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Can a Teacher Be Too Dedicated?

The Atlantic

Can a Teacher Be Too Dedicated?

How much is too much? Charter schools are trying to stem burnout and high teacher turnover with work-life balance policies.
News Source: The Atlantic
Mon, 11/10/2014



James Cavanagh is 22 years old, fresh out of the University of Delaware. With his degree in elementary education, he could have gotten a job anywhereand he chose to teach at one of the most demanding public schools in America.

His college buddies were hired at schools with mid-afternoon dismissals and two and a half months of summer vacation. For not much more pay, Cavanagh worked nearly all of August and this fall is putting in 12-hour days, plus attending graduate school.

In exchange, he gets to be a part of one of the nations top charter schools, North Star Academy in Newark, where poor, minority students routinely outperform their peers in wealthier ZIP codes on standardized tests. And hes getting extensive support designed to make him both effective and eager to stick around.

A small but influential group of schools like North Star, dubbed "no excuses"charters because of their high behavioral and academic expectations, has proven that, with very hard work by students and staff, the countrys crippling achievement gap is possible to narrow or even close. These schools helped inspire a national push to give struggling students more time in school.

But success created a different challenge: how to keep teachers from burning out and leaving.

Since the "no excuses" movement began in the mid-1990s, its schools developed a reputation for attracting teachers who are young, idealistic and often white, available to families around the clock until they leave after a few years. Sometimes theyre ready to have children of their own or move on to more lucrative career prospects; other times theyre just tired. The phenomenon has been blasted for depriving students of stable adult relationships and creating mistrust in minority neighborhoods when white teachers serving black and Hispanic students come and go.

So now the focus is sustainability. The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which opened the first two "no excuses" schools in 1995 and is now the nations largest charter chain, is offering on-site daycare for teachers working long hours in some locations.


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