Teachers’ Experiences with the Transition to a Charter School from a Traditional Public School
Description of the Local Problem
Charter schools are generally defined as public schools that are independently operated from many district and state regulations that often affect public schools that are traditional and mainstream. Forty out of the fifty states in the United States of America, along with the District of Columbia have promulgated various legislations that have been aimed towards the establishment, operation and accountability of charter schools (Hausman & Goldring, 2009; Hoxby, 2003; Malloy & Wollhester, 2003; Podgursky, 2004; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Charter programs generally represent a new and competitive branch of public education which has been characterized by the autonomy that has been relatively absent in mainstream schools. Without a doubt, the said characteristics have been considered of paramount importance in driving good teachers away from the mainstream (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000). Hausman & Goldring (2009) state the following:
Many teachers actually choose to teach at particular schools of choice
because of the unique theme, instructional methodology, or philosophy of
the school. This aspect of choice has been predicted to impact teacher commitment
in a positive way. This aspect of teacher professionalism is crucial given the current popularity of charter schools and other alternatives to public schools. (p.37)
The entry of charter schools in the scene is considered of paramount importance in terms of enhancing the competition in the field of education (Chubb et al., 2006). It is generally to increase efficiency gains by decreasing industry competition and challenging the actors therein in order to improve performance (Hausman & Goldring, 2009; Malloy & Wollhester, 2003; Podgursky, 2004). Proponents of the charter school system believe that competition between the traditional public schools and the charter ones are expected to enhance the quality of education (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000; Hoxby, 2003).
The quality of teachers in charter public schools contribute to the efficiency of the same. Without a doubt, charters seeking to produce high achievement give paramount importance to the value of effective teachers (Hausman & Goldring, 2009). Charter schools are also described as heterogeneous, focusing on the special needs of the students. In this regard, there is a tendency for the other target students to increase their risk of failure (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). As such, the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers would also be difficult for those that cater to the needs of the special groups (Hausman & Goldring, 2009). Recent researches reveal that there is a tendency for the teachers to prefer high performing and socioeconomically advantaged school environments (Malloy & Wollhester, 2003). It is in this regard that the mobility of the teachers from traditional public schools to charter public schools is enhanced (Hoxby, 2003).
The preference of teachers for employment in charter schools has likewise been brought about by the high pay therein. Charter schools are not bound by pay scales implemented in a particular state. Instead, they may allocate budgets depending on their determination as to whether or not they are fit and feasible. Aside from the same, it has been mentioned that charter schools provide their teachers with creative license as well as with more autonomy in order to enhance the quality of educations therein (Podgursky, 2004; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). These advantages have not been guaranteed in mainstream schools. Undeniably, advocates of the charter school system consider the professionalization and empowerment of teachers of paramount importance to ensure the development of the system (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000). It is parenthetically in this regard that the mobility of the teachers from traditional public schools to charter schools has been steadily increasing in view of the fact that the same provides them with both tangible and non-tangible benefits (Malloy & Wollhester, 2003; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004).
However, teachers face numerous challenges upon their transfer from traditional public schools to charter schools. Nevertheless, it has been mentioned that the experiences of the teachers who transferred from traditional public schools to charter schools have been brought about by the increase in their effectiveness, better opportunities and the like. Apparently, the same have been brought about by the difference in terms of the measures therein (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000).
Most of the studies reviewed for this research however, showed that teachers transferring from traditional public schools to charter schools tend to encounter negative experiences therein. Such negative experiences have then contributed to the dissatisfaction that they have encountered (Malloy & Wollhester, 2003). Verily, such dissatisfaction has been attributed to the poor working conditions therein most especially in relation to the working conditions most especially as regards to salaries, benefits, working hours etc (Podgursky, 2004; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). It is in this regard that the abovementioned factors must be properly addressed to make the experience of the teachers transferring from traditional public schools to charter schools more positive (Malloy & Wollhester, 2003; Podgursky, 2004). lity of charter schools.
Rationale for the Local Problem and the Purpose of the Study
As previously mentioned, the establishment of charter schools has been considered advantageous in many respects (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000; Podgursky, 2004). For instance, it has been mentioned that charter schools help in the improvement with respect to the overall quality of the education. In addition to the same, the establishment of charter schools is likewise considered of utmost significance in ordr to enhance the achievement of academically disadvantaged students (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000; Hoxby, 2003). It is in this regard that charter schools have emphasized the importance of attracting top teacher talent to help in the achievement of the abovementioned goals (Malloy & Wollhester, 2003; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004).
