Updates and Insights: Vol. 1, No. 2

Mailing Date: 
March 18, 2005
Education/Evolving
Vol. 1, No. 2March 18, 2005Jon Schroeder, Editor

Welcome to the second edition of Education|Evolving’s new electronic newsletter -- UPDATES AND INSIGHTS.

IN THIS ISSUE:
MINNESOTA-SPAWNED INNOVATION IS SEMIFINALIST FOR PRESTIGIOUS NATIONAL AWARD

The Teacher Professional Partnership has become a semifinalist in the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award, often referred to as the "Oscars of government prizes". The Partnership is one of 50 programs that are now eligible to win one of six $100,000 grants.

The Teacher Professional Partnership is an unconventional program that challenges the traditional role of teachers as employees, empowering teachers to organize and manage their school as a collegial group. The initiative is an arrangement in which teachers organized as a group-practice receive the authority and accept the responsibility for the operation and success of a school.

The idea of a partnership originated in 1994 at the Minnesota New Country School, a secondary charter school formed to test out the partnership concept and innovative approaches to learning. The arrangement, legally known as a workers’ cooperative, but generally referred to as a partnership, is currently employed in several other schools in Minnesota affiliated with the EdVisions group. Although its origins are rural, the concept has now spread to mid-sized cities and to highly diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Since 2001 the original program has also been replicated at six schools in the Milwaukee area. The ability to transfer such a strong program from one jurisdiction to another was a deciding factor in moving the Teacher Professional Partnership to the semifinalist level.

Eighteen finalists will be chosen from the 50 and announced in April. The National Selection Committee on Innovation in American Government, chaired by David R. Gergen of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard and including former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former San Diego Mayor Susan Golding, and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives William Clinger will choose six winning programs, which will be announced on July 27, 2005.

The Innovations in American Government Awards program, now in its 18th year, is a program of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government.

For more information on the EdVisions model of the Teacher Professional Partnership, please visit http://www.edvisions.com.


NEW REPORT TAKES INVENTORY OF TEACHER PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE ORGANIZATIONS THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES

To help document the growing interest nationally, Education|Evolving has recently released a new report, Teachers in Professional Practice: An inventory of new opportunities for teachers working collectively as professionals. To view the on-line version, click here. To obtain a printed copy, e-mail info@educationevolving.org.

The report contains a comprehensive inventory of the known teacher professional practice (TPP) initiatives--established and planned--serving private and public schools throughout the United States. Several models are described, offering a concrete overview of how different TPPs function. Seven operational partnerships now serve fifteen public schools throughout Minnesota and in Milwaukee.

Partnerships in the planning phase also span the U.S., including Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada; Fall River, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Camden, New Jersey; and Buffalo, New York. Several operational partnerships serving private schools are located in Northern California and Bellingham, Washington. The new E/E report also includes a comprehensive resource list for people interested in seeking more information about TPPs.

Education/Evolving intends this new report to be a resource for those forming, or encouraging the formation of, TPPs. It may also be of interest to those interested in the idea of teacher professional partnerships.

This new publication was researched and written by E/E associate Kim Farris-Berg, with an introduction by E/E co-founder Ted Kolderie.

It serves as a follow-up to an earlier E/E report, "Teacher Professional Partnerships: A Different Way to Help Teachers and Teaching." To view that report, click here.

Education/Evolving will continue taking inventory of TPPs nation-wide, adapting this report as we learn more. If you have updates or new information, please send them to info@educationevolving.org. If you would like to follow the updates, continue checking E/E’s Web site: https://www.educationevolving.org.


RELATIVE SCALE OF THE INNOVATION NOT YET A MEASURE OF ITS IMPORTANCE

The idea of teacher professional partnerships is still in its infancy and present in a relatively few places. But the significance of an innovation is not best measured by the size at which it first appears. Or by the auspices under which it first appears. Opening a way for teachers to work in public education as professionals in collegial groups is a significant innovation.

It does depart--dramatically--from the prevailing notion that better teaching, and the student motivation that results, can be achieved within the traditional framework; within the historic understanding that if you want to be a teacher you have to be an employee. Most of the effort currently in this country is to improve teaching, and teachers, through large programs of 'professional development' organized by the administrators for whom teachers work.

But it is clearly conceivable for teachers, like other professionals, to work with partners in groups they collectively own; serving a client in an arrangement that gives them both the autonomy we associate with professionalism and the accountability we expect from professionals. The potential implications for public education was explained in Teachers As Owners, a book put together in 2003 by Edward J. Dirkswager for Education/Evolving and published by Scarecrow Press.


POTENTIAL FOR THE INNOVATION UNDERSCORED BY PUBLIC AGENDA SURVEY

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 to affirm an interest in coming into the charter sector in order to express their interest in teacher professional practice. Still, the interest is startling to most people: 58% of teachers said they would be somewhat or very interested; 65% of the under-five-year teachers and 50% of the over-20-year teachers.

Research has been slow to pick up on this innovation. Research, as John Witte of the University of Wisconsin has pointed out, tends to generalize; is interested in 'most' and 'on the whole' and 'overall'. It pays less attention to individual, particular developments that turn out to be the really significant innovations.


