Over the past decade, a growing body of research has confirmed that the quality of teaching is the single most powerful in-school factor that influences student learning. As a result, policymakers have turned their attention to “increasing the effectiveness” of teachers. The general consensus is that our nation needs teachers who are ready and willing to dramatically improve teaching and learning.
Recent survey research shows the American public overwhelmingly believes that teachers should be the key drivers of this needed transformation in teaching and learning. And, in schools across the country, there are teachers who are already demonstrating what is possible when teachers are trusted to call the shots for their students and schools.
In a political landscape that is saturated with reform initiatives, teacher-powered schools flip the traditional top-down model of reform and offer teachers the opportunity to collaboratively design and lead their schools for the benefit of students. When teachers make the decisions influencing school success, they are ready and willing to accept accountability for outcomes, while also making teaching a better profession for teachers.
Teacher-powered schools are a common sense solution that cuts across some of the longest-standing political and ideological divides in education. They can alleviate the tense political landscape because, when teachers share full responsibility and accountability for school success, they address the many hot-button teacher policy issues themselves.
Ways that policymakers can get involved include:
- Learn More: Start by learning more about teacher-powered schools. To begin with, check out the FAQ, these stories of teacher-powered schools, the research white paper that found overwhelming public support for teacher-powered schools, and the book Trusting Teachers With School Success.
- Examine and Consider Updating Existing Policies: Examine local and state policies to determine how much flexibility schools or districts have to grant autonomy to teacher teams. Policymakers should look at district site-based management practices, state accountability systems, school funding formulas, and teacher evaluation systems to ensure they support efforts that can result in the development and support of teacher-powered programs.
- Commission a Task Force: Call on school and local leaders who express interest in the concept to research and develop a framework for creating, piloting, and potentially scaling-up teacher-powered schools in your community. See how the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) brought together an Educator Autonomy Project working group.
- Establish Incentive Programs: Policymakers can establish incentives to help encourage teachers and local leaders to pilot teacher-powered schools in their community. For example, state legislators in Maine passed H.P. 775, “An Act to Develop a Grant Program to Establish a Teacher-led School Model.”
- Commit to Working with Teachers and Local Leaders: Remain receptive to the ideas and recommendations put forth by teachers, principals, and other school leaders who work close to students and communities.
- Connect With Other Policymakers: We know policymakers around the country who have helped create arrangements for teacher-powered schools in their community. Reach out to us and we’d be happy to provide introductions.