Skip to main content

As a follow-up to Ken Bernstein's Daily KOS diary, “Education – Moving Past Excuses: What Excellence & Equity Require”, republished on our Daily KOS “Education Alternatives” group, I wanted to explore further some perhaps more radical thoughts behind Ken's statement which I (as a parent and not a professional educator like Ken) completely agree with...

Teachers are quite capable of serving in a number of productive capacities outside of their individual classrooms and their individual schools.

My mom, who was a very capable volunteer political activist (with a Bachelors in Sociology, but also not a professional educator), always used to say that, “Teachers should run the schools”.  Where she came to that insight, I really don't know, but as a kid I used to think, “Yeah mom, whatever”.  Now as an adult, and parent to two now young-adult kids who struggled in their public schools, her insight keeps coming back to me as I watch the increasing standardization and top-down control of those public schools.

The first school I ever encountered that was run by the teachers was Highland Hall, a private Waldorf school that our son Eric's mom and I checked out when we were exploring options for Eric beyond the conventional public schools.  We did not end up enrolling him, but I was struck by the school's governance model, which had the school's teachers running the school as a committee, without a principal, hiring additional administrative staff as needed.  

I had not previously encountered this sort of governance model for a school, and for me it recalled my mom's words, and begged the question why more schools were not run this way.  If teachers are truly highly-trained professional service providers like doctors and lawyers, shouldn't they be running their schools like doctors run their medical groups and lawyers run their law firms?

My take on U.S. history, and why public school teachers are generally not in that governance position, is that school teachers have mostly been women.  The American public school system developed in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th leveraging a pool of talented and highly educated women as school teachers, because other professions – including doctor, lawyer and college professor – were generally not open to them.  Public costs were kept down by hiring professional level talent at lower than professional compensation.  And given that the talent pool was women (who could not even vote for President until the 1920s) a male-dominated society was not comfortable with granting them the autonomy and self-governance of male professionals.  Instead, mostly male principals and district administrators, tasked with managing those teachers, were granted that sort of real professional salary and status.

But with the revived feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and a societal realignment that followed, most other professions opened up for women.  Though teaching today is still a majority female profession, it includes many men as well, and given much greater gender equality, there is no longer any (even bad) excuse for teachers not to be considered full-blown professionals like doctors and lawyers, and run the establishments where they practice their profession.

My mom's words were evoked again earlier this year when I read a piece in Ed Week about the public school in Detroit that was in the process of being taken over by the teachers.  In the intro to her piece, “Teacher-Led School Trend Takes DPS”, Marion Herbert writes...

Detroit is the next city to throw away the administrative reins and open the doors for an all-teacher-led school. Serving pre-K through eighth grade and roughly 450 students, the Palmer Park Preparatory Academy (P3A) will open in Detroit Public Schools this fall— sans principal —replacing the Barbara Jordan Elementary School, which closed in spring 2010 to become a turnaround school after being identified as low performing.

The school's own website, still under construction (as I write this) for its fall 2011 opening, says...

We are the first teacher-led school in the state of Michigan, joining a network of teacher-led schools across the country. Our philosophy is rooted in the belief that teachers are most successful in an educational environment that is child-centered and teacher-driven...
Where teachers lead, students succeed.

To be candid, I'm a big advocate for learner-driven education, but moving down the education “food chain” from administrator-driven to teacher-driven schools is a big step forward in my opinion.  Its a step forward towards my vision of students participating fully in the governance of an institution where they spend much of their lives.  It at least gives students direct access every day to real school decision-makers and vice-versa.  

Regarding that “food chain”, Herbert quotes Ann Crowley, one of the teachers in the group that took over the school...

By weeding out the middleman, Crowley believes it will become easier to educate the learners. “Bypassing another level of hierarchy in making decisions about the learning needs of children allows for more immediate action to transpire,” says Crowley.

