Some recent reporting from The Lens and other outlets have highlighted a rapid rate of turnover in New Orleans school staffing. It’s a trend seen in the ranks of teachers and school administrators, and not just in New Orleans.
Sarah Carr is an education reporter for the Hechinger Report, an education news nonprofit, and a frequent contributor to WWNO. She sat down with News Director Eve Troeh to talk about the impact of high rates of staff turnover in city schools.
Carr has been covering New Orleans schools for more than six years, and says she can count very few administrators who are still at the schools where they were working when she started. Administrators may leave because a school closes, the school is taken over by a different charter operator, or the school's board decides the school needs a leadership change.
Often a change is due to standardized test scores, she says.
"There's just so much pressure on schools to have test score gains and to meet these benchmarks every year, and so much pressure on leaders to make this happen," she says. If students don't meet test score goals, it's increasingly common for the school to change out staff and leadership, either because they choose to or, in some cases, because they're mandated to by a board.
The changeovers impact students and families in that there is less continuity, Carr says. There's less of a chance for teachers and administrative staff to get to know students and their families well, and so families may not have someone at the school they know they can talk to if there's a problem. Instead they're dealing with new people all the time.
Carr also notes that staff turnover can pose a problem when graduation time comes around. For her book Hope Against Hope about New Orleans' charter school reform, Carr reported on some students who, now that she's following up on them, say they're having trouble finding someone to write them a recommendation letter for college. They don't have that special teacher or administrator who knows them well enough to do that, she says.
Support for education reporting on WWNO comes from Baptist Community Ministries, Entergy Corporation, The Hechinger Institute, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.