The Teacher-Powered Schools Initiative Celebrates 5 Years

By Amy Junge • Jun 20, 2019

Five years ago the Teacher-Powered Schools Initiative (TPSI) was launched with the goals of highlighting the successes of teacher-powered schools across the country, and inspiring other teacher teams to either take charge in their schools or design and run new schools. Teacher-powered schools flip the traditional leadership hierarchy and entrust those closest to the students—the teachers—to make decisions. No two teacher-powered schools are exactly alike because the teacher-powered model provides innovative, local control for practitioners. This allows students to remain the focus in education and learning. We as an initiative remain laser-focused on improving student learning and improving the teaching profession—not from the top-down, but from the ground up.

Currently, there’s a tremendous amount of buzz in the US about school choice. Charter schools, district schools, special programs—there are no shortage of options to be debated. Teacher-powered teams are successful in district and charter settings. It is up to each team to decide the best setting in which to secure the authority and autonomy they need to create the best school for their students. Regardless of setting we have much to share and learn from each other. This governance model empowers teachers to be active in developing school policy, building meaningful relationships with students, and elevating teacher leadership.

Ambassadors at the 2018 Teacher-Powered Schools National Conference.

5 Years and Growing

Teacher-powered schools have been around since the 1970s, but most teams thought they were the only ones who used this type of governance structure. After Trusting Teachers With School Success (Berg, Dirkswager, and Junge) was published in 2012 we knew we needed a way to connect all the teams we had met during our research. What began as a research project has grown into a movement… led by the very teams who have been doing this work for decades.

The power in teacher-powered has always been the dedicated educators committed to reimagining teaching and leading. Since TPSI launched in 2014 we have worked closely with teacher-powered teams, exceptional leaders and teachers, and allies committed to supporting these educators. Take a look at some of the accomplishments over the last 5 years:

  • Supporting 4 cohorts of amazing ambassadors, teacher-powered educators who have founded, led, and continue to teach at successful teacher-powered schools. These ambassadors remain full time teachers at their sites and are compensated as professional leaders working to transform the education system.
  • Hosting 3 Teacher-Powered Schools National Conferences drawing attendees from across the country and internationally. Taking place in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Boston our conferences are led by those doing this work and designed to support teams at a wide range of stages.
  • Formalizing and launching our TPS National Network plus regional networks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles led by local teacher-powered ambassadors. These regional networks are designed to connect teams locally and provide a safe space to share successes and challenges.
  • Securing funding opportunities for teams in-development and for teams looking to improve their collaborative leadership practices. These Ignition and Booster grants are run by teacher-powered Avalon school and awardees are determined by a peer review panel of teacher-powered leaders.
  • Writing 8 Discussion Starters designed for teacher teams who are working through creating or improving a teacher-powered school. Topics include shared purpose, securing and sustaining autonomy, evaluation, collaborative management, defining success, instructional approaches, selection & hiring, and cultural integration.
  • Creating a digital Steps Guide for Starting a Teacher-Powered School for the five stages of development—forming, storming, norming, performing, and transforming.
  • Designing a Teacher-Powered Schools Site Visit Guide, helping visitors get the most out of their visit to a teacher-powered school.
  • Organizing Collaborative Leadership for Thriving Teams: A Guide for Teacher-Powered Site Administrators.
  • Collaborating with over a dozen postgraduate students doing dissertations and/or fieldwork on teacher-powered contributing to a growing body of research supporting teacher-powered structures and practices.
  • Developing strong local relationships with union and community leaders and national education partners.
  • Tracking over 60 plus in-development teams around the country starting their own teacher-powered schools and support many of these teams with consulting, resources, and connections.
  • Writing press, blogs, and stories about what teacher-powered looks like in schools thus increasing the awareness about TPS.
  • Maintaining a robust Teacher-Powered website and strong branding of Teacher-Powered.
  • Building an active social media presence (follow us on Twitter and use the #teacherpowered hashtag!).

Click to view.

A Teacher-Powered Future

The initiative was founded as a collaborative effort of Education Evolving and the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ). Since 2014, as we have expanded teacher ambassador leadership more and more the day to day leadership has shifted to these dedicated teacher leaders around the country. CTQ was a critical partner during these early years and EE continues to support our ambassador team with their work.

Reflecting back on the last five years we are very proud of the progress the movement has made, and we are looking ahead to the future. Our vision for the next five years is that students learn in environments where teacher-powered practices are used to create equitable, student-centered learning; and that, in several regions across the country, teams of teachers are connected to and supported by teacher-powered networks.

This vision, and the goals and strategies that support it, were co-created by our team of accomplished ambassadors from 15 teacher-powered schools across the nation. It is this group of teacher-powered leaders that have imagined, created, and pushed this movement forward over the last 5 years. As we move into the next phase of Teacher-Powered, these same leaders are sharing their knowledge and experience to support more teacher-powered teams growing the network and advocating for this model.