A recent blog post on Education Week’s Teaching Ahead site highlighted the efforts by educators around the country, in at least 15 states now, to launch teacher-led, or teacher-run schools. In these schools there may or may not be administrators, and all decisions are made collectively by the teachers themselves. Run like cooperatives, their supporters claim that they offer not only more freedom and space to innovate and collaborate, but also better overall results.
Teacher-powered schools are a new and different way for teachers to emerge as transformative forces for teaching and learning. They are proof that characteristics of high-performing cultures can be created by the teachers who work with the support and partnership from principals, administrators, authorizers, union/association leaders and policymakers.
A new initiative is currently underway to promote and expand this model, and steps are being taken to make sure that it hits all the right chords. There is talk in this movement that can excite folks on all sides of the school redesign debate. Schools can become teacher-run and still operate within their union-district contract, for example. They offer an antidote to the testing craze that many feel has hampered creativity and enrichment no longer found in many classrooms. Yet the focus still is sharply kept on improvement student achievement. Education Evolving, a Minnesota-based group interested in school redesign options has partnered with the Center for Teacher Quality to promote these new schools with the hope of inspiring the growth of a movement. They call it Teacher Powered Schools, and their site even offers a how-to guide on making the switch. Surely it will take more than following a manual to make those kind of changes around here. But the question will undoubtedly keep coming back, as it does with everything: Do they actually work?
A recently released white paper (see below) dives deep into this subject, although the data at this point is arguably inconclusive, especially given the fact that measuring effectiveness is in itself an inconclusive endeavor. What does one look for when evaluating the success and impact of these models? What should we look for? The usual data points might hide some of the true success or failure of this model. But if instead the measure focuses teacher retention statistics at those sites, along with staff, student, and community surveys results, they might shed more light whether this is another quick way to save money and outsource admin costs, or the birth of an authentic and empowered teacher movement.
Here is a video form the Teacher Powered Schools featuring a union-designed school in Denver, Colorado: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me2hCwlWqWM
And the White Paper: http://www.teacherpowered.org/resources/tps-white-paper.pdf