An idea whose time has come: teachers taking the lead

March 29, 2013 •

By Lori Nazareno, Guest Blogger

A growing movement is spreading across the United States. It involves teachers not only taking responsibility for student learning, but also leading the charge in reimagining what the educational experience and structures should be in order to best prepare our students for the future. This is occurring in spite of a concurrent movement to reduce the teaching profession to a compilation of standardized test scores and evaluation data in order to fire the “bad” teachers.

Despite teacher job satisfaction being at an all-time low (39% according to the recently-released MetLife survey), there are exceptional teachers with bold ideas who are stepping forward to announce that we can do better, we must do better. They are willing to take on not only improving their own practice, but also re-thinking the structure of school. Teachers across the country are taking on the challenging task of creating and running their own schools.

There are approximately 50 schools across the country who are operating as either teacher-led schools or with autonomies (staffing, budget, leadership, discipline, curriculum, etc.) that provide teachers with the ability to make significant decisions in order to meet the needs of their students. In her book Trusting Teachers with School Success, Kim Farris-Berg found that these schools also demonstrate the characteristics of high-performing organizations. Some of these schools have been in existence for a significant amount of time like, San Francisco Community School that was established in 1972. Some schools are relatively new like the Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy (Colorado) that I started in 2009, and Reiche Community School (Maine) that transitioned to a teacher-led school last year.

The bottom line is this…if we want significantly different results than what we have been getting, then we must do something significantly different than what we have always done. Blaming teachers, or anyone else, is not going to get us where we need to go, nor is tinkering around the edges by creating new tests, changing evaluations systems and firing the “bad” teachers. What we need is a new way of operating and a system where students succeed because of the system and not in spite of the system.

Creating schools that put students at the center of the design and mobilizing teachers to take responsibility for all things that impact student learning is something very different from what we have been doing. These ideas are central to the success of other nations that have dramatically improved student learning and the time has come for us create schools and a system that supports ALL students. And these expert teachers with bold ideas are ready to take us where we need to go!

If you are ready to design your own school or learn how to do it, please join me for my School (Re)Design webinar series on April 3 and 17. To register go to: Together we can (re)design schools and schooling in order to create the schools our students deserve.

Lori Nazareno is currently serving as Teacher-in-Residence for the Center for Teaching Quality working on School (Re)Design. She taught for 25 years and is responsible for taking the concept of a teacher-led school to reality in the form of the Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy. She is a dually-certified NBCT and has served on the Teacher Advisory Board for the Center for Teaching Quality, the NEA Commission for Effective Teachers and Teaching, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council, and the Board of Directors for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @lnazareno.