Putting Teachers in Charge of Schools

There is a new trend in education that is sweeping the country and causing quite a stir. Teacher-led schools are not new in the United States, having been around since the 1990s, but recently, the idea of putting educators in charge is gaining popularity. According to a recent New York Times article, there is a movement in the United States to allow teachers to lead struggling schools in economically depressed urban areas in order to bring about real change, like improving test scores, reading levels and graduation rates. Some of these teacher-led schools are charter schools, meaning they are independent of the local school board, and some are public schools that are part of local school districts. And as with any issue, there are loud supporters and detractors of this new trend.

Supporters of teacher-led schools, mostly teachers themselves, believe that having educators as administrators will create a feeling of ownership at the school, like an entrepreneur owning their own business. They believe that teachers will become more dedicated and motivated because they will have more say in what is taught in the classroom by developing curriculum, and where resources are allocated in the school, like funds and supplies. To ease into this teacher-led model, some schools are maintaining a principle to manage the student disciplinary matters, as well as evaluating faculty members. A governance committee is then formed by an elected group of educators to handle issues of hiring, curriculum, budgeting, and other operational matters. Other schools, in Boston and Detroit for example, are simply eliminating the principle altogether and claiming a motto that states "where teachers lead, children succeed."

Despite the admirable motivation behind the move to teacher-led schools, those opposed to the idea believe educators are ill-equipped to act as administrators. Some cite their fears that teachers will lose focus on their real job of teaching the students and become distracted with other school matters.

So far, these types of schools have opened in Boston, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Newark. Los Angeles, for example, recently allowed 29 city schools to be governed by local teachers that worked with teachers, administrators and union leaders to beat out bids from charter school operators, like Green Dot Public Schools. Also, Minnesota recently passed a law that will allow teachers to fund, manage, and run new schools, where they will have considerable authority in matters of budgeting, curriculum, staffing, special programs, and other school-related issues.

As with most schools, the true measure of success for these teacher-led schools will be a clear and marked improvement on their respective state-administered standardized tests. Without a boost there, who knows how much longer this trend will continue.

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