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High turnover reported among charter school teachers

With so many charter school teachers moving on each year, concerns arise about retaining quality educators and how stability affects student performance.

July 25, 2011|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Kavita Papneja, a math teacher, joined an Alliance College-Ready charter several years ago and doesn't regret it. In her prior work at a traditional school, Gompers Middle School near Watts, "you have more behavior issues," she said. "Here, most of the time, we just have to worry about what we are teaching and what kids are learning."

As far as the charter workload, "if I have to spend extra hours, I will," said Papneja, 43, who believes she's the oldest teacher in her school. "It's not like they force me."

She and history teacher Stephanie McIlroy, who joined Alliance at age 21, also left a charter school; but in their case, the purpose was to follow Principal Howard Lappin from one Alliance charter school to a newly opened charter, the Alliance Environmental Science and Technology High School in Glassell Park.

Some former teachers at Alliance schools and elsewhere were less enthusiastic, speaking of pressure to produce high test scores and arbitrary management.

"We got in trouble for taking our sick days and personal days," said a history teacher who entered the teaching profession at a charter while in her 20s. She requested anonymity because she recently accepted a position at a different charter school. "Teachers feel so beleaguered because everything is presented to us as a problem we have to solve. But we can't fix all those problems, like when a kid misses 60 days in a semester."

Despite her former school's solid test scores, she said, the teacher departures matter.

"It has a huge effect on student morale," she said, especially for students who lack needed stability in other parts of their lives. "By the time students graduated from my school, there was not a single teacher who had been there the whole time."

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