During a school day, have you ever wondered, silently or aloud, any of the following statements:
1) There’s a more effective way of doing ____________________,
2) If we could only change ____________________.
3) I wish we could start doing ____________________.
If you answered ‘yes’ to these statements, then this message is for you.
Perhaps, there is a more effective way. Perhaps, we can change ______________________. Perhaps, we can start doing ______________. What on earth am I talking about? I’m talking about teacher autonomy via Teacher Professional Partnerships (TPPs).
What are TPPs?
According to Education Evolving, a project venture of the Center for Project Studies, Teacher Professional Partnerships (TPPs) are “formal entities, organized under law (partnerships, cooperatives, limited-liability corporations, etc.), that are formed and owned by teachers to provide educational services.” The TPP approach requires its member (teachers) to collectively manage the school. Rather than place all the administrative burdens at the principal’s doorstep, TPP teachers must perform all school-specific administrative tasks. In addition to sharing administrative responsibilities, TPP teachers also share accountability for the overall school’s performance, and each individual student’s achievements. (For example, click here to view Boston’s Pilot School/Horace Mann Schools Network’s 5 principles of Autonomy and Accountability).
Click here for a brief historical overview on U.S. schools with teacher autonomy
How are TPPs structured?
Teachers can use a variety of legal arrangements to form TPPs. Although there are ten distinct TPP arrangement types, eight are “formal.” These formal arrangement types include:
1. Provision in collective bargaining agreement + Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
2. MOU between district and union local
3. MOU between school, district, and union local + Waiver from state statute
4. Instrumentality charter contract + MOU between school, district and union local
5. Contract between chartered school board and teacher professional partnership
6. Chartered school contract and/or chartered school bylaws
7. Pilot school agreements (Boston and Los Angeles)
8. Site-governance agreement between district school board and district school
Click here for a brief description of each arrangement type.
TPP as a viable career ladder option, and not as a panacea
First and foremost, I’m not suggesting that granting full, decision-making autonomy to a talented team of teachers, alone, is a panacea for public education. However, providing space for talented teachers to form TPPs has, at least, two major benefits. First, TPP teachers will gain valuable on-the-job training, especially with respect to school administrative management. Second, TPPs teachers can acquire such leadership skills without forfeiting their role as classroom teacher. Even though it’s easy to provide a laundry list of significant challenges, such as addressing potential gaps in administrative skills, I urge you to focus on the two main benefits as you continue to research TPPs.
Click here for an inventory list schools with teacher autonomy.
For now, I’ll pose the same question: Are TPPs a viable career ladder option?
Well, in my professional opinion, if the goal of