“Are we architects or construction workers?” Re-examining teacher autonomy and turnover in charter schools

Source: Alfred Chris Torres, Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 22 No. 124, December 22, 2014

Abstract: Charter school teachers nationwide expressed greater autonomy compared to traditional public school teachers at the turn of the century. But is this trend changing? The recent proliferation of Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), which often have prescriptive organizational models, has raised questions around how teachers perceive autonomy and control in these schools. Researchers consistently find that faculty input into decision-making has a strong influence on staff commitment and turnover. This exploratory, interview-based study critically examines why and how CMO teacher autonomy is linked to turnover. CMO teachers linked various concerns over autonomy, which was limited by their organization’s model, with decisions to leave their jobs. Teachers with strong expectations for autonomy or ideas inconsistent with their school’s model experienced substantial conflict involving the discipline or socialization of students that affected their career decisions. Teachers’ desires to have a voice in issues surrounding students’ socialization ultimately hinged upon their skepticism that current practices were adequately preparing students for college and life.

Read full report here.


Is This Work Sustainable? Teacher Turnover and Perceptions of Workload in Charter Management Organizations
Source: Alfred Chris Torres, Urban Education, September 10, 2014

Abstract: An unsustainable workload is considered the primary cause of teacher turnover at Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), yet most reports provide anecdotal evidence to support this claim. This study uses 2010-2011 survey data from one large CMO and finds that teachers’ perceptions of workload are significantly associated with decisions to leave across schools and teachers. About 1 out of 3 teachers who rated their workload “unmanageable” left their school compared with 1 in 10 who did not rate their workload unmanageable. However, controlling for perceptions of leadership and professional growth, workload was no longer associated with turnover. Accounting for measures of working conditions across schools and teachers, perceptions of the CMO’s student disciplinary systems were the only significant predictor of turnover.