Where Teachers Are Replaceable Widgets, Education Suffers

A commentary from the most recent edition of Education Week.  Dallas ISD teachers, can I get an “AMEN”?

Churn is a remarkable instability among school personnel that makes it nearly impossible to build a professional community or develop long-term relationships with students. It happens when teachers are treated like interchangeable parts who can be moved around cavalierly to plug a hole in a school schedule. It happens when administrators repeatedly order teachers to switch to a different grade, teach a different subject, or move to a different school. […]

But we think churn may be an even bigger problem for schools and districts. In the urban schools we studied, internal instability was worse than attrition. For every two teachers who left the district or the profession during our study, another three were moved from subject to subject, grade to grade, or school to school. […]

We think that churn is hurting kids in urban schools, and hurting them badly.

It hurts them directly, right in the classroom, because teachers are shifted around so often that they can’t develop deep mastery of a grade and subject, or develop stable professional learning communities to support their work. […]

And churn isn’t a problem only among teachers. Many urban districts see astonishing instability among principals, central-office staff, and, at the very top, superintendents. As a result, teachers constantly have to adjust to new leadership styles and new priorities.

The bottom line is that in a hurricane of churn, you can’t build the culture of trust and safety that kids need to learn. If we’re serious about turning our urban schools around, it’s time to devote serious resources to doing something about churn.

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