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Teachers Enter the Main Office

Empty Teacher's Desk

If I ruled the world. . . .  How many of us have occasionally thought we could put things right if only we were in charge? And, now, according to the New York Times, a growing number of teachers are getting a chance to do just that. The paper looked at the accelerating trend in teacher-led schools, noting that several have opened recently in Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston — the latter run by the Boston Teachers Union.

Districts are taking a chance on these grassroots experiments to see if the people who have the greatest familiarity with students and classrooms can turn around troubled schools. One idea is that when teachers have a sense of ownership, they’ll be happier and more motivated, the Times reports. Moreover, districts see them as a possible means to compete against charter schools. But, critics worry that the hassles and time involved in running a school will tax the patience and expertise of teachers.

The Times focuses on the newly-opened Brick Avon Academy, a K-8 school with 650 students in Newark, which is run by six teachers who are veterans of Teach for America. Formerly called the Avon Avenue School, it’s in one of Newark’s poorest, most crime-ridden areas, and it’s been struggling: last year, only 14 percent of students passed a state math test, compared to 71.8 percent statewide. The new leaders are certainly not short of ambition: they plan to get approved as an International Baccalaureate school and to require Mandarin as well as Spanish, the Times reports. Says Dominique D. Lee, one of the teachers in charge: “This is a fantasy. It’s six passionate people who came together and said, ‘Enough is enough.’ We’re just tired of seeing failure.”

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