A new study from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University examines how teachers’ perceptions of learning and work environments changed in New Orleans publicly funded schools after Hurricane Katrina.
Researchers surveyed over three hundred teachers who taught in New Orleans public schools before Hurricane Katrina and in the 2013-14 school year. The sample of teachers reported that multiple aspects of the learning environment improved after the storm, specifically teachers’ emphasis on academic and socio-emotional goals and the use of data to guide instruction. Teachers also reported some positive effects on their work environment, including stronger school cultures and better support for teachers.
However, returning teachers also reported lower satisfaction with their jobs, less autonomy over their work, and less satisfaction with the evaluation process compared with their pre-Katrina experiences in New Orleans. “Our survey results suggest that the reforms led to significant changes in learning and work environments, including both intended benefits and unintended consequences,” said lead author Lindsay Bell Weixler.
“School reform is only meaningful if it changes what students and teachers experience in classrooms,” said ERA-New Orleans Director Douglas Harris. “Our analysis shows a number of meaningful changes on factors that education scholars generally consider important to school success.”
The authors also emphasized that while the more positive changes in the learning environment may have contributed to rising outcomes, declining satisfaction may signal challenges down the road for attracting and retaining quality teachers. As Weixler said, “Policymakers and school leaders should create environments in which both students and teachers are set up for success, as teachers’ work environments directly affect the learning environments and experiences of students.”
The study was authored by Lindsay Bell Weixler, Douglas N. Harris, and Nathan Barrett from Tulane University. This paper is the third in a series of studies released by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans that focuses on New Orleans teachers. The first studies in the series explored the effects of Louisiana’s teacher tenure reform and the implementation of statewide teacher evaluation policy. Forthcoming studies examine the employment outcomes of the New Orleans teachers who were subject to mass dismissal after Hurricane Katrina and analyze how teachers in New Orleans publicly funded schools are paid.