Monday, March 8, 2010

Living on Doubleshot in New Orleans schools.

Check out this thorough piece by Sarah Carr of the New Orleans Times-Picayune about the toll on teachers at no-excuses charter schools. Let’s say that the time commitment these teachers make must be kept up to be effective at the school, and that within a couple of years they will burn out and leave because of it. Does it matter? Well, that should be broken down into a few questions. Does it matter for student achievement, as long as strong new teachers take their place? Does it matter for school and community culture? And finally, does it matter for the profession?

That last question is the most interesting to me. I think it matters, and not because I think a teaching degree should be a lifelong license to coast. I have several relatives and friends, all mothers, who have been excellent teachers in high-poverty schools for their entire careers. They work at traditional schools on traditional schedules—though, like all good teachers, they give some of their time off as well. Not 60 hours a week, though. Were that the expectation, they would not teach, and students in their schools would be worse off for it.

I don’t think it’s wrong for some schools to expect that kind of commitment. But even setting the workload bar that high just at high-poverty schools is a problem, because you will lose a hell of a lot of great teachers who care about their own kids, too.


  1. Of course it matters. I agree with you. If teachers are aware that doing this kind of important work leads to burn out, or more of the same, over time, then they won't want to be new teachers, and their compatriots will not join them in getting into the practice.

    The unfortunate thing about teaching is that it often feels like you are heading into a cul-de-sac, and not that you are waltzing and boogeying down Electric Avenue.

  2. Yeah, and those charters had young students too. Check out the burnout rate once young teachers get emotionally involved with 200 of their own students per year and an equal number of other students in high schools. (my load consistently stays around 130 at any given time, but the constant shuttle of suffering kids in and out of class takes a toll.) And with extracurricular activities, 80 hours per week is the norm for high school principals. In our district, APs don't even get mimum wage for the extra 30 to 40 hours a week they put in in comparison to teachers. The same applies to coaches.