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.

From the CTQ

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

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3 thoughts on “Can Teacher-run Schools Deliver?

  1. I appreciate the highlight on what teachers are doing right. Just came back from a mastery based systems training, learned a lot, but was validated that building a culture of respect is the key. Seems so obvious but this process must be intentional and this post is a good reminder of that.

  2. I agree with Reina. I am an English teacher at Skyline High School. At my school last year, two of my administrators had served for 5 or more years as teachers at our site and two of our admin are Skyline graduates. Similarly, in this coming school year, we have created two new positions – for an ELA and a math coach and each is being filled by a Skyline teacher (I would know since I’m assuming the role of ELA coach!). By bringing people into these leadership positions who have learned, taught, and/or worked at the site, we demonstrate respect for their experience in the field, experience at the particular site, and commitment to the school’s community. Teachers are leaders of their schools, whether they hold the title or not, but as Reina says, if we embrace their leadership with intentionality and recognition, our schools and our students will reap the rewards.

  3. Thank you for sharing this great work. While I agree with Lisa, that teachers are the educational leaders of their schools wether they are recognized as such or not, I wonder if our educational policy makers are getting any closer to agreeing with Lisa.

    While I’m thrilled that Sec. Duncan acknowledged the work that NEA/NBPTS/CTQ have done to launch the Teacher-Leader Initiative, to my knowledge, he still hasn’t ask any of these teacher-leaders to influence policy.

    It’s almost as if the “Powers that Be” are looking for teacher-leadership to fulfill a middle-management niche. They would continue to imagine the reforms and write the policies, and Teacher-Leaders would help promote those ideas and policies. Too bad he’s still not convinced that teachers should be WRITING the policies.

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