Paperwork is a burdensome part of the job for many public school educators, but a new study of Louisiana schools suggests that the load may be greater in low-performing schools.
At the behest of the Louisiana Department of Education, researchers Susan E. Kochan Teddlie and Sharon Pol last year surveyed 4,000 educators in 302 schools across the state. They also conducted six focus groups with school and district personnel from 35 of the state’s 68 districts.
They found that teachers on average spent about 2.9 hours a week doing state-required paperwork that was unrelated to teaching. But educators in the state’s lowest-performing schools—that is, those that had been judged “academically unacceptable” because of students’ performance on state exams—spent an average of 5.97 hours a week on paperwork.
The researchers said higher rates of student mobility, teacher turnover, and student misbehavior explain some of the low-performing schools’ disproportionate burden. Struggling schools also typically come under more state scrutiny and have more school improvement programs in place, both of which involve additional documentation requirements.
Ms. Teddlie, a researcher at the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, cautioned, however, that her figures may be low. She said that’s because, in the focus groups, teachers seemed unaware of the origin of the paperwork requirements they routinely fulfilled, not realizing that many of those tasks had been imposed by the state.
She and Ms. Pol, an independent researcher, presented their findings last week in Denver at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.
A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2010 edition of Education Week as Too Many Forms?