The New Professionalism? Charter Teachers’ Experiences and Qualities of the Teaching Profession
Keywords:charter schools, urban education, teacher professionalization, professionalism
While teacher professionalism remains a contested topic, scholars increasingly acknowledge the field has entered a “new professionalism” wherein its parameters are dictated by management and the organization rather than those within the occupation. Many argue that this shift has served to decrease teachers' sense of professionalism, efficacy and persistence. Simultaneously, no-excuses charter schools, considered to embrace this new professionalism, continue to proliferate. Yet little is known about how teachers within these schools view teaching and the qualities of teacher professionalism. To address this gap, we interviewed twenty new and novice teachers teaching in high profile charter organizations in the northeast such as Uncommon Schools, KIPP, MATCH, and Boston Collegiate. Our findings suggest that these teachers largely perceived their schools and the degree of professionalism positively. For example, teachers reported that their schools fostered teacher autonomy, professional accountability, and collaboration. However, their schools' high-accountability climates encouraged feelings of competition and caused teachers to question their efficacy, ultimately reinforcing views of teaching as a short-term endeavor. Finally, professional status and rewards were described as low with many teachers saying they felt underappreciated or undervalued. Our findings demonstrate how the climate of “new professionalism” can produce outcomes both consistent and in tension with efforts to professionalize teaching.