Effort to create dynamic new charter schools draws ASU alumni

ASU Fellows

Graduates of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College represent 11 of the 20 individuals selected through a highly competitive process for an Aspiring Leaders Fellowship by the Arizona Charter Schools Association. In its inaugural year, the fellowship enables these potential school leaders to learn the best practices of top performing schools nationwide. Fellows also make their own plans to open successful schools aimed at closing the achievement gap in Arizona.

In offering the Aspiring Leaders program, the Charter Schools Association is collaborating with Teach For America and the Arizona Department of Education.

“The Aspiring Leaders Fellows represent the type of individuals we look to prepare – those who are dedicated to impacting education,” said Mari Koerner, dean of Teachers College, “We are pleased to see so many of our alumni selected as fellows who aim to be transformational leaders in our education system.”

The fellows currently are engaged in a six-month process of attending seminars to build the skills of an effective school leader, visiting successful charter schools, interacting with top school leaders and crafting a vision for their own schools. Fellows who demonstrate leadership competencies and have developed a clear vision for a high-quality charter school will be invited to apply for the Arizona Charter Schools Association’s Charter Starter program.

“We are looking to take a cohort of up to ten teams for the Charter Starter phase of school development support,” said Andrew Collins, senior director of school development for the Arizona Charter Schools Association. “Several of the Aspiring Leaders will transition into the program, and there is room for other well-established teams – potentially from ASU programs – that have a clear school vision and a commitment to excellence for all students.”

Applications to the Charter Starter program are due Oct. 15.

Among the ASU graduates participating in the Aspiring Leaders program is Peter Boyle, who became a teacher with Teach For America at Pioneer Preparatory School: A Challenge Foundation Academy in west Phoenix’s Maryvale neighborhood.

“I was drawn to education by my internal drive to give back and to serve. I believe education is the cornerstone to a child’s successful future,” Boyle said. “I wanted to make sure that, since teaching was a change from my original career path, I was building the knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary to truly increase my students’ educational outcomes, and that ambitious goal required more training.

“I joined ASU’s InMAC program to accomplish this goal. The InMAC program is for teachers to be inducted into the profession while also completing a M.Ed. degree. The support from ASU faculty in observing me teach and providing in-the-moment feedback that I could implement to improve my teaching practice the very next class period was critical to my, and thus by extension my students’, success in the classroom,” he said.

Boyle aspires to open a new Challenge Foundation Academy to help accomplish his goal of improving the life trajectory of Maryvale’s young people through education.

Another ASU graduate selected as an Aspiring Leader is Nicole Fernandez, who earned her master’s degree through Teachers College.

“The Aspiring Leaders Fellowship is the latest, most challenging step on a journey to create substantive educational reform for the students of Arizona,” Fernandez said. “ASU’s master’s program in educational administration and supervision helped me to build the foundational skills necessary to embark on the formidable task of founding a school.  My co-founder and I met the first day of class, and it was through our common learning experiences in the program that we developed the idea to offer a new vision of STEM education for all students. Although I started the fellowship with an idea, the Aspiring Leaders Fellowship provided the tools and support to turn it into a reality.”

The Charter Starter program to which Boyle and Fernandez will apply is organized into three parts. The Charter Development segment, from November 2012 to June 2013, provides training and study tours and culminates in the submission of a research-based charter school application. In the Approval/Residency phase, from June 2013 to January 2014, the focus is on building the capacity of the school leader and governing board, as well as making any necessary revisions to the charter school proposal during the authorizer’s review process. Throughout the Start-Up phase, the Association continues to support development teams during the critical months between the time the charter is approved and the first day of school in July or August of 2014.

“Arizona is at the forefront of the charter movement with 12 percent of all public school students attending charters – a larger percentage than in any other state,” Collins said. “To raise student achievement statewide, it is critical that Arizona’s charter schools be effective. The Association believes it is crucial that new charter schools open with solid academic and fiscal plans, led by dynamic, well-prepared leaders. Our Aspiring Leaders and Charter Starter programs form a continuum that prepares the strongest educational leaders to open charter schools.”

“Aspiring Leaders and Charter Starter are important programs that continue the development talented educators and help them prepare them for the complexities of charter school startups,” said Suzanne Painter, director of the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation in Teachers College. “We take pride in ASU’s role in developing graduates who can make a positive impact in Arizona’s schools, whether they are private, public traditional or public charter schools.”

“Arizona has diverse needs, specific to our state,” Collins said. “Attracting top-notch ASU graduates is a critical strategy for retaining talent in Arizona. These individuals will fuel the pipeline of leaders who will drive student achievement.”

Details about applying to the Charter Starter program may be found at https://azcharters.org/charter-starter-program--2.

For more information about ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, visit http://education.asu.edu/.