I believe that charter schools have introduced needed innovation and competition into public education. I believe that programs such as Teach for America have brought new life and talent into the classroom. But . . .
An article in this morning’s New York Times still worried me. Entitled “At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice”, the article recounts that:
As tens of millions of pupils across the country begin their school year, charter networks are developing what amounts to a youth cult in which teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable and, at times, even desirable. Teachers in the nation’s traditional public schools have an average of close to 14 years of experience, and public school leaders and policy makers have long made it a priority to reduce teacher turnover.
But with teachers confronting the overhaul of evaluations and tenure as well as looming changes in pension benefits, the small but rapidly growing charter school movement — with schools that are publicly financed but privately operated — is pushing to redefine the arc of a teaching career.
“We have this highly motivated, highly driven work force who are now wondering, ‘O.K., I’ve got this, what’s the next thing?’ ” said Jennifer Hines, senior vice president of people and programs at YES Prep. “There is a certain comfort level that we have with people who are perhaps going to come into YES Prep and not stay forever.”
I don’t actually think that a twenty-year veteran is always better than a second year teacher, especially if the former is a burnt-out case and the latter is charged with youth and energy. At the same time, I know that I was a much better teacher in my fifth year than in my first year, and I also know how much I relied on more experienced teachers in those early days. I like to think I’m returning the favor now as a mentor to new teachers at my school.
I guess I hope that charter schools figure out a way to lure at least some of these bright young people into longer teaching careers. At the same time, I think shorter teaching career trajectories may make sense for many people, including those who investigate teaching as a second or third career. (Full disclosure: I started teaching in my late forties, and have always felt that my business and government experience benefited my students . . . at least once I figured out what I was doing)
What do you think?