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Teachers' Perspectives on Learning and Work Environments under the New Orleans School Reforms

A policy brief and technical report by Lindsay Bell Weixler, Douglas N. Harris, and Nathan Barrett on teachers’ perceptions of how learning and work environments changed in New Orleans publicly funded schools after Hurricane Katrina.

Policy Brief Cover

Teachers' Perspectives on Learning and Work Environments under the New Orleans School Reforms

by Lindsay Bell Weixler, Douglas N. Harris, Nathan Barrett

Download Technical Report

Edu­ca­tors and schol­ars gen­er­al­ly agree that school reform can only improve edu­ca­tion if it improves the learn­ing and work envi­ron­ments expe­ri­enced by stu­dents and teach­ers. Yet, it is dif­fi­cult to mea­sure and ana­lyze these changes. We address the top­ic by sur­vey­ing teach­ers who were fired after Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na but returned to teach in the city’s pub­licly fund­ed schools and were still teach­ing in the city eight years after the school reforms. The fol­low­ing key find­ings emerge: 

  • Our sam­ple of return­ing teach­ers report­ed that, after the school reforms, mul­ti­ple aspects of the learn­ing envi­ron­ment improved: teach­ers’ empha­sis on aca­d­e­m­ic and socio-emo­tion­al goals and the use of data to guide instruction. 

  • Teach­ers also report­ed some pos­i­tive effects on the work envi­ron­ment, includ­ing stronger school cul­tures and bet­ter sup­port for teachers.

  • How­ev­er, return­ing teach­ers also report­ed low­er sat­is­fac­tion with their jobs, less job secu­ri­ty, less auton­o­my over their work, longer work hours, and less sat­is­fac­tion with the eval­u­a­tion process. 

The analy­sis con­sid­ers the poten­tial inac­cu­ra­cy of teach­ers’ rec­ol­lec­tions over such a long peri­od of time, as well as, for some out­comes, nation­al urban school trends affect­ing all cities regard­less of their reform efforts. These results show that an inten­sive, sus­tained school reform effort can lead to sig­nif­i­cant change in learn­ing and work envi­ron­ments, includ­ing both the intend­ed ben­e­fits assert­ed by reform advo­cates and the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of con­cern to reform critics.

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