Generally, many chartered schools have adopted lessons from private businesses and educational entrepreneurs in order to ensure their innovation (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000). Verily, chartered schools have recognized the need to go beyond mediocrity in order to achieve excellence (Miron & Applegate, 2007). In this sense, human capital talent must be efficiently attracted. In the same manner as business, decision makers employed in the field of education must also give paramount importance to the former to help every student in their advancement and at the same time to hasten the pace of learning (Bulkley & Fisler, 2003; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004).
The failure of the charter schools to improve has been attributed to the failure thereof to recruit and ensure the retention of teachers therein (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000). Without a doubt, chartered schools have failed to recruit and retain the best teachers because of its tendency to disregard various aspects thereof including recruitment, compensation, working conditions, evaluation and retention (Bulkley & Fisler, 2003; Hoxby, 2003; Struit & Smith, 2010). Various researchers have considered the aforementioned of paramount importance in determining whether or not the teachers will enter or remain in the profession (Miron & Applegate, 2007).
Aside from the abovementioned, recent researches conducted in relation to the subject matter have suggested that charter school teachers also exhibit certain characteristics that are associated with low levels of effectiveness (Finn, Manno & Vancerek, 2000; Hoxby, 2003). Apparently, whilst classroom experience may be a plus factor, the same has not been considered of paramount importance in ensuring the effectiveness of teachers in charter schools (Malloy & Wollhester, 2003).
Some have proposed that charter schools have an opportunity to create strong professional communities of teachers that share common goals and values (Struit & Smith, 2010). However, most of the traditional public schools teachers do not possess the necessary skills and knowledge that help them in attaining the goals of the charter public schools (Bulkley & Fisler, 2003). In the same manner, previous researches have shown that most of the teachers who have transferred to the charter schools from the traditional public schools are inexperienced and uncertified (Struit & Smith, 2010). Parenthetically, this has been attributed to the failure of the charter public schools to implement monitoring programs aimed towards its new teachers that have significantly diminished the effectiveness (Bulkley & Fisler, 2003). Without a doubt, mentoring and other developing programs are considered of paramount importance to help the new teachers from traditional public schools in transiting to their new jobs in charter schools (Malloy & Wollhester, 2003). Usually, this is enhanced through the provision of support, guidance and orientation. Thus, the focus of this research is to explore the experiences of the teachers when they move from public school to charter school. As a purpose of this research an attempt would be made to reveal different changes and problems faced by the teachers when they transit from public to charter school. The study would also categorize whether the changes that are faced by the teachers are more positive or negative.
Review of literature addressing the problem
Theoretical Base/Conceptual Framework
In the United States, charter schools comprise of a tiny fraction of the public schools, Charter schools educate less than the twp percent of all the students who go to public schools (RPP International, 2000). If we take into consideration the geographical location of charter schools then it would be revealed to us that charter schools are concentrated in states of Texas, Arizona, Michigan and California. Mostly in inner cities, charter schools locate themselves where there is a greater density of population that extends the opportunity from a large potential market. Over the past two decades charter schools have shown rapid growth in spite there are no conclusive results about the academic superiority as compared to the traditional public schools. As a result of this increase in the charter school a large number of teachers are shifting from public schools to charter schools. When teachers do this transition from public schools to charter schools they have to face a number of problems and changes.
The gap that exists between the turnover of teachers in charter and public schools and shift of teachers from charter to public school is because the type of teachers that these two types of schools adopt. According to the critics charter schools usually hire young and inexperienced teachers. This is one of the problems that occur when teachers move from public schools to the charter schools. Teachers of public schools are relatively considered as more experienced than the teachers of charter schools. So, when these experienced teachers move to the charter school they are often asked to provide training to the young and neophyte teachers of charter school. Moreover, as young and inexperienced teachers work in charter schools so there is an established culture of lack of professionalism and expertise. So, when professional and highly experienced teachers of public schools go to charter schools they face inappropriate atmosphere and ways of teaching. They do not see opportunities and forums and a systematic way to implement all the expertise and qualities. This change can be both positive and negative. This change can be positive in the sense that they find opportunities to further pass their experience to others and to further polishing their abilities by teaching others about the teaching methods and other aspects. This change may beecome negative if they do not have opportunities to implement their expertise and experience.
