"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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