Monday, December 26, 2011

Innovative School = Positive School Culture?

Seems to be so, at least in one study of Denver schools. In the study report, schools granted official "innovation school status" in Denver have happier teachers and students and a more positive school culture. Specifically,

Innovation led to an increase in both real and perceived control over the schools by principals, teachers, and parents This increased control was viewed as a major positive by these groups, who expressed a sense of greater ownership of their schools. There was a general sense of increased empowerment around decisions including resources, workforce, and instruction. One specific change that was appreciated by many respondents was the enhanced agility to make rapid decisions at the school level, without having to wait for approval of the decision by various central office entities.

Empowered teachers and school dministrators feel better about the changes they make, rather than the changes that are forced upon them. One of the biggest issues with the standards movement has been implementing the same standards and approaches for dramatically different schools; innovation schools get to match their strategies to their needs without a lot of fuss and bother from central office.

The report goes on to talk about some of the challenges of these schools, so the four-page report is valuable reading, but I think my main takeaway here is that empowering teachers to run their own classroom  makes them happy. Happy teachers mean happy students; happy students mean happy parents, and happy parents mean happy administrators. Voila! Positive school culture. If we take one step in education, it should be to stop telling teachers how to teach and let them do their job. What a difference that change could make.

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