How to Become a Charter School Teacher and Why it Might be the Best Fit for You
By Brian Miller, Secondary Principal
Charter schools have broadened the field of education, giving parents more options. Everyone wants what is best for their children, their families, and themselves. And what is best right now is options. Charter schools provide an outlet for such options. Especially for teachers. And whether you are a seasoned teacher or considering becoming one, being a charter school teacher may be your dream. With charter school teacher requirements being significantly different from the requirements at public schools, it may just end up being the best and easiest fit for you.
If you are interested in how to become a teacher, or if you are struggling with the difference between public and charter schools, you are not alone. You have also come to the right place. Below you will discover not only how to become a charter school teacher, but what makes a charter school unique and how those unique traits measure up against public schools.
How to Become a Charter School Teacher
Charter schools, like public schools, are required to hire highly qualified teachers. That does not mean, however that every teacher in a charter school needs to be a licensed teacher. Depending on the state, requirements to teach at a charter school can differ.
While some charter schools have no teacher certification requirements, other states require that at least 50% of the teaching staff is certified.
Regardless, being a certified teacher not only provides you the skills and resources necessary to adequately teach children, it also provides you a greater opportunity to get the job you want.
Highly qualified teachers are highly desired because, whether the school is public or charter, school leaders, parents, and students want a quality education. A certified teacher, therefore, provides greater assurance that the teacher being hired is highly qualified.
So, if you are going to be one of those highly qualified teachers, becoming a charter school teacher runs parallel to the standard steps to becoming a certified teacher in the public schools.
Those steps are as follows:
- Earn a Degree: Like any teaching degree, you must graduate from an accredited college with a bachelor’s or higher degree in education. You will have to choose a subject and/or grade level you hope to teach in, and then choose a program with a specific certificate for that subject or grade level. You can pick from elementary education, middle, and secondary education. For electives, such as art and music, you can even earn a K-12 certification.
- Pass PRAXIS-I: After completing your classes, you must then pass the required pre-certification exam known as PRAXIS-I which is an assessment of all general content knowledge taught in today’s schools, except foreign language.
- Compete Student Teaching: After completing the required courses and passing the PRAXIS-I exam, you will then have to complete a semester of student teaching. Student teaching is an experience where you are provided an opportunity of leading and teaching the classroom but without the full weight of responsibility as you are supervised by the licensed classroom teacher.
- Pass PRAXIS-II: The final step in becoming a certified teacher is passing the PRAXIS-II exam. The PRAXIS-II exam is more difficult than the PRAXIS-I because instead of it being broad knowledge, it is specific and in depth. Depending on your chosen grade level or subject area, the PRAXIS-II exam is designed to show future schools that you have proficient content knowledge of the content area you have chosen to teach. There are no limits as to how many times you can take this test, but it is costly.
- Submit Paperwork: After completing the above, you must then collect all your paperwork and send them to your desired state’s education governing body. The process of approval can take days or several weeks, depending on the state and time of the submission.
Unique Qualities are Part of the Charter School Teacher Qualifications
Teaching in a Charter school provides a variety of unique opportunities. Unlike public school teachers, charter schools are not governed by the state and federal government. Although charter schools are still held accountable by state testing and student achievement, they are independently run, allowing teachers and school leaders to be independent in their direction, teaching strategies, and daily practices.
Teachers in a charter school have more freedoms than their public-school counterparts. Without the red tape of intense government oversight, teachers in charter schools are not only allowed to explore a variety of teaching practices, they are highly encouraged to do so. Parents seek out charter schools because they carry a reputation for being innovative and progressive in their teaching philosophies and practices, providing teachers a foundation of expectation to grow and develop quality teaching strategies.
Parents who place their child into a charter school want what is best for their child. They are also willing to move outside the mainstream of traditional education. For a teacher, this expectation means that – by and large – the parents of your students are committed to the success of their child, and as any educator can attest, one of the greatest factors for student success is the support they receive from home. For a charter school teacher, this support and commitment can greatly impact your teaching experience with your students as you are not solely responsible for their learning and growth. You have support. Which, for almost any teacher, is the key ingredient to thriving in your profession, rather than merely surviving.
Charter schools, traditionally, have smaller class sizes than public schools, but that is not always the case. What is generally the case, is that a charter school as a whole is smaller than many public schools, which allows for a more intimate, family-like setting for the faculty, staff, students, and parents. This supportive setting not only allows teachers to feel free and needed, it creates a community where teachers have easier and more purposeful access to students and their lives, creating deeper relationships and greater impact. Teachers in charter schools feel very strongly that they are making a difference.
Meeting the Requirements to Teach at a Charter School Comes with Some Sweet Benefits
In many ways, teacher duties at a charter school are much the same as that of a public school. You are expected to create and deliver quality lesson, grade papers, engage and motivate students, and communicate with parents (to name a few). Where a charter school can differ from a public school is that, because there is often no teacher’s union, there can often be more responsibilities for charter school teachers that are outside their contract. These duties can come with increased pay, but not always.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median pay for high school teachers is $62,870 (as of 2020). The average teacher in a charter school, however, was around $49,000. This number can be skewed because of the percentage of non-licensed teachers in charter schools, as compared to public schools. Charter schools tend to try and pay their teachers a competitive salary to those of the nearby public schools, but with limited federal funding it can be difficult to keep up.
Charter schools do not provide teacher tenure, seniority preference, or have any sort of probationary period for teachers. This can be both a pro and a con for charter schools and charter school teachers. Without the protection of tenure teachers can always feel the pressure to perform and fear of cutbacks or firings. But the absence of teacher tenure can also ensure that only the best teachers are renewed. Teacher tenure can protect bad teachers, aiding in a potential apathetic environment. Teachers in charter schools must continually improve their craft, grow and learn with the times, and work together which, in turn, creates better teachers and a healthier working environment.
At times, charter school teacher qualifications differ from public schools, and at other times they don’t. What doesn’t change is the desire for a charter school to hire highly qualified teachers who work hard and love kids. How they earn their teaching degree, how they teach, and what they teach can be debated. But not why.
Kids need quality men and women who are passionate about learning, who love engaging and diving deep into life, and who want to show up to work in hopes of making the world a better place. For many teachers, that means teaching in a charter school. If you are interested in teaching or looking to explore new lands of opportunity, consider teaching at a charter school.
There has never been a better time to learn how to become a charter school teacher.