Toward that goal of “weeding out the middleman”, I support  my friend Lynn Stoddard's effort to push for the transformation of the U.S. Department of Education from its current “new sheriff in town” role (in line with No Child Left Behind).  Writes Lynn...

Change the U.S. Department of Education from a dictator of school policy to that of a research, advisory and resource organization.

See his petition effort.

I actually would take this effort one big step further, and urge the states to transform their governance role in education as well, from “dictator” to “resource”.  Keep pushing the real direction of education down the “food chain” toward the student as the ideal nexus.  

Finally, Herbert indicates that the 3PA teachers were inspired by Steve Barr's Green Dot charter school group...

Palmer Park Preparatory Academy P3A was in part inspired by the Green Dot movement, a network of unionized charter schools in Los Angeles, founded in 2000, that encourages more autonomy and accountability for its teachers.

I hope using the chartering process to facilitate this teacher takeover does not sour some progressives on this big step toward more egalitarian school governance and acknowledging teachers as true professionals.  I appreciate their concerns that, particularly in “red” states where conservatives wield the political majority, that the whole “charter school movement” has been used as a cudgel to bash unionized teachers.  This along with challenging the whole concept of “the people's schools” in an effort to “corporatize” education.  But I think this is a case of not throwing the “baby” (professionalizing teachers and democratizing schools) out with the “bath water” (the education-industrial complex).

Originally posted to leftyparent on Fri Aug 19, 2011 at 03:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight and Education Alternatives.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

    •  Your Diary Is The Most Hopeful Thing I've (4+ / 0-)

      read about education in a long time., I'm delighted to hear that teachers are still struggling to innovate in the face of our national bad attitude about education and teachers.

      I'm not sure this is exactly the answer for American education but the fact that teachers are addressing educational issues with creativity and initiative bodes extremely well for education.

      Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

      by tikkun on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 08:39:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very glad to read your comment!... (0+ / 0-)

        And my take is that there is no one "answer" to American education, there are going to be a bunch of different efforts needed in order to transform what IMO is a moribund system.

        I think we need to move beyond a paradigm where we search for the single best solution, implement it from the top-down and try to tell people what is best for them.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 09:46:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  at some point education became more and more (8+ / 0-)

    important for a teacher, in particular administrative education.  I remember starting out circa 1975 and being told that I wanted to spend as little time as possible in the trenches and wanted to skew advanced education towards admin, as subject area studies were seen as tying yourself more deeply into that ghetto and teachers who had taught "too" many years were suspect as to why they were not kicked upstairs long before.
    The fair haired child was the admin major who managed to get the necessary degrees in the right areas with a minimum of time in the classroom.

    Other professions have done this, for example, I once knew a nurse with her doctorate who prided herself on having only 6 weeks "floor" experience in her history.  Teaching seemed to trend this way as well, as I have encountered several admin types who are proud they did not have to pull their time in the "trenches"

    •  Not sure how your comment relates... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to my piece.  Would be curious if you clarified!

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Fri Aug 19, 2011 at 05:15:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I apologize if I sometimes skew into other fields (8+ / 0-)

        that come to mind as I read a piece but the concept of teacher led schools would seem to be the older more experienced teachers would be the leaders while the reality of schools today militate against such an option.

        When I first began school, it was a small rural school whose principal was a teacher who had become principal by dint of years of service and who knew our parents and grandparents.  The schoolboard was composed of neighbors and within living memory was the practice of teachers living with community families in lieu of salary.

        It would seem without a revolution in the very fabric of what education has become, teacher led schools will continue to be the exception and not the rule.

        I hope this helps to clarify though sometimes I find clarity to be the most elusive of elements  

        •  Thanks for clarifying... (4+ / 0-)

          Teacher led schools are definitely a rare commodity, and may continue to be for some time.  I just wanted to call out the possibility of a new trend, that I certainly would like to see continue.

          Given that teacher's unions are being challenged by conservatives and don't seem to get high marks in recent surveys of the public, while individual teachers still do, I'm thinking its time for teachers to get a bit more radical, and demand to be treated as real professionals.

