Teachers take over schools

Across the country, teachers are taking over schools, reports the New York Times.  In Newark, a group of  Teach for America veterans are running a public K-8 school, Brick Avon Academy, as teacher-leaders. The “principal teacher,” Charity Haygood, teaches every day, as do two vice principals.

While they are in charge of disciplining and evaluating staff members, they plan to defer all decisions about curriculum, policies, hiring and the budget to a governance committee made up largely of teachers elected by colleagues.

. . . Teachers have more say over what they teach, and starting next year they will have more time to work with children when they introduce a longer day.

Founders were given a low-scoring school in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood.  They plan to turn Brick Avon into an International Baccalaureate school and to require Mandarin as well as Spanish.

Los Angeles has turned over 29 city schools to teacher-led groups, who beat out established charter operators. Detroit is opening a teacher-run elementary school. Boston Teachers Union opened a teacher-run school last year “with teachers ordering supplies, giving feedback to one another and deciding whose hours to reduce to save money.”

Until recently, most teacher-led schools have been charters.  It’s harder to change the administrative structure in a district-run school.

Tim McDonald, an associate with Education Evolving, a policy group in St. Paul that supports teacher-led schools, said studies showed that when teachers were given control — much like doctors or lawyers running their own practices — schools had higher morale, less turnover, more efficient decision-making and greater motivation to improve.

Still, Mr. McDonald was skeptical that a truly collaborative model could succeed widely in school districts, unless it was somehow freed from the traditional bureaucracy.

“The question is whether teachers have the patience to do the ‘adminis-trivia,’ ” said James Lytle, a former principal and superintendent and now an education professor at University of Pennsylvania.

The union-run UFT Charter School in East New York, Brooklyn, has run into problems. Two principals resigned after clashing with teachers, and recent test scores have been disappointing; only 22 percent of last year’s eighth graders passed state tests in English and 13 percent in math, compared with citywide rates of 37.5 percent in English and 46.3 percent in math.

Teachers are running schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Denver, reports Public School Review.  Some are charters and some are district-run but nearly all enroll primarily low-income, minority students.  Results are mixed for the Minnesota and Wisconsin schools, writes Beth Hawkins in Education Next.

Union fights for ‘D’ Harlem schools

Harlem parents are refusing to enroll their children in two low-rated Harlem elementary schools. But the United Federation of Teachers, backed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, is fighting a plan to phase out the schools, which would be replaced by charters run by the Harlem Success Academy.  HSA, which opened in 2006, doesn’t have enough space for the students who want to attend, reports the New York Daily News. Meanwhile, PS 194 is more than half empty; PS 241 is more than two-thirds empty. Both schools have ‘D’ ratings.

PS 194 has space for 628 students in kindergarten to fifth grade, yet enrollment has fallen to 280. PS 241 has room for 1,007 students but draws 310, including just 11 kindergartners. That pitiful number means that only 15% of the kindergartners who reside in the zone attend.

Harlem Success Academy, which eventually will run K-8 schools, organized neighborhood parents to protest, reports Gotham Schools.

“I’m tired of these special interests claiming they represent me. Did the teachers union ask me if P.S. 241 should close? If they asked me, I would have said, yes, absolutely” said the mom of Emanuel Agbavitor, a first grader at P.S. 241. “I never get to see my child’s teacher, I don’t know how he’s doing in school and they don’t return my phone calls.”

. . . “The teachers union is trying to prevent a bad school from closing and me from sending my child to the school of my choice,” said Thiong Sall, mother of two children zoned for P.S. 241. “Mayor Bloomberg should not listen to the union and should instead listen to parents like me.”

“I live across the street from 194 and although it’s a zoned school and very convenient for me, I wouldn’t put my child in there because the children are well behind,” said Melissa Haley. “I used to attend 194. I would prefer a school where it is not only clean which 194 isn’t, but also where there are teachers that are willing to see children get not 65% but 100%.”

“I feel good about them closing 194. Teachers are there just for a paycheck, not to help kids learn,” said Shamecca Davis, mother of Tytiana. “Children beat each other up and there are not enough supervisors.”

It’s easier to get into Harvard than to get into top-rated Democracy Prep, a Harlem charter middle school which will add a high school, reported the New York Post. Some 1,500 parents applied for 100 seats. Students were chosen by lottery.