Survey: Teachers hunger for accountability, paired with authority

July 19, 2010 •

People sometimes assume that teachers want to run away from accountability. In reality, they just don’t want to be accountable for what they cannot control. In fact, research argues that there is a demand for accountability.

The potential was underscored by the finding from Public Agenda’s survey of teachers in 2003. The question to a national sample of teachers was: “How interested would you be in working in a charter school run and managed by teachers?” The question asked respondents first to affirm an interest in coming into the charter sector. Still, the interest is startling to most people: 58 percent of teachers said they would be somewhat or very interested; 65 percent of the under-five-year teachers and 50 percent of the over-20-year teachers.

In his 2009 book The Secret of TSL (total student load) UCLA business professor and strategist William Ouchi described his own coming to terms with this finding, during his research and observation of Boston’s Pilot Schools and other district decentralization efforts.

When districts first began to decentralize, he describes, the desire for accountability by teachers outpaces expectations, and sometimes the capacity to meet demand:

He wrote of Boston’s experience, “By all accounts, everyone who was involved had expected only a handful of schools who would want to make the switch, since it would likely end up meaning more hours of work for teachers with fewer union protections. To their surprise, many teachers were enthusiastic about the idea, a large number of schools applied for conversion, and eleven conversions were approved in the first few years, between 1995 and 2001.”

It is an unconventional notion that teachers can run their own schools, and researchers have yet to catch up to this new reality. Yet it is happening, and spreading.