          That said, I'm not a teacher, just a parent who keeps up on the ed news and knows a fair amount of teachers.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Fri Aug 19, 2011 at 05:48:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  as a parent and former teacher such a trend would (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Debby, Albatross

            be exciting to me but at least locally the lure of professionalism has led to the state of affairs where those least able are the ones who end up leading.  I have known some of these people more than 55 years and nepotism and other elements too often paved the road for some of our administrators

            •  My point is looking at the efficacy... (0+ / 0-)

              of teachers running a school and of any administrators working for the teachers, instead of the other way around.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles

              by leftyparent on Fri Aug 19, 2011 at 09:05:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  or for career paths which clearly has an avenue (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                for classroom teachers to move into administration, as compared to today's avenues as they appear to exist to me.  Thinking back it seems many senior teachers became de facto administrators, keeping the school running on a daily basis.

                I guess the problem with schools today is that all of the planning is inorganic and all the ideas are generated from the top down, instead of organically as you describe.

            •  I think what is wanted here is a definition of (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              the term "professional".  

              As a teacher, my definitions of the term is someone who has pursued excellence in several areas.  Teachers have not traditionally been encouraged to excel in subject knowledge.  I would expect a teacher to have a first rate background in all the topics s/he teachers.  I would also expect a teacher to have a functional knowledge of a broad variety of classroom designs, i.e. team taught classrooms, blended age classrooms, open classrooms etc. as well as the traditional classroom.   I would expect a teacher to develop the best possible organizational skills.  These are just some of the elements that should be arrows in the quiver of a first rate professional and everything I've mentioned assumes that the professional teacher is active IN the classroom.

              Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

              by tikkun on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 08:20:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think of "professional" in governance terms... (0+ / 0-)

                commanding the respect of people in general and being granted the deference to as a group manage their profession and not take marching orders from authorities outside their profession.

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles

                by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 09:49:47 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  Teacher-led schools are a great idea (12+ / 0-)

    ...just ask me. I helped found one. We're entering our second year. Not private, not a charter. It's a public, neighborhood school, and proud to be. People are jumping on like mad. Why? Because the staff is smart, dedicated, and fully invested in the school. They run it, you see. It just makes sense. The Boss is not a principal, but a group of seven partners--and we intend to offer partnership to new staff, as well as parents.

      •  Very cool... so now I'm curious... (5+ / 0-)

        how did you manage to pull that off?  A teacher-led school public school and not even charter? Please share more about how it came to be, if you would.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Fri Aug 19, 2011 at 10:03:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  To make a long story short (15+ / 0-)

          DPS and the state have coinciding (recent) laws that allow for teachers to propose school ideas. These are officially called Innovation schools. The district put us through a proposal process, and we convinced them that our model was sound and that we could pull it off, so they approved us. After that, the state puts its stamp on it, and we are funded like any other public school. But we've negotiated our way through all kinds of sweeping changes as well as a controversial bypass of union by-laws (which is NOT to say that we don't abide by the spirit of fair labor practices; several founders are still dues-paying members of our union).
          Here's a quickie list of some of what we've managed:
          1. complete control of hiring for all staff, including facilities staff.
          2. right to reject district curriculum where we see a superior alternative (exercised for some areas, but not all)
          3. teacher governance by a founding partnership--all admin decisions are based on consensus and there is rarely a need to actually vote on decisions since this model actually does work.
          4. total control of school day and school year schedule. We have longer school days and lots more professional development time (which we actually use very effectively, believe it or not).
          5. a unique, sustainability-based mission, which we implement formally, through service learning and student-led projects. Read about it on our site if you like.
          6. near-total control of our school grounds, which we have used in partnership with some amazing farmers to create a productive farm on one of our ballfields. Sprout City Farms offered 40 CSA's (sold out in the first year) and will sell the rest of the produce back to the school at market value (which means dirt cheap). Our school lunch grown on our grounds. Yep, we're doing it.

