In my view, the most influential proponents of innovation and change are K-12 teachers themselves. The more they seek the professional status and autonomy they deserve, the more responsive school districts will be to their requests for change.
Today there is a shortage of teachers. School districts have to be more responsive. In rural areas especially, there are fewer and fewer applicants for openings for qualified teachers.
As described in previous blogposts, teachers are taking the professional lead all over the country in teacher-powered schools (See my February 19 blogpost: Teacher-Powered Schools).
Ted Kolderie tells the story of a Milwaukee teacher-powered school in his book Improvement and Innovation. Around the year 2000, a group of teachers, including union leaders from Milwaukee, visited New Country School, a Minnesota charter school that uses a project-based approach and operates with a teachers’ cooperative. They wanted a similar school in Milwaukee. They asked their union leaders to bargain for creating such a school in the district. The superintendent was supportive, and they created the I.D.E.A.L. school, a K-8 elementary.
In time, the leaders of this school created other schools under Wisconsin’s original chartering law, which is more like a “site-management” law where the school remains an “instrumentality of the district” and teachers remain employees of the district. Each new school negotiated agreements with the district and the union so that significant authority was delegated to the school, including the right to evaluate their own people and flexibility in the use of time (day, week, and year).
A 2014 survey by Education|Evolving found that a significant majority of teachers are interested in teacher autonomy. Many just don’t know it can exist.
Imagine the possibilities if teachers—including student teachers—were provided professional development in teacher-powered opportunities!