ATTITUDES OF BOTH TEACHERS AND STUDENTS DO VARY BY ENVIRONMENT

From what we do know, where teachers are working in these collegial groups, it seems clear that attitudes and behaviors differ remarkably from those we see in conventional school settings; and that student attitudes and behaviors differ correspondingly.

For a sense of this, see the remarks by the lead teachers in two such partnerships, made to audiences in Washington in November 2003 in the earlier E/E report "Teacher Professional Partnerships: A Different Way to Help Teachers and Teaching." To view that exchange, click here and scroll down to page nine in the report.

Better teacher and student attitudes and behaviors are not in and of themselves 'better learning'. But if you are looking to grow bananas it makes basic sense to plant where there is fertile soil and a lot of rain. 'Conditions' do matter.


NEW PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE OPPORTUNITIES HAVE RELEVANCE TO BIG-CITY SCHOOL REFORM INITIATIVES

In a number of major cities the leadership responsible for K-12 education--often, now, the mayor--is interested in starting schools new; high schools, especially. In starting new, outside the old organizational framework, it is possible to try new and different arrangements. So, not surprisingly, leadership in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere has been interested in the idea of teacher partnerships; in which the teacher-group gets the authority to organize and run the school and accepts responsibility for fiscal and student performance.

In these and other efforts to set up the teacher partnership/cooperative arrangement this report, prepared by Education|Evolving associate Kim Farris-Berg, will be helpful. It is clear, for one thing, that the model will change, will be adapted, as it moves from one organizational and political setting to another. This has happened as the initial model, at EdVisions Cooperative, moved from Minnesota to Milwaukee. Almost certainly it will happen again.

Variations in the organizational form will be helpful. They will not affect the central idea--which is to give an organizational reality to the impulse everywhere to get teachers to feel and to work collegially and collaboratively. . . moving from the old culture of 'my classroom' to the new collegial culture of 'my school'.

As always, Education/Evolving would be interested in comments you may have about the idea, or about the organizational forms described in this report. And, in knowing about any similar efforts being made, of which we may not yet be aware. We intend to regularly update the national inventory we’ve just assembled and would welcome your thoughts and your additions to the growing list of places around the country in which this powerful idea is now beginning to take hold.



COMMENTS WELCOMED

We welcome your comments or questions on these new publications or other Education|Evolving products or initiatives. Please direct them to info@educationevolving.org.

If you do not wish to receive these occasional updates from Education/Evolving, please e-mail info@educationevolving.org. Put "remove from list" in the subject line, and your full name and e-mail address in the body of the e-mail.

Education/Evolving
Vol. 1, No. 2March 18, 2005Jon Schroeder, Editor

Welcome to the second edition of Education|Evolving’s new electronic newsletter -- UPDATES AND INSIGHTS.

IN THIS ISSUE:
MINNESOTA-SPAWNED INNOVATION IS SEMIFINALIST FOR PRESTIGIOUS NATIONAL AWARD

The Teacher Professional Partnership has become a semifinalist in the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award, often referred to as the "Oscars of government prizes". The Partnership is one of 50 programs that are now eligible to win one of six $100,000 grants.

The Teacher Professional Partnership is an unconventional program that challenges the traditional role of teachers as employees, empowering teachers to organize and manage their school as a collegial group. The initiative is an arrangement in which teachers organized as a group-practice receive the authority and accept the responsibility for the operation and success of a school.

The idea of a partnership originated in 1994 at the Minnesota New Country School, a secondary charter school formed to test out the partnership concept and innovative approaches to learning. The arrangement, legally known as a workers’ cooperative, but generally referred to as a partnership, is currently employed in several other schools in Minnesota affiliated with the EdVisions group. Although its origins are rural, the concept has now spread to mid-sized cities and to highly diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Since 2001 the original program has also been replicated at six schools in the Milwaukee area. The ability to transfer such a strong program from one jurisdiction to another was a deciding factor in moving the Teacher Professional Partnership to the semifinalist level.

Eighteen finalists will be chosen from the 50 and announced in April. The National Selection Committee on Innovation in American Government, chaired by David R. Gergen of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard and including former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former San Diego Mayor Susan Golding, and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives William Clinger will choose six winning programs, which will be announced on July 27, 2005.

The Innovations in American Government Awards program, now in its 18th year, is a program of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government.

For more information on the EdVisions model of the Teacher Professional Partnership, please visit http://www.edvisions.com.


NEW REPORT TAKES INVENTORY OF TEACHER PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE ORGANIZATIONS THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES

To help document the growing interest nationally, Education|Evolving has recently released a new report, Teachers in Professional Practice: An inventory of new opportunities for teachers working collectively as professionals. To view the on-line version, click here. To obtain a printed copy, e-mail info@educationevolving.org.

The report contains a comprehensive inventory of the known teacher professional practice (TPP) initiatives--established and planned--serving private and public schools throughout the United States. Several models are described, offering a concrete overview of how different TPPs function. Seven operational partnerships now serve fifteen public schools throughout Minnesota and in Milwaukee.

