Authorizers: So Much More than Compliance!

Dr. Jim Goenner’s sessions on “Greatness” are always highly-rated at charter schools conferences. At last month’s National Charter Schools Conference, he focused on greatness in authorizer leadership—a key to chartering success! Dr. Goenner, from the National Charter Schools Institute, takes authorizing to a new level that I hope more authorizers will follow.

What defines excellence in authorizing, according to this highly respected former authorizer?

Change Agents: Creative Visionaries

Charter school leaders are change agents. Authorizers can be too! Change agents are proactive, not reactive.  Excellent authorizers challenge the “givens.” They foster an environment that attracts talent, capital and entrepreneurship. They attract “can do” people. They are influencers of policy and practice. And they provide leadership and ideas for improving education.

This is a whole lot more than “compliance.” Is your authorizer a change agent?

Market Makers: Creative Entrepreneurs

Charter school leaders are creative and entrepreneurial. They often come to charter schools because they crave autonomy and the freedom to be better. Do authorizers foster that environment? Is your authorizer providing performance-based incentives, rather than rigid compliance policies?

I’ve observed that authorizers and charter school leaders sometimes do not share the same values. What are the values of your authorizer? Do you even know them? If school leaders and their authorizer share vision and values, they have better opportunity to align for greatness. If they share common values, it is easier to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect and set clear performance expectations.

Forces for Quality: Responsible Leaders

Excellent authorizers educate and inform before overseeing and enforcing. They meet with their charter school boards. Is it OK for authorizers to help pull educator leaders up the mountain? Why not? They help people help themselves.

Too often the authorizer is ONLY about oversight and accountability. What if we shared the common goal of better learning options for kids?

Authorizers can preserve discretionary judgment and autonomy in charter school leaders, and measure and evaluate performance. “What gets measured gets done,” says Dr. Goenner. The key question: are you measuring the right things? Are kids learning?

Unfortunately, pressure is on authorizers for certainty, rather than clarity. New laws are taking away discretionary judgment from both authorizers and charter schools. If the goal is certainty, risk-aversion trumps. It’s hard to be a change agent!

Catalysts for Excellence: Influential Stewards

Is your authorizer helping to grow impact in chartering? Does your authorizer inspire by recognizing and rewarding performance, and encourage expansion of success?

Authorizers are so much more than Gatekeepers and Evaluators. Find out more from Dr. Groenner inspiring and insightful presentations. Good things happen when it’s all about the kids.