Teacher Voice

In an interesting charter/Shanker essay over at EdWize, Jonathan Gyurko writes: Teacher empowerment is not an absence of management and doesn’t assume teacher input into all day-to-day decision-making. But it does envision that educators will have the right to influence the major issues and decisions facing a school.


Can this be examined empirically? I’m trying to come up with the most neutral possible language (i.e., something that union leaders might agree on) that a researcher could use to explore “teacher voice” in union and non-union schools.

For example, “On a scale of 1 to 10, to what extent do you believe that you, as an individual teacher, influence major issues and decisions affecting this school? Similarly, what about the extent to which the teachers, as a group, influence major decisions at this school?”

Camp David bonus Q: Might unions support replication of non-union charters with unusually high “teacher voice/satisfaction” ratings, in exchange for charter peeps supporting the unionization of charters which had unusually low “teacher voice/satisfaction” ratings?

-Guestblogger MG

5 Replies to “Teacher Voice”

  1. The Center for Teaching Quality in North Carolina has administered numerous teacher working condition studies that include questions about teacher empowerment. One consistent finding across states is that teachers who perceive that they have a voice and are treated as professionals are much more likely to intend to stay at the same school and that the percentage of teachers in school with the same perceptions is associated with greater teacher retention.

  2. Other studies also show that there is no correlation between empowerment and effective teaching.

  3. I sure support decision-making informed by research, which is one reason why I wonder what Anonymous is talking about. What RELIABLE studies question the relationship between teacher empowerment and effectiveness? Quick Anonymous, what sort of methodologigy would it take to prove that?

    I don’t oppose charters especially if they tithe by taking a fair portion of the most challenging students. But by definition, most charters regardless of demographics are not comparable to high poverty neighborhood schools. Just the process of applying is a selection process.

    Still, I don’t begrudge charters their autonomy. Nobody should have to face the challenges we face according to the rules we face. But the proliferation of choices worsens the critical mass of high challenge kids left behind in the toughest urban schools.

    Most special ed students are wonderful, and the law makes sense if you have 5 to 10% students on IEPs. Our school is 40% special ed, and they also are a result of “creaming.” Students with learning disabilities who don’t have severe behavioral problems are welcomed by all schools in our area. But not even the alternative schools will take the violent kids who can’t receive disciplinary consequences because their behavior is related to their disability. Just this afternoon we barely averted a race riot started by an emotionally disturbed student who causes confrontations daily. The most we can do is try to persuade his mother to allow us to reduce his hours. Unless the violence is related to a gun or a knife with a blade over 21/2 inches, we can do absolutely nothing in terms of disciplinary consequences.

    And that is just one example. What about our felons who aren’t on IEPS? Or the girls with high risk pregnancies? Or the chronic illnesses, including mental illnesses? How many of them are welcomed into high performing charter schools?

    Add up the total number of the nations high performing schools – regular or charter – who face these challenges and the number will be statistically insignificant.

    By the way, for a detailed explanation of why a critical mass of high risk students causes problems to grow geometrically, read the Philadelphia Enquirer series about the teacher whose neck was broken. It explains why 85% of violent students on IEPs in that district do not receive consequences. The same thing happens in all the urban schools where I have first hand knowledge.

    Again, all kids deserve services. Charters can be part of the answer. But we need research that is methodologically sound.

  4. So you think it’s reasonable that for teachers to have a say in how their schools are run, they ought to give up unions?

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