          Like I said, people love it. What's not to love?

  •  Teacher-led (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, Mlle L, tikkun

    I'm not sure who led Studio City's highly-touted Carpenter School to become a charter but it does seem to be an increasing trend within LAUSD.

    What kind of charter school is Carpenter?

    Carpenter is a “District Affiliated” charter school. A District affiliated charter school adheres to all LAUSD guidelines and policies while gaining more autonomy with the school budget and curriculum choices. The term of the school’s charter is for five years and is up for renewal in 2015.

    Why did we convert to an affiliated charter?

    By converting to a District Affiliated charter school, we are seeking greater autonomy in the areas of curriculum, staffing and governance.  We believe that at the school level, we are better equipped to determine how to allocate the resources to serve the needs of all children at Carpenter. A charter allows us greater flexibility at the school level and will enable us to advance our innovative instructional program – and at the same time, holding us accountable for our results.

    •  So thanks for chiming in... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Regina in a Sears Kit House

      So is your school teacher-led?  I took a look at your website which talked about "greater autonomy" for teachers.  Please say more if you would about how your school came to be.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Fri Aug 19, 2011 at 10:08:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One of the advantages within LAUSD (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of being a charter would seem to be increased control over staff, no staff imposed on the school by the district. It would be valuable, I think, for LAUSD principals to have a situation where staffing is in the scope of the school rather than the district.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 09:50:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed... any group should accept new members... (0+ / 0-)

        into its circle.  We do that in my team at my work and it really builds trust, cohesion and group effectiveness.

        That said, if a group is dysfunctional and excludes people from joining for inappropriate reasons of bias or parochialism, then the group needs to be called to task and stand before a larger circle of peers.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:17:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Professionalism (4+ / 0-)

    Your points about professionalism are well taken. Sad to say, we were arguing the same sorts of things when I began teaching 30 years ago, and things haven't changed much in the meantime. If anything, they've gotten worse from the standpoint of school administration, even as teachers themselves have become more and more professional in their skills, their relations to other teachers, and, indeed, in every sense but gaining ultimate authority in their own classrooms.  This drive for recognition of professionalism is one impetus behind National board-certification, such as teacher-ken has, which at present is a voluntary program.

    I think your observations of the feminine origin of this discrepancy are probably correct.  I would add to it the whole idea of the industrial model of education.  Public schooling, although it has a very long history in this country, really blossomed during the age of industrialization and has kept that model ever since.  Power structures in industry are democratic as often as they are in school governance.

    I have a partial quibble with one statement:

    To be candid, I'm a big advocate for learner-driven education, but moving down the education “food chain” from administrator-driven to teacher-driven schools is a big step forward in my opinion.  Its a step forward towards my vision of students participating fully in the governance of an institution where they spend much of their lives.

    Although I do agree that student autonomy should be granted wherever feasible, I also think that teachers definitely have a roll in challenging students to achieve more than the students themselves think they can.  Obviously I don't mean that teachers should just challenge willy nilly, simply piling difficulties onto students. However, with some perception borne of experience and educational theory, teachers, like good coaches, can get students to grow intellectually in ways that the student him/herself could never envision. But obviously, I'm not talking about simple "direct instruction" here.  And, by the way, good examples of student-driven schools do exist at present, such as the Sudbury Valley schools.

    So to me, education needs to be child-centered, and teacher driven. Teacher-led schools simply make sense if such is the educational goal.

    Of course, such a thing in America right now is not likely to happen on any large scale.   What would it take, I wonder to change the situation to make such things possible?

    None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

    by Toddlerbob on Fri Aug 19, 2011 at 11:07:07 PM PDT

    •  I see very good opportunities (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries, tikkun, JanL

      for teacher-led education these days.

      There's so much dissatisfaction with public schools (which I believe are not so bad generally as they're made out to be, but not as good specifically as they should be) and so much more willingness to look at non-traditional options, within public school systems, teachers should be able to do what mrkvica and colleagues did, in the comment above.

