Monday, July 18, 2005

No Principal? Who Will Micromanage?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story about an interesting new trend in education: schools without principals. According to the article, instead of a traditional administration, the school is run as a sort of co-operative, and decisions are made by the teachers.
The teachers make decisions about the curriculum, the budget and student discipline. They perform peer evaluations of each other. Often, they come to decisions through discussion and debate, taking a vote if a consensus is not reached. The buck stops with them, not in the principal's office.

As an active member of my local union, this particular part of the article gives me hope for the future of the educator unions:
But in 2001, the IDEAL Charter School, a more pure "teacher cooperative," opened. "We take a lot of pride in the fact that we all have a vote and say in things," said Barbara Ernest, a teacher. "It's a lot of work sometimes, but it's worth it."

Ernest said union officials from New Jersey and school officials from Boston visited IDEAL to see how the teacher cooperative model looks in practice. "This idea has gained a lot of acceptance in recent years," said Jennifer Carter, a teacher.

It is important, I think that with the amount of venom directed at the so-called 'Education Establishment,' the unions become active and visible in studying and supporting this sort of major reform.
Naturally, with the program in infancy, it is difficult to judge just how effective it will be in reforming and improving schools. And I honestly question whether it is right for every school. It depends, I think on the personnel. Consider, for example, how decisions are made at the IDEAL Charter School:
Although specific tasks at the school might be delegated, everyone has a say in the major issues. "There is one main teacher in charge of the budget, but everybody has input and knowledge about it," Ernest said.

At IDEAL the teachers have many meetings, where they sit in a circle and go around, giving each of the 10 teachers the chance to speak. Usually, the teachers arrive at a decision through discussion. Occasionally, they vote.

My own school might have some difficulty with that; it seems, at times, that the faculty cannot agree on the color of the sky! Part of that could be because we have a number of teachers set in their ways, unwilling to embrace change. Or just because we all want to be chiefs.
Whatever the case, I am excited by this experiment. Think of the money that might be available with the removal of administration. And teachers actually working together to make decisions, and CONTROLLING THE BUDGET AND DISCIPLINE. I like it, I like it a lot.
Too bad it will all probably end up on the right wing scrap heap as some stupid socialist experiment. Communalism is always bad, donchyaknow.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)
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