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New Report Released: "Teachers' Perspectives on Learning and Work Environments under the New Orleans School Reforms"

May 9, 2017

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.