoting your virtual events. This page would host the event details along with registration information, if necessary. You can also use this page as a media hub and post photos and videos that highlight your school’s mission, culture, and achievements. Method Modern Public Schools has an events page that also includes links to virtual tours of universities, museums, and other sites with no specific dates attached.  

To encourage attendance at your virtual events, include them in the newsfeed on your home page for increased visibility, and link to them on your social media. 

Provide Enrollment Information

To make things simple for parents and students looking to submit an open enrollment forminclude all relevant deadlines and information on your website and link to it on your homepage so it is easy to find. You can also provide a form on the website where parents can submit questions and get answers regarding enrollment and/or address this information on a frequently asked questions page (more on this below). 

Create a Frequently Asked Questions Page

Create a Frequently Asked Questions page to address the most common questions you receive from parents. You could include questions about enrollment, academic and extracurricular programs, and school culture, and also use this as an opportunity to highlight what makes your school unique so that parents don’t have to search for it elsewhere. Rocketship Public Schools has a robust FAQ page that also includes questions and answers about charter schools to address common misconceptions.  

Protect Yourself! 

While there are lots of creative ideas and easytouse technology tools for virtually engaging with current families in your school community and prospective families, it is always advisable to step back and to evaluate in advance what is to be shared online by your school, and by representatives of your school, for appropriateness, compliance, and security.  Leverage the appropriate legal and related expertise, including recommended training for your team, for smoother virtual family engagement. 


While school doors are closed for the remainder of this school year, now is the time to look ahead and think about how you will make next year a success. Although using in-person events as an enrollment marketing tool is unlikely for the near future, there is still a tremendous opportunity for your school to use digital tools such as social media and virtual events to build up your enrollment pipeline.

From Crisis Management to Strategic Planning: A Four-Step Framework

(Part One of a Two-Part Series)

By Guest Blogger Annie Crangle, Partner, Friday

In the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with school administrators, lawyers, financial advisors, and educational consultants about the new realities that K-12 schools are about to encounter. As you can imagine, these conversations have felt overwhelming. This pandemic has underscored our vulnerability, the inequities that persist in our society and education system, and outdated elements in the way some of our schools are designed.

Teachers are finding it hard to give kids the consistency and structure they need to thrive from a distance. One school leader is finding that Montessori’s hands-on principles aren’t easy to adapt to an online platform. And critical social-service nonprofits are cutting their workforces, putting additional stress on schools that can’t be addressed by digital learning curriculums.

It’s not surprising to see education leaders hustle, scramble, and innovate in response to the crisis. You’ve worked hard to provide equitable transitions for the children and families that you serve, and have, in many instances, overcome challenges surprisingly fast. But as the immediate crisis turns into our everyday reality, some of the long-term challenges seem even more daunting: How will we transition students back into a daily school routine that will look much different from before? How will teachers make up for lost learning? How will we plan for 2021 and beyond knowing budget cuts are inevitable and health protocols will fluctuate?

Having spent the past seven years guiding schools in strategic planning processes, I’ve seen first hand the value in this type of planning (pre- and post-pandemic). While a school’s charter outlines your commitment to the students you serve, a strategic plan allows you to brainstorm where you want to go next without worrying about compliance requirements. Make no mistake: A strategic plan is a serious document, but the process and outcome provide much-needed freedom to explore what’s working well, what isn’t working well, and what you aspire to achieve long term.

In the midst of all of this change, schools have a unique opportunity to innovate: Whether by choice or out of necessity, we’re likely to see a fundamental redesign of the school model, including tech advancements, more equitable digital access, smaller class sizes, adjusted school calendars, even dramatic restructuring of teacher and staff time.

 Based on strategic planning best practices, we encourage school leaders to:

  • Analyze what’s likely to change your students’ and families’ lives and the education sector at large;
  • Consider your school’s anticipated needs and evolving demands, the relevance of your current model, and overall capabilities;
  • Create a list of threats and opportunities; and
  • Identify your long-term vision for the next 5-10 years, then plan the steps you need to take each year to reach that destination.

From our experience leading strategic planning for public charter schools across the state of California, we’ve developed a framework to help schools emerge on the other side of change in a way that’s aligned to their identity and responsive to the needs of their community.

Let’s jump in.

Gather your leadership team and answer four broad questions to develop the essential building blocks of an effective plan:

1. What opportunities and challenges do we face? Develop a clear picture of our new reality and identify the most pressing challenges and risks to our model and the communities we serve.

For example, in addition to tracking economic, health, and policy trends and potential implications for your school, can you also say with certainty how the needs of your students, families, and staff have shifted? Perhaps some staff, students, and parents in your community are struggling to use the technology needed to sustain remote learning; or maybe some students need more social-emotional support.

2. How will we adapt? Sharpen your focus on the critical model and operational shifts and opportunities for innovation.

In other words, how must you change to respond? For example, given your learning targets, and the challenges of distance learning, identify new methods of teacher collaboration and professional development to equip teachers with new skills.

And how might you change to creatively meet the shifting needs? For example, for your most vulnerable students, how could you tap into young people in your community who are temporarily out of work or school to volunteer, as a way to increase individual and small group tutoring and/or mentorship for students? 

3. What’s our plan for making it happen? Map a realistic and financially viable short-term action plan; brainstorm near-term opportunities and long-term vision.

Map three potential scenarios based on different projections of health and financial status. Prioritize action steps in terms of urgency (i.e., How likely are we to need to do this?) and impact (i.e., How much will this impact our ability to serve students and families?). 

A high-priority item might be re-structuring staff given budget shortfalls, or developing a new calendar and facility plan to accommodate social-distancing requirements; a medium-priority item might be identifying donors for needed technology resources; a low-priority item might be reaching out to local colleges or universities for volunteers.

Think about what it will take to implement fundamental changes and introduce new programming (staff time, scheduling, possible stipends, etc.), while also planning for various possible financial and health scenarios. Before launching any new initiatives, also consider scheduling a focus group with your target audience to make sure the program is designed effectively.

4. How will we communicate effectively? Develop your message and communicate key shifts to your students, families, staff, and partners.

How will you keep your community informed of critical updates? How will you let them know about new opportunities and resources? (Newsletter, social media, website updates, etc.) You should also think about how you will measure the results so you can revisit periodically and make adjustments as needed.

While we recognize it is impossible to plan for every change, we believe if schools are supported to plan, they will emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis.

In our next post, we’ll help you answer each strategic question in-depth and share key insights from our experience guiding a cohort of schools through an 8-week planning process.

If you need more immediate support and you’re interested in doing this work with other school leaders facing similar challenges, consider joining Friday’s strategic planning cohort, launching the last week of May. Over an 8-week period, our team and network of expert advisors in the areas of operations, finance, legal, and school performance will guide school teams through a step-by-step process to systematically address the complexity of challenges your school is facing and to organize your team’s response.