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 Response Page - Bakken / Graba  Interview -      
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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Carrie Bakken / Joe Graba Interview of
05-02-2014.
 

For improved academic performance and cost savings, look to teacher-led schools

OVERVIEW

Carrie Bakken of Avalon School, a teacher-led charter school in St. Paul, and Joe Graba of Education|Evolving discuss the benefits of that type of school governance, both in terms of school performance and in terms of empowering teachers. According to Bakken, teacher-led governance at Avalon, which has used that model since it opened in 2001-2002, is cost-effective because the teachers there have a 95 to 100 percent retention rate, much higher than the average rate. As a result, the school doesn't have to spend money continuously training in new teachers and is able to do long-range strategic planning.

Graba notes that nearly half of all beginning teachers across the nation leave the profession within five years. He says we need to make teaching a better job and teacher-training programs need to prepare teachers to lead schools. He says that teacher-led schools significantly increase the engagement of teachers and students in the educational process.

Bakken says the intense focus on testing has limited teachers' jobs even more than before, because they're told what curriculum to use and even what page they should be on. She argues that empowering teachers is essential. Graba points out that there are more teacher-led schools around the country and that teachers and their unions are starting to get active in negotiating for those kinds of schools.

For the complete interview summary see: Bakken Graba interview

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

To assist the Civic Caucus in planning upcoming interviews, readers rated these statements about the topic on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. (8.1 average response) The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. (6.5 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

Readers rated the following points discussed during the meeting on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

3. Teacher control improves performance. (8.2 average response) Teacher-led schools are likely to have stronger academic performance than traditionally managed schools because teachers are better able to determine how to teach a given curriculum to the particular students in their classrooms.

4. Teacher-led schools more cost effective. (6.6 average response) Teacher-led schools are likely to have lower overall costs due to better teacher retention.

5. Empowering teachers improves profession. (8.1 average response) Empowerment of teachers will likely improve the teaching profession resulting in the ability to attract stronger talent.

6. Increase teacher-led district schools. (7.8 average response) Teachers’ unions and every school district should work to provide more opportunities for teachers to manage schools.

7. Change to be gradual, voluntary. (5.6 average response) Successful long-term changes in education will be achieved only gradually and voluntarily.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

0%

0%

11%

67%

22%

9

2. Further study warranted.

0%

11%

33%

44%

11%

9

3. Teacher control improves performance.

0%

0%

11%

56%

33%

9

4. Teacher-led schools more cost effective.

0%

0%

44%

56%

0%

9

5. Empowering teachers improves profession.

0%

11%

0%

56%

33%

9

6. Increase teacher-led district schools.

0%

11%

0%

56%

33%

9

7. Change to be gradual, voluntary.

11%

11%

22%

56%

0%

9

Individual Responses:

Dave Broden (7.5) (2.5) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (0)

1. Topic is of value. Nothing really new; mostly an update of prior thoughts. The points are good but how does it or can it work?

2. Further study warranted. Only if some real content and impact is presented.

3. Teacher control improves performance. Very strong idea and approach but not much on how this process can scale up to big districts and across the state.

4. Teacher-led schools more cost effective. This tends to be a reasonable assumption but how is it supported and does retention directly reduce costs or is this a hidden cost savings?

5. Empowering teachers improves profession. This is a likely outcome but to use this as an argument for teacher control will require solid data; improvement in teacher talent should be a primary focus in some way.

6. Increase teacher-led district schools. A balanced approach of teacher-managed with local control in a collaborative manner should be the objective of all school districts.

7. Change to be gradual, voluntary. Change must be a constant objective to ensure the quality of education is realized. Gradual and voluntary approaches are OK but will not meet objectives nor will absolute direction to change. An approach that has local incentives and is achieved without must-do dictates from the state but with solid guidelines that can be adapted to local conditions and with realistic funding can accomplish change.

Phil Kinnunen (10) (10) (5) (7.5) (2.5) (10) (7.5)

3. Teacher control improves performance. This seems to be a new idea, if it's really working; time will tell. The problem I have with a teacher having too much control over what and how they teach, are the ones that think a public school is a platform for social change. Young people are very vulnerable and should be educated on the basics of education at the K-12 level. Let them make up their own minds in college or trade school.

5. Empowering teachers improves profession. I still have a problem [with]young teachers having too much control over what they teach. I believe that any teacher under the age of 30 should have a life-experienced supervisor overseeing their performance in the classroom.

6. Increase teacher-led district schools. I agree that the teachers unions have been much too powerful in the past and have allowed poor teachers to remain in the system.

7. Change to be gradual, voluntary. Gradually, yes; voluntarily, most likely not.

Richard Lees (7.5) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (5)

Don Anderson (5) (5) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5)

Cynthia Johnson (10) (5) (10) (5) (10) (7.5) (7.5)

3. Teacher control improves performance. In my experience, smaller "choice" schools, where families and teachers are heavily invested are the most successful with the broadest number of students. Often these are magnet or charter schools, but I've seen it in district schools as well. Magnet and charter schools have an unfair advantage, however, because they are not required to take all students - special ed students, for example. In addition, the very nature of a "choice" school means that families have had the resources to research and choose a school, so not only are they more invested in that school, but they generally have greater resources to provide outside education to their children. I don't mean that they necessarily have more money - but the people who are proactive in their children's education care more about education themselves.

5. Empowering teachers improves profession. This needs to be done across the board; it's unrealistic to think that the large numbers of children who need to be educated in America will be taught in small schools like Avalon. However, committed, skilled teachers who have some say in who is on their team and how the team functions build a culture that families want to be a part of. I saw this in my children's neighborhood elementary school - the culture of improvement was so strong that a failing school turned around, most of the teachers had or were working toward an advanced degree, and a school-wide reading program was implemented that helped the school (with around 90% poverty) start to close the achievement gap. Unfortunately, this little jewel of a school was closed by the district in favor of economies of scale.

6. Increase teacher-led district schools. I don't know that schools larger than charters like Avalon can do without administrators, but when administrators and teachers develop a collaborative approach, teachers do feel empowered and amazing things happen for students.

7. Change to be gradual, voluntary. Mostly true, but sometimes imposed change can serve as a catalyst. No Child Left Behind was wildly unpopular, but the reporting it required did expose some of the problems with the achievement gap that were masked by the old reporting system. For example, it required that performance be broken out by race, so schools that were considered very successful could see where they were failing children of color.

Wayne Jennings (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (10) (10) (5)

1. Topic is of value. Democratic institutions where all have voice fit America.

4. Teacher-led schools more cost effective. I'm reminded of the experiment in Minneapolis. supported by the General Mills Foundation in which class size was cut in half by having all professionals teaching. It was offered to other schools. Faculties turned it down. Ultimately, the program petered out and status quo resumed.

6. Increase teacher-led district schools. Most teachers want to try new practices and work together for progress. An overlay of rules prevents concerted efforts toward reform.

7. Change to be gradual, voluntary. Incremental progress will take forever. An institutional "bypass" in the form of charter schools, schools within schools, pilot programs and traditionalist models can jump the tedious snail pace of conventional school "reform" if given space to work.

Tom Spitznagle (8) (5) (8) (5) (8) (7) (3)

New, effective models for education are very positive developments. Parents should be empowered to choose the model that best works for their kids through the use of vouchers. This can accelerate the move toward more effective models by circumventing the traditional public school/union establishment.

Paul Hauge (9) (8) (7) (8) (9) (7) (8)

Chuck Lutz (8) (8) (9) (9) (8) (9) (7)

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (coordinator), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie, Dan Loritz (chair),
Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman


©
The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.  civiccaucus@comcast.net
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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