Urban and suburban teaching: 2 totally different jobs (duh)

Mutual fund managers and venture capitalists have different job descriptions, even though they both nominally do the same thing – invest in companies.

Yet suburban and urban teachers, despite very different customers, end up with the same job description.

– Teach about 20 hours a week
– Write lesson plans
– Grade papers
– Patrol the cafeteria at lunch, make photocopies, attend (often pointless) meetings, etc

The implicit job description for teachers in high-poverty schools (you think inner-city but don’t forget rural), however, also includes:

– Single-handedly create order in the classroom (while the rest of the school is chaotic)
– Single-handedly remediate enormous, accumulated basic skill deficits
– Single-handedly enforce homework completion among kids who’ve historically done almost none
– Communicate with parents that have often, until that point, been disengaged in their children’s education

These tasks are essential. But now we’re talking 80-hours-a-week to do reasonably well. At most schools, a few teachers – the Jaime Escalantes, Rafe Esquiths – do the full job description.

Perhaps 50 to 100 of some 10,000 public inner-city schools nationwide, so-called “No Excuses” schools like KIPP, have managed to create cultures where all the teachers do the full job description, the explicit and the implicit. At such schools, the teacher job is easier, since there’s no free-rider problem. Every teacher works hard. Therefore no one needs to “manufacture” a positive classroom culture from scratch.

Even at these schools, however, many teachers depart after a few years. Not for “regular” schools, usually, but to become principals, deans, MBAs, sociologists, stay-at-home parents, etc.

Eduwonk regularly and appropriately lambastes the “Excuses” crowd. But the No Excuses folks need a plausible, scalable theory of change, too.

Do you really think that if we get a perfect storm of standards, merit pay, school choice, et al., that the labor market will generate hundreds of thousands of workaholic No Excuses teachers? Or do you think that No Excuses urban teaching can be done in 40 to 50 hours per week, enough to appeal to the masses?

Replies welcome to MGoldstein@matchschool.org

– Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild

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