      It won't be large-scale at first, but it can happen, and when it succeeds it'll happen more often.

      "I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more." - Popeye the Sailor Man

      by congenitalefty on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 12:29:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Do you think the Sudbury Valley Schools (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      could ever be incorporated to a public school system? I am interested in those models for my own children but there are very few of them and, as far as I know, they are all privately run.

      •  I am aware of a couple attempts at dem-free... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tikkun, angelajean

        public schools.  I know a person, Laura Stine, who founded and ran such a school, Blue Mountain, in OR for many years based on a state law prior to charters that allowed for a certain percentage of "alternative" public schools that would not be judged by the same instructional standards.  When the charter laws came into play, they converted to charter, but the district leadership changed and became hostile to this unusual school and eventually found reasons (excuses?) to close it down.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 07:55:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Your sense that schools should be teacher... (0+ / 0-)

      rather than learner led is certainly a more widely held view.  Thinking in terms of "many educational paths" I think their should be both sorts of schools.  Different strokes for different folks!

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 07:58:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Teacher Nurse Secretary (5+ / 0-)

    The professions that women used to be limited to, they're still distorted. "Secretary" as we think of it today didn't even exist when men were secretaries. You wouldn't have a clerk working under you who had no hope of advancing to your job. We had to create that situation for women.

    •  Its so whole "women's ancillary" concept... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mayfly, tikkun, missississy

      Actually, I don't think the public school system as we know it would have really gotten off the ground as strongly as it did in this country without this pool of highly talented and educated women with few other options.  School districts were able to contract with these talented and educated women and get way more than they paid for.

      So in the 1970s and 80s, as women were able to get into traditionally male-dominated professions, public school systems lost much of that captive talent pool, though still today I think a fair amount of teachers go into the profession to try to be of service, despite the money.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 07:46:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Teachers should get fair pay for the important (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        work they do.  The notion that teachers should be sacrificial lambs absolutely needs be thrown on the trash heap of time.  Holding up teacher sacrifice as a highest good is wrong headed.  

        Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

        by tikkun on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 08:34:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree, but that said we should encourage... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          everyone to do what they love and not live in a paradigm that is all about the acquisition of money, power and control.

          IMO it is the hierarchical paradigm of control that is a major factor in trying to stage manage our kids lives through top universities to high-paying privileged jobs and life styles.  If we operated more in the very different paradigm of a "circle of equals", then I think we would view so whole human development process very differently.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 09:54:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Fantastic diary (0+ / 0-)

            Thank you!

            •  Thank you... I am encouraged by the kudos... (0+ / 0-)

              I'm all about cheerleading for what I see as our human developmental transition from hierarchies of control to a circle of equals.

              I'm actually surprised not to see more teachers advocating for this move away from control from above and towards true professionalism.

              So  in the spirit of a continuing discussion... I'd welcome it if you would say more about your thoughts, I know you've made several comments on this piece.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles

              by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 11:16:34 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I've long said that administration is a waste (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of resources.

    In my experience--30+ years of teaching in high school and community college--administrators are paid well to go to meetings where they discuss what they'd do if they actually were to do something--that and create busywork to justify their positions. It's all window-dressing. Very little that they do has any positive impact on the classroom, and the top-heavy hierarchy most often bogs down decision-making rather than facilitating it.

    "'Things would be a lot worse without us,' is not a winning campaign slogan." Barney Frank

    by cassandraX on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 08:16:21 AM PDT

    •  IMO half of "administration" is about... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      an unnecessary hierarchy of control.  If you don't trust people generally to exhibit good judgment and agency, then you envision these elaborate control mechanisms.

      The other half of administration is creating an environment that facilitates human interaction and development, but that facilitation does not necessarily need to be done by someone in a position of authority.  Say a school run by the circle of teachers could then hire various "staff" reporting to them to handle those sorts of facilitative administrative tasks.

