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  • 07Sep

    Teacher-Run Schools on the Rise

    From NYT

    NEWARK — Shortly after landing at Malcolm X Shabazz High School as a Teach for America recruit, Dominique D. Lee grew disgusted with a system that produced ninth graders who could not name the seven continents or the governor of their state. He started wondering: What if I were in charge?

    Three years later, Mr. Lee, at just 25, is getting a chance to find out. Today, Mr. Lee and five other teachers — all veterans of Teach for America, a corps of college graduates who undergo five weeks of training and make a two-year commitment to teaching — are running a public school here with 650 children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

    As the doors opened on Thursday at Brick Avon Academy, they welcomed students not as novice teachers following orders from the central office, but as “teacher-leaders.”

    “This is a fantasy,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s six passionate people who came together and said, ‘Enough is enough.’ We’re just tired of seeing failure.”

    The Newark teachers are part of a growing experiment around the country to allow teachers to step up from the classroom and lead efforts to turn around struggling urban school systems. Brick Avon is one of the first teacher-run schools in the New York region, joining a charter school in Brooklyn started in 2005 by the United Federation of Teachers.

    Others have opened in Boston, Denver, Detroit and Los Angeles.

    At Brick Avon, the principal, Charity Haygood, who calls herself the “principal teacher,” teaches every day, as do the two vice principals; Ms. Haygood started her career in Teach for America and eventually became vice principal for five years at another school.

    While they are in charge of disciplining and evaluating staff members, they plan to defer all decisions about curriculum, policies, hiring and the budget to a governance committee made up largely of teachers elected by colleagues.

    The school has 38 teachers, including Mr. Lee, Ms. Haygood and the other four Teach for America veterans who took it over.

    Teachers have more say over what they teach, and starting next year they will have more time to work with children when they introduce a longer day.

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