The case of the disappearing (and *unusually effective*) charter school teachers
Do you dream of CRUSHING the achievement gap but aren’t sure that a 14 hour work day is right for you? Are you MAD passionate about training the next generation of test takers but worry that you lack the hand gestures to keep a large class of minority students on task? Reader: I’ve got excellent news. Thanks to our excellent and innovative friends at MATCH Education you can test drive your dream with absolutely no obligation to buy.
Meet Tough MutTer, a 10-hour “teacher obstacle course” in which would-be teachers at No Excuses charter schools run teaching drills with real-live urban high school students:
Thinking about becoming a teacher, whether through Teach For America or another path? The job is hard and a lot of people quit. The obstacle course is designed to test your instinctive teaching chops, emotional readiness, grit, and teamwork. This day is a fun way to learn about yourself, and whether teaching is really your calling. Tough MutTer is affectionately modeled on Tough Mudder. Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces. Tough MutTeR is designed by Match Teacher Residency (MTR).
I will now pause to allow you to send your application to Tough@MatchEducation.org. Note: admissions preference given to juniors or seniors involved with Students for Education Reform.
Finished? Good. In case you’re wondering, Tough MutTer is for real. (The announcement was forwarded to me by a refugee from the MATCH program). But while the concept may be gimmicky, it’s also an attempt to solve a serious—and growing—problem among the No Excuses charters for which MATCH trains teachers. You see, these schools churn through teachers at an *astonishing* rate. In fact, the demand for fresh and “unusually effective” blood is so strong that MATCH has even created its own graduate school just to mint new charter teachers. But even this pipeline of excellence can’t produce enough new teachers to replace the ones who quit each year.
Unlike LIFO lifer teachers who refuse to leave their jobs no matter how unpleasant we make them, teachers at No Excuses charters have a career span of about two years. That means that a typical urban charter in Massachusetts loses between a third to a half of its teachers every year. Using an incredibly nifty new tool known as District Analysis and Review Tool I was able to document the percentage of teachers that left Boston area academies of excellence and innovation last year alone.
2012 Teacher Turnover
- Roxbury Preparatory Charter: 50%
- Edward Brook Charter: 49%
- Spirit of Knowledge Charter: 47%
- New Leadership Charter: 47%
- Boston Preparatory Charter: 35%
- KIPP Academy Charter Lynn: 35%
- Boston Renaissance: 35%
- Pioneer Charter School of Science: 35%
- City on a Hill: 33%
- Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence: 33%
- Smith Leadership Charter: 32% (down from 58% in 2011)
- Conservatory Lab Charter: 30% (down from 56% in 2011)
- MATCH: 25%
Teaching their hands off
But why do these *unusually effective* teachers have such *unusually brief* careers? To answer this question, we first need to take a peak at what MATCH considers great teaching to be:
Mystery solved! According to this inspirational video, champion teachers 1) are white 2) use many hand gestures 3) inspire their students to “work harder” through the strategic use of insults, slogans and analogies in order to 4) keep the actual content of what they are teaching a closely held secret. In other words, this is a career that no actual human being with a heart could engage in for more than two years…
I quit because I’m excellent
Of course not everyone agrees with my expert analysis. Mike G, otherwise known as Mike Goldstein, chief design officer for MATCH, has a different take on why no excuses schools churn through teachers:
Many of the people we attract simply do not want to be lifetime teachers. This is true of many talented folks from many sectors: they do not want any one career. Instead, we welcome talented people who basically say “I’ll give the kids everything I have for perhaps 5 years. Then I’m gone. It’s not burnout. It’s that I simply don’t want to teach 9th grade algebra my whole life. Is that of interest to your school?” No Excuses schools say yes (in a million different ways). Traditional schools say “Whatever.”
Got that? The true sign of a truly *excellent* teacher is the brevity of his or her career… By the way, if you’re a quitter for quality, MATCH has a job for you. MATCH is opening yet another charter in Boston, MATCH Next, which combines two EduShyster fave trends: no excuses and blended learning. If you’re a “current bad-ass No Excuses teacher with leadership chops” there’s a place on the MATCH dream team for you.
Send comments, questions and career ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.