Nearly three out of four teachers say they have a “great deal” of control over how and what they teach, but that’s down from 82 percent in 2003-04, concludes a U.
S. Education Department survey, Public School Teacher Autonomy in the Classroom.
Teachers were asked about their control over “selecting textbooks and other classroom materials; content, topics, and skills to be taught; teaching techniques; evaluating and grading students; disciplining students; and determining the amount of homework to be assigned.”
Teacher autonomy is a mixed blessing, writes Robert Pondiscio.
As a new fifth-grade teacher in a South Bronx elementary school, I spent countless hours planning lessons and writing curriculum—hours that would have been far better spent practicing and mastering my craft. Sure, I had plenty of “autonomy,” but I lacked the time to exercise it.
“Creating curriculum and lessons from scratch each week took prodigious amounts of valuable time,” he writes. Autonomy meant “frustration and dissatisfaction.”
“The question is where to strike the balance of accountability and autonomy so as to maximize teacher satisfaction and student outcomes even while fostering innovation,” he concludes.
At the very high-scoring Success Academy charters in New York City, “every teacher teaches the same content on the same day,” writes Morgan Polikoff, a USC education professor, after a visit to a Harlem school. Curriculum, which is created in house, is the same across all schools in the network.
Teachers “get tons of training” in curriculum and instruction and two periods of common planning time with grade-level colleagues each day, plus an afternoon to work together. The principal “interjected with pedagogical suggestions for the teacher in almost every class we visited.”