Teacher Quality in Online Schools

September 17, 2013

Evidence suggests that cyber charter schools are reinventing certain aspects of teacher personnel management, say Dennis Beck and Robert Maranto of the University of Arkansas in a study conducted for the American Enterprise Institute.

Having fewer non-academic duties than in traditional public schools, and aided by technology making it easier to monitor classes, cyber charter leaders seemingly spend a great deal of time offering feedback to teachers. This may reflect why so many teachers are willing to accept jobs without tenure.

Why online schools are succeeding:

  • Cyber charters spend far more thoughtful energy training and mentoring new teachers than do traditional public schools.
  • Even CEOs of large cyber charter schools spend time monitoring teaching and see instructional leadership as a primary role rather than an ancillary responsibility delegated to subordinates.
  • Perhaps most important, cyber CEOs hold teachers accountable, separating those whose teaching they judge ineffective. In public schooling generally, this is unusual.

Possibly, universities could increase their entry into the cyber charter business, bringing in new operators with significant educational resources and less tied to the traditional public school approaches to management. In addition, limiting reporting requirements, staffing rules and certification requirements could enable cyber charters to do more to reinvent teacher personnel management. It is not clear, however, what incentives policymakers have to make these changes happen.

In short, cyber charter schools have not reinvented teacher personnel management, but, particularly regarding evaluation and termination, they have reformed it to a greater degree than have brick-and-mortar schools, even other charter schools. Still, cyber teacher management holds the potential for more.

Source: Dennis Beck and Robert Maranto, "Teacher Quality in Online Schools: More than a Revolution at the Margins?" American Enterprise Institute, September 12, 2013.

 

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