Closing the Skill Gap: New Options for Charter School Leadership Development

June 2008

With 400 new charter schools opening their doors each year and 4,000 charter schools up and running, a strong supply of leaders is crucial to the sustainability of charter schools. But charter school leaders face a unique set of challenges, and traditional principal training programs, where the majority of charter leaders are currently trained, often leave them with a daunting skills gap.

In response, a new crop of specialty training programs for charter school leaders has developed in recent years. CRPE researchers surveyed those programs to learn how many leaders they train and what types of training they offer. They find that these new training options show promise in their responsiveness, course relevance, and methods of instruction, especially when compared to traditional leadership training programs. They also are more likely to cover some topics—such as personnel and labor relations, financial management, and academic accountability—that seem fundamental to effective leadership, not just for charter schools.

Still, the programs miss or treat too lightly some of the issues charter leaders struggle with most, including engaging parents, raising funds and managing finances, and negotiating with local school districts. What's more, the specialty training programs are few and small in size, training only 100 new charter school leaders each year.

The report concludes with strategies to address the challenges of building a strong charter school leadership pipeline, including expanding successful programs and popular professional development programs; tapping into local university public administration, nonprofit, and business leadership training programs; and expanding online training options.