Partnerships in the planning phase also span the U.S., including Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada; Fall River, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Camden, New Jersey; and Buffalo, New York. Several operational partnerships serving private schools are located in Northern California and Bellingham, Washington. The new E/E report also includes a comprehensive resource list for people interested in seeking more information about TPPs.

Education/Evolving intends this new report to be a resource for those forming, or encouraging the formation of, TPPs. It may also be of interest to those interested in the idea of teacher professional partnerships.

This new publication was researched and written by E/E associate Kim Farris-Berg, with an introduction by E/E co-founder Ted Kolderie.

It serves as a follow-up to an earlier E/E report, "Teacher Professional Partnerships: A Different Way to Help Teachers and Teaching." To view that report, click here.

Education/Evolving will continue taking inventory of TPPs nation-wide, adapting this report as we learn more. If you have updates or new information, please send them to info@educationevolving.org. If you would like to follow the updates, continue checking E/E’s Web site: https://www.educationevolving.org.


RELATIVE SCALE OF THE INNOVATION NOT YET A MEASURE OF ITS IMPORTANCE

The idea of teacher professional partnerships is still in its infancy and present in a relatively few places. But the significance of an innovation is not best measured by the size at which it first appears. Or by the auspices under which it first appears. Opening a way for teachers to work in public education as professionals in collegial groups is a significant innovation.

It does depart--dramatically--from the prevailing notion that better teaching, and the student motivation that results, can be achieved within the traditional framework; within the historic understanding that if you want to be a teacher you have to be an employee. Most of the effort currently in this country is to improve teaching, and teachers, through large programs of 'professional development' organized by the administrators for whom teachers work.

But it is clearly conceivable for teachers, like other professionals, to work with partners in groups they collectively own; serving a client in an arrangement that gives them both the autonomy we associate with professionalism and the accountability we expect from professionals. The potential implications for public education was explained in Teachers As Owners, a book put together in 2003 by Edward J. Dirkswager for Education/Evolving and published by Scarecrow Press.


POTENTIAL FOR THE INNOVATION UNDERSCORED BY PUBLIC AGENDA SURVEY

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 to affirm an interest in coming into the charter sector in order to express their interest in teacher professional practice. Still, the interest is startling to most people: 58% of teachers said they would be somewhat or very interested; 65% of the under-five-year teachers and 50% of the over-20-year teachers.

Research has been slow to pick up on this innovation. Research, as John Witte of the University of Wisconsin has pointed out, tends to generalize; is interested in 'most' and 'on the whole' and 'overall'. It pays less attention to individual, particular developments that turn out to be the really significant innovations.


ATTITUDES OF BOTH TEACHERS AND STUDENTS DO VARY BY ENVIRONMENT

From what we do know, where teachers are working in these collegial groups, it seems clear that attitudes and behaviors differ remarkably from those we see in conventional school settings; and that student attitudes and behaviors differ correspondingly.

For a sense of this, see the remarks by the lead teachers in two such partnerships, made to audiences in Washington in November 2003 in the earlier E/E report "Teacher Professional Partnerships: A Different Way to Help Teachers and Teaching." To view that exchange, click here and scroll down to page nine in the report.

Better teacher and student attitudes and behaviors are not in and of themselves 'better learning'. But if you are looking to grow bananas it makes basic sense to plant where there is fertile soil and a lot of rain. 'Conditions' do matter.


NEW PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE OPPORTUNITIES HAVE RELEVANCE TO BIG-CITY SCHOOL REFORM INITIATIVES

In a number of major cities the leadership responsible for K-12 education--often, now, the mayor--is interested in starting schools new; high schools, especially. In starting new, outside the old organizational framework, it is possible to try new and different arrangements. So, not surprisingly, leadership in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere has been interested in the idea of teacher partnerships; in which the teacher-group gets the authority to organize and run the school and accepts responsibility for fiscal and student performance.

In these and other efforts to set up the teacher partnership/cooperative arrangement this report, prepared by Education|Evolving associate Kim Farris-Berg, will be helpful. It is clear, for one thing, that the model will change, will be adapted, as it moves from one organizational and political setting to another. This has happened as the initial model, at EdVisions Cooperative, moved from Minnesota to Milwaukee. Almost certainly it will happen again.

Variations in the organizational form will be helpful. They will not affect the central idea--which is to give an organizational reality to the impulse everywhere to get teachers to feel and to work collegially and collaboratively. . . moving from the old culture of 'my classroom' to the new collegial culture of 'my school'.

As always, Education/Evolving would be interested in comments you may have about the idea, or about the organizational forms described in this report. And, in knowing about any similar efforts being made, of which we may not yet be aware. We intend to regularly update the national inventory we’ve just assembled and would welcome your thoughts and your additions to the growing list of places around the country in which this powerful idea is now beginning to take hold.



COMMENTS WELCOMED

We welcome your comments or questions on these new publications or other Education|Evolving products or initiatives. Please direct them to info@educationevolving.org.

If you do not wish to receive these occasional updates from Education/Evolving, please e-mail info@educationevolving.org. Put "remove from list" in the subject line, and your full name and e-mail address in the body of the e-mail.

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