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"Sometimes Bureaucracy has its Charms": The Working Conditions of Teachers in Deregulated Schools


by Susan Moore Johnson & Jonathan Landman — 2000

Various reform strategies that deregulate schooling grant different degrees of autonomy to individual school sites. In an effort to understand how these policies affect the teacher’s workplace, we studied the experiences of teachers in six deregulated schools—two state-sponsored charter schools, two in-district charter schools, and two public school-based management schools—all located in Boston and serving similar groups of students. Based on intensive interviews with teachers and principals supplemented by document analysis and informal observations, we concluded that the most autonomous schools—charter schools—are not necessarily the schools that enterprising teachers favor. All respondents agree that the most important feature of charter schools is their power to recruit and retain like-minded staff who commit themselves to a common mission. Working with others who share values and practices leads to considerable satisfaction among teachers. However, teachers in these schools also voiced concern about several important features of their workplace—the scope and definition of their responsibilities, their role in school design and governance, their right to raise complaints and resolve problems, and assurances of job security and predictable pay. We concluded that, of the three policy models, the in-district charters best combined the features that provide school autonomy while meeting the basic concerns of teachers. These findings lead to recommendations for both policy and practice.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 102 Number 1, 2000, p. 85-124
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10353, Date Accessed: 10/18/2017 2:38:28 PM

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About the Author
  • Susan Moore Johnson
    Harvard University Graduate School of Education
    Susan Moore Johnson, a former high school teacher and administrator, is the Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr. Professor of Teaching and Learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The author of Teachers at Work (Basic Books, 1990) and Leading to Change: The Challenge of the New Superintendency (Jossey-Bass, 1996), she is currently studying the work and careers of the next generation of teachers.
  • Jonathan Landman
    Harvard University Graduate School of Education
    E-mail Author
    Jonathan Landman, a former history teacher, is an advanced doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His current research explores the impact of standards-led reforms on the practices of history departments and their teachers.
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