      Make sense?

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 09:59:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It seems to me (0+ / 0-)

        that a teacher's day is already pretty full, and that much of that day involves being largely unavailable for outside contact.

        If you're the teacher-facilitator-administrator and you have a full day of classes, and you need to call Legal about a question, when do you do it?

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:08:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The circle of governing teachers hire admin... (0+ / 0-)

          staff to handle these sort of things and report back to them in regular meetings.  Administrative staff don't also have to have the governing authority of the school.  The teachers are providing the critical service and are best positioned to govern the delivery of that service, while delegating as much as possible to non-teachers that is not their prime area of expertise.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:20:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Certainly I think teachers should (0+ / 0-)

            play a role in choosing their administrators and evaluate them. And administrators should be reporting to and consulting with the staff regularly.

            When our school district selected a superintendent recently, the committee consisted of teachers, classified, parents, school board members, and high school students.

            In addition to the people on the committee, all the candidates got tours led by students with no other adults present. The student tour guides were all extensively debriefed about the demeanor of the candidates. :-)

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:27:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  It doesn't have to be that way (0+ / 0-)

      I see administration as facilitators for the teachers in the school.

      Administrators have these important functions:

      1. Staffing and HR (as a teacher, do you want to be the person dealing with the fact that the 5th grade teacher was late every day last week? Do you want to be the person who has to call for substitutes? Do you want to be the person who has to call legal when you have a teacher engaging in questionable behavior?

      2. Point of contact for the school. If you're a teacher, during school hours you're in a classroom, teaching. There needs to be someone authorized to make decisions who isn't tied down to a particular group of kids all day.

      3. Spare staff - administrators in our school can step in in classrooms in emergencies, and take out kids who are creating a problem.

      4. Poring over the budget. Teachers should be involved in setting priorities, but they don't have the time to be dealing with the mechanics of cobbling together money for an extra 15 minutes of preschool or a professional development opportunity from 5 different funding sources.

      5. Administrators coordinate the classified staff providing janitorial service and bus service so that the teachers have what they need.

      6. The administrators are the people who have a responsibility to know everything that is going on at the school. Because they don't have kids all day, they have the ability to observe every classroom and every teacher, to see what deficiencies exist across the entire school.

      7. Administrators have to go to the school board meetings, they communicate with the board and the public, and they provide an additional contact for parents.

      8. In our school district, every administrator has substantial contact with students every day.

      Management in any field should enable and serve the people who work under her. The problem isn't administration, it's bad administration.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:06:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why can't the teachers govern the school... (0+ / 0-)

        and delegate most administrative functions to admin staff?

        A lot of the functions you enumerate could be done by people reporting to the teachers, tho I imagine governing teachers would want to play a key role in hiring.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:24:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's an interesting question (0+ / 0-)

          I consider this district to have a strong teacher-led component, as in that the teachers' input is solicited and respected and consensus is important.

          However, I don't see that this group of teachers is particularly interested in having that day to day oversight role. They want things done well and they have opinions that can and should be incorporated. But they don't want to go to board meetings every month. They don't necessarily want to know about how one guy on the bus driving staff is sniping at one of the mechanics. They don't want to go through the budget line by line by line. They already have more than a full day teaching and working with students.

          In our district the school board has that oversight responsibility, and I see the school board as having the duty to understand and represent the needs of students, of teachers,  of parents, and of staff.