There is one more change that teachers have to face when they move from public schools to charter schools is related to autonomy and authority of decision making. Teachers in charter schools have more authority of decision making. Teachers in a charter school are allowed to bring innovative techniques in the classroom and adopt ways of teaching that they want. According to the research most of the teachers want to move to the charter schools because of the autonomy that these school offer. This is one of the positive changes that the teachers face when they move from public schools to charter schools.
There is increased evidence related to the working conditions in the charter schools from the working conditions of the public schools. According to the results of the past studies some of the teachers of the charter schools remain dissatisfied. The reasons behind this dissatisfaction are inadequate facilities and insufficiency of the instructional resources. According to the results of the study conducted by Miron and Applegate (2007), most of the teachers were dissatisfied with the working conditions of the charter schools. So, this is another problem and the change that the teachers have to face when they leave public school and move towards charter school. This change is negative in nature as the experienced and expert teachers of public school have to face difficulties in implementing teaching techniques because of the lack of facilities and resources.
According to Vanourek (2005), in the charter schools there are more large self-contained and departmentalized classrooms in charter schools as compared to the public schools. So, this issue presents more work to do for teachers of charter schools as compared to the work that teachers of public schools are required to do. Moreover, according to the research conducted by Smith and Ingersoll (2004) shows that as teachers of charter schools have more authority to decision making so, they are obliged to take each and every effort to prove their decisions right which may require extra efforts. So, this highlights another problem or change that a teacher may have to face when he or she decides to leave the public school and to join charter school. This problem of heavy work load and increased pressure as a result of increased authority of decision making is quoted by Podgursky (2006) as one of the most disturbing problem when teachers of public school go to charter school. This problem can be considered as both the positive and negative change for the teachers. This change is positive in the sense that by working more and by proving their decisions as right they learn and increase their knowledge and expertise. This change can be regarded as negative if teachers consider the increased amount of work as load or pressure. According to Bomotti, Ginsberg and Cobb (2009), teachers of charter schools and those who join charter school from public school suffer from increased level of work related stress as compared to the teachers of the public school. So, this fact of the research also proves this change as the negative change.
The most important change that teachers have to face when they move from public schools to charter schools is the level of compensation that they receive. Compensation packages for teachers are different in charter schools as compared to the compensation packages of the public schools. According to National Center for Education Statistics, (2002), in the year 2002, the compensation of the beginning teacher was slightly high as compared to the average teacher of the public school. As far as the compensation of the experienced and expert teachers is concerned then in this case, charter schools leg behind and experienced teachers can earn more in public schools. Murnane et al (2001) presented the fact that teachers of charter school earn less than the teachers of public schools. So, this is the one of the most important change that they face when it comes to the transition of teachers from public school to charter schools. This change is a negative change that teachers have to face. When teachers decide to transit from public to charter schools then they have to face the problem of compensation that they receive. This may create a lot of problems for the teachers. There is also an increased turnover among charter school teachers because of this issue of changes in compensation schedule.
Conceptual framework means set of assumptions, values and definitions according to which all the work of research is done. Every research study that is conducted relies on the conceptual framework. The conceptual framework acts as the guide for the research. Similarly, this research study also has a conceptual framework. The conceptual framework for this study is described as follows: while performing research there are a number of assumptions that the researcher make to perform the study. In this study too, there are certain assumptions that have been made to achieve the objectives of the study. First assumption that is considered while working on the research objectives is that all the teachers change the schooling system in similar circumstances. There can be different reasons for teachers to change the schooling system which may make them to have different experience. Considering the reasons that make the teachers to shift their school is not within the scope of this study so, in order to avoid this factor it is assumed that all the teachers switch under similar circumstances. There can be other factors too that can affect the teachers’ experience such as gender, experience of previous school, age etc. So, in order to avoid all these factors all other factors are assumed to be kept constant and same.
Expectations related to the fulfillment of the research objectives are also considered while performing the research study. In this research study, the expectation that is considered is related to methodology of the research. It is expected that the case study that would be considered would allow exploring all the factors and change that teacher experience when they move from public school to charter school.