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Teachers may take over some schools in Rochester 

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has asked the Rochester Teachers Association to present plans for schools to be run by teachers instead of central office administration and principals.

            Any proposals for teacher-led schools would be part of the administration's new contract negotiations, which have just started, RTA President Adam Urbanski told about 200 teachers at a meeting on Monday afternoon. The district could convert one to six schools into teacher-led schools.

click to enlarge Adam Urbanski. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Adam Urbanski.

            "We have tried everything else [to improve city schools]," Urbanski said. "I think it would be a sin of omission to not try it."

            The teachers listened to a presentation by Kim Farris-Berg, co-author of "Trusting Teachers with School Success: What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots."

            Farris-Berg said that there are nearly 70 teacher-led schools throughout the United States in urban, suburban, rural, and charter school settings. Some have unions and some don't. After a close examination of 11 teacher-led schools, Farris-Berg and her co-author found that autonomy can lead to greater accountability, Farris-Berg said.

            "The trend has been to get tough with teachers and blame teachers for poor outcomes," she said. "But what if teachers were trusted instead of controlled? When teachers are in a position of authority to make decisions, what you get is an emulation of successfully run, high-performing organizations."

            Though teacher-led schools vary in their degree of autonomy, some commonalities include the ability to hire and terminate, set salaries and benefits, establish leadership roles, and set policies for their schools -- such as student discipline.

            Some of the outcomes from teacher-led schools are more individualized student learning, broader use of assessment tools, and greater collaboration between teachers and students, Farris-Berg said.

            She said that teacher-led schools are not a panacea. But teachers in these schools are pioneers of a movement that contrasts sharply with current education trends, she said.

            Deborah Meier, senior scholar at New York University and author of "In Schools We Trust," will work with teachers and schools interested in developing a proposal for teacher-led schools in Rochester.

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