          This is an unusually small district, such that it has all its schools colocated on a single campus K-12 . The dynamics would be quite different in a midsized district, let alone a megadistrict like LAUSD.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:38:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Again, line by line details can be delegated... (0+ / 0-)

            to admin staff that don't necessarily give teachers their marching orders.  I can appreciate tho, that some people would rather be led by others than lead themselves.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles

            by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 11:18:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Education is one of the most conservative (0+ / 0-)

    institutions we have when it comes to change. There are many reasons for this but none of it changes what your diary suggests which would be a huge step forward. Imagine if we spent the effort we waste or worse on NCLB and 'merit pay,' two absolutely stupid endeavors at best, on changing the structure of schools to being teacher-led.
      In my career, I noted that the best principals were the ones who had spent the most time in the classroom and would occasionally go back into the classroom. The very worst was a gentleman who had taught two years of driver's education, did a year of guidance counseling, and then spent nearly forty years pretty much trying to keep everything the same. He was horrified of change or innovation at all levels.
      The fact is the important business of a school takes place between teachers and students. The school doesn't exist to make jobs or contracts or entertainment or data for politicians. They exist to educate students and to whatever extent they do these other things, that's fine but the mission is actually to educate students.
      Reality is that teachers in most schools could easily step into doing administration's functions. In most schools the secretary is the one who has all the old files, schedules, forms, and savvy it takes to run the place. Woe to the new principal too stupid to cultivate that person. Most schools have more than one teacher with the degree and ability to step into administrative roles when needed.
      One advantage of passing these needs among teachers is would have someone doing the job more connected with what is going on in the classroom and less connected with making the moves to play the political posturing game that goes on in most systems. A second advantage is that it would be cheaper although not free. Teachers that do extra in these roles should be appropriately compensated.
      Babbling about NCLB, charter schools, and merit pay just goes on and on. And on. To nowhere.  Moving toward teacher-led schools is an idea that has been proven to work and needs wider support and application. Be also aware that it is an idea that makes school boards very uncomfortable because it changes the power dynamic. I would like to think the increased student success could overcome the negatives.

      Thanks for the intriguing post.

    •  Thank you for the kudos & extensive comment!... (0+ / 0-)

      As you say...

      The fact is the important business of a school takes place between teachers and students.

      If teaching were viewed as a true profession like doctor or lawyer, then the student-teacher relationship might be considered privileged and not subject to external control like it is to a large degree with those other professions.

      I take it even further and agree with the old saying...

      When the student is ready the teacher appears.

      The corollary is that until the student indicates that they want the assistance of a teacher, they should not have one forced upon them by the state.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:07:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Learning led schools would take risks (0+ / 0-)

    and follow divergent pathways.

    Fear of failure breeds failure.
    I wish our schools would have the courage to try out new ideas, take risks, learn from mistakes, make the schools experiential and innovative.
    Excitement and intrinsic joy of learning is the loci of magic in education.  

    Cookie cutter curriculum in cautious classrooms geared to mediocre conformity is  the soul killer for those who enjoy learing.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 09:40:46 AM PDT

  •  The purpose of schools is to break children. (0+ / 0-)

    Americans hate other Americans' children.

    Schools are prisons.

    The two things Teabaggers hate most are: being called racists; and black people.

    "It takes balls to execute an innocent man." -- anonymous GOP focus group member on Rick Perry

    by Punditus Maximus on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 09:46:03 AM PDT

    •  And your solution??? n/t (0+ / 0-)
      •  Personally or long term? (0+ / 0-)

        Long term, we have to reexamine what we want out of our schools and/or accept that child care is a big part of what they do at the elementary/middle level, but that HS is fundamentally different.

        Personally, I dunno.  Some teachers are good enough to mitigate the system.  Some aren't.

        The two things Teabaggers hate most are: being called racists; and black people.

        "It takes balls to execute an innocent man." -- anonymous GOP focus group member on Rick Perry

        by Punditus Maximus on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:22:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Americans hate other Americans' Children"... (0+ / 0-)

      That is a very interesting assertion that I think may have some merit in it and I need to ponder for a while.  Tho I imagine your intent was sarcasm, I think you may be touching a nerve!

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:27:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was being a bit flip, (0+ / 0-)

        but no, sarcasm was not part of that.  I genuinely believe that our hatred for one another includes our kids.

        The two things Teabaggers hate most are: being called racists; and black people.

