Friday, September 10, 2010

In a New Role, Teachers Move to Run Schools

A cover story in yesterday's NYT about teachers taking over failing schools.  I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, but I worry that they'll fall on their faces for four reasons: 1) what they are trying to do is EXCEEDINGLY difficult; 2) they're young, inexperienced and appear to have had little (no?) training in actually running a school; 3) it's not clear that they have any money; and 4) unlike charter schools, they're operating within the bureaucracy and, most alarmingly, the union contract, which will tie their hands in countless ways.  That said, I hope they beat the odds!

Shortly after landing at Malcolm X Shabazz High School as a Teach for America recruit, Dominique D. Lee grew disgusted with a system that produced ninth graders who could not name the seven continents or the governor of their state. He started wondering: What if I were in charge?

Three years later, Mr. Lee, at just 25, is getting a chance to find out. Today, Mr. Lee and five other teachers — all veterans of Teach for America, a corps of college graduates who undergo five weeks of training and make a two-year commitment to teaching — are running a public school here with 650 children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

As the doors opened on Thursday at Brick Avon Academy, they welcomed students not as novice teachers following orders from the central office, but as "teacher-leaders."

"This is a fantasy," Mr. Lee said. "It's six passionate people who came together and said, 'Enough is enough.' We're just tired of seeing failure."

The Newark teachers are part of a growing experiment around the country to allow teachers to step up from the classroom and lead efforts to turn around struggling urban school systems. Brick Avon is one of the first teacher-run schools in the New York region, joining a charter school in Brooklyn started in 2005 by the United Federation of Teachers.

Others have opened in Boston, Denver, Detroit and Los Angeles.


In a New Role, Teachers Move to Run Schools

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Published: September 6, 2010

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