Schools without Principals

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One school experiment that shows promise is the teacher-led school as described in this article in the U.S. News and World Report (see  The basic premise behind the sixty or so schools across the country which operate this way is that teachers make all the decisions about how their school should be run, without the administrative layer of principals.  Instead, the teachers determine their own governance system, curriculum, evaluations, and procedures.  Since teachers are the ones in the classrooms each day, the theory goes, they are in the best position to understand how to educate their students and need to be free to do so.

With less than sixty schools in the entire country following this model, it is clearly too soon to claim this as a revolutionary approach. Plus, most of the schools in which this is operating are pretty small by Chicago suburbs standards. However, at least one reason this does merit more study is that the schools using this system have a much higher teacher retention rate than normal public schools.  While not a major problem in this area due to better salaries, keeping good teachers is a big issue in many areas of the country.  Most of these schools are part of larger public school districts which seek waivers so that these teacher-led schools can operate differently than other schools.  From number of school days a week to frequency of teacher collaboration, teachers can vary from the standard methods of the larger district to see what works best for that particular school.  Two representatives of administrator organizations were quoted in the article as expressing skepticism that this system could work large scale, but even they felt the idea had some merit.

I’ve always believed in blurring the roles of teachers and administrators is beneficial and that no administrator should ever completely leave the classroom. (My idea was that teachers could assume some of the administrators’ duties so that every administrator could teach at least one class as explained in my e-book, Snowflake Schools, excerpts of which can be found at  These schools take that idea to its logical conclusion with all the duties of building administrators being assumed by classroom teachers.  This is exactly the type of experimentation that Albert Shanker foresaw when he advocated the formation of charter schools (see  When these test cases work well, they can be transferred to more schools.  We should keep our eyes on these kinds of variations from the status quo in our never-ending quest to improve public education.


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