        "It takes balls to execute an innocent man." -- anonymous GOP focus group member on Rick Perry

        by Punditus Maximus on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:35:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Flip" is the word I couldn't find... (0+ / 0-)

          and used "sarcasm" instead.

          My take is that hate comes from fear, one of the three great motivators (along with love and meaning) of human beings.  I think you are right that many people fear the influence of other people (particularly kids) outside of their control.  (Control as a key instrument to address fear.)

          Your thoughts?

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 11:23:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I think actually that most people who choose (0+ / 0-)

        private schools do so for that reason, less because of issues with teachers.

        It's certainly awful when another child bullies your child, and it can be annoying when other kids parented very differently from yours are in more contact with your kids than you are.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:41:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  As a counter-point (0+ / 0-)

    at the local elementary school we did this experiment, due to budgetary pressures and just the realities of the people available to work with. It's a great staff and they worked out lots of solutions - but I think everyone on staff breathed a sigh of relief when a solution that created an administrator over the elementary was found. There's just A LOT OF WORK involved in all the stuff that person does, that either didn't get done without that position, or that had to be done by the teachers in their already busy and underpaid days. Having that extra hand on deck makes everyone's day a little less like walking a tightrope.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:16:32 AM PDT

    •  So they were happier submitting to another's... (0+ / 0-)

      authority than having the responsibility of wielding it themselves?

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 11:24:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think that way of stating it is pejorative (0+ / 0-)

        and I don't think the implications in that statement are appropriate.

        Everyone involved is bright, committed, and exhibits leadership in many ways.

        Managing someone else requires a certain quantity of time and attention. Managing someone else as part of a committee is an even more complex endeavor.

        At the high school level, it's reasonably possible to have split administrator/teacher positions. At the elementary level, I'm not sure there's enough time in the day.

        No matter how great a programmer you are, it's very hard to also be the person who tests the code and creates the schedule and deals with the employee health insurance and writes the invoices while you're writing the code. There's no shame in saying you'd rather do only one of those jobs at a time even if you do have the skills to do all of them.

        As long as the people who hire and evaluate the administrators are teaching-focused and do a good job, the mechanics of who reports to whom are less important.

        I'm not really advocating against a teacher-led committee as you describe: I'm really for whatever works. But I would have concerns that it would be more dependent on the precise people you have than a model that hires an administrator - who really should be as much as anything the lead teacher, facilitating the other teachers - to be that person. I absolutely think teachers need a strong say in their administrator, and if the teachers aren't happy with their administrator, it's the admin that needs to go. But I think that there are a lot of day to day decisions that administrators make that are better made directly by one person.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 04:36:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The history of U.S. education is that... (0+ / 0-)

          administrators run the schools.  They were men and the teachers were generally women.  I think that hierarchical model of administrator (management) and teacher (labor) has led to many if not most of the problems we have today in our schools.  In this hierarchical paradigm teachers expect to be given orders from the "boss", rather than behave like other professionals and have a collegial governance of the institutions they participate in.

          It is that collegial paradigm that I'm talking about, educators leading education, with the administrative functions delegated to staff that answers to the educators.

          In the traditional male-dominated hierarchical education paradigm (which still seems operational IMO) the male administrators are viewed as the "professional educators" while the teachers are the rank and file worker bees who carry out those "educators" instructions.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 04:59:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Certainly a model (0+ / 0-)

            where a man is in charge of a group of women and tells them what to do rather than asks them what they need is counterproductive to a great functioning school.

            And, there are a lot more female administrators coming through too.

            I agree with you that for years teachers were taught to be subservient and that's not good for anyone.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 04:10:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  But again, it's where the authority is located (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Having teachers run the school does not mean they do the administrative work.  It means they run the school, they are in charge of it, they make the decisions, they have the accountability, they provide the direction.  

      So they hire staff to do what they are not able to do...facilities, administrative work, etc., but those staff report to the teachers, not the other way around.  Those staff are there to support the work of the teachers and the school, not to make policy, evaluate and direct (unless at the direction of the teachers).

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site