Happy, unhappy teachers

May 28, 2009
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Teachers in private schools are happier â?? much happier â?? than their public school counterparts, according to a new study by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

The Indianapolis foundation, created by one of the 20th Centuryâ??s most influential apostles of free markets, Milton Friedman, found that teachers in private schools are less burned out, have more control over their jobs and believe they have a greater impact on students. They also experience less stress and feel safer (nearly one in 10 public school teachers say a student has attacked them physically).

Indiana University educational psychologist Jonathan Plucker, who has served on the board of a private school and says heâ??s neutral on the hot-button topic of vouchers, strongly suspects the main difference is the comparatively motivated parents of private school students.

â??These are interesting facts,â?? Plucker says. â??But these are really preliminary questions, and we should be cautious about doing something with them.â??

Study co-author Christian Dâ??Andrea agrees. The study didnâ??t attempt to unearth why private teachers are happier, but only compared data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.

However, Dâ??Andrea quickly adds that regulations and bureaucracy are straight-jacketing teachers and sapping them of creativity and energy. Private schools place fewer obstacles in front of their teachers, he says.

What do you think? Are parents or bureaucracy the main difference?

Any thoughts on vouchers?
  • bureaucracy. My mom was a 5th grade teacher in a donught county school for over 13 years, before that a Title I teacher. She had multiple awards from the district, students, and even the State. When she exited teaching, she wasn't near a retirement age, but fed-up with all the new rules. She was spending more time in the evening in the classroom, making the lessons interesting and fun because their prep period had been eaten up by meetings.

    She wanted to keep the class fun and exciting for the students to learn in - not teach the same way for the next 30 years as some of her co-workers have done. Finally - when more mandates to teach information just on the test was forced, and science, history, and other subjects got a back seat - she got frustrated. She submitted her resignation to the school board and there was a shockwave that went through the community of 20K.

    She aired her reasons. She wasn't able to teach creatively. They were forced to use older books because the tests weren't as updated as the textbooks. Her life became full of meetings, and progress reports, and performance standards, that she had no family life. She really misses the kids and the impact she had on them - but the red-tape, the rules, and the teaching to the lowest common denominator and not being able to assist those who want to learn and are excelling is what led to her leaving.

    Parents have a portion - but most teachers become the role-models or parents for these teachers. When that social and relationship side with the students gets taken away - then it's hard for them to trust, listen and learn.
  • I would say the answer is both are responsible. Teachers are largely blamed by some for the failure of students when, if fact, much of the blame lies with parents that could care less. Behavior of parents in certain cultures allows for one parent families without a dad. That, in itself, is a recipe for disaster with children and nothing is being done to change the behavior. There is where the government comes in. So in typical fashion, what do they do - encourage that behavior using economic incentives. You would think those leaders would see the err of their ways, but no, they just continue their ignorance.

    Why anyone in the know (supposedly) would question the credibility of studies that come from the Friedman Foundation is beyond me. That is one organization that has continued the fight to make things better. On the other side of the ledger is the government's failed school system model backed up by the despicable teachers union.
  • Do teachers in private schools have less government paperwork than public school teachers? I know my sister who is a special ed teacher in IPS has an unbelievable amount of record keeping to do. It's no wonder why teachers get burned out.
  • Both parental involvement and bureaucracy are to blame. Teachers in private schools are happier for two reasons. 1) Parents who pay for private schools tend to be involved in their children's education, attending parent-teacher meetings and school events, and making sure their kids are prepared to learn and current with homework. My husband is a public school teacher, and there are some parents who never attend a single event or conference (even though they have them from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. to accommodate different schedules), and never answer any call or note. 2) Private schools can kick out problem kids, but public schools have to deal with every kind of child--though teachers are prevented from even suggesting that a kid has problems and needs medical or other help.
  • Hey BerwickGuy... I grew up with one parent and turned out just fine. Maybe your view shouldn't be slanted towards children with one parent... it comes down to just plain, ol' parenting... whether it's one parent or two parents. I've seen a lot of kids grow up with two parents, and the kids turn out not making it (i.e., get in to trouble, no drive to succeed, etc.). So, I don't think it's a matter of one or two parents... but a matter of the quality of parenting the child is receiving.
  • Point well taken, Andrew. You're right, there are a lot of people that turn out ok because their parent or parents care. What I really attempted to point out is a segment of society that raises children on the back of taxpayers through government subsidy with absent fathers. This same segment has fathers that are in many cases nothing more than sperm donors to multiple women and don't really give a hoot about the children they produce. Once you start those taxpayers subsidies, how do you take them away?

    Once in visiting the Bahamas, I learned that their government provides welfare only to people that are physically disabled and cannot work. For everyone else, if you don't work, you don't eat. Children in public schools all wear unique uniforms specific to each school. If children miss more than a designated number of days of school, parents can be jailed.

    Why is it that this island nation can figure out these issues and the great brain trust that we call Congress can't even devise a plan to close our borders, let alone come up with a sane public education and welfare program? Don't get me started on the insanity of no child left behind! George Bush danced with Ted Kennedy on that one. When you dance with the devil, you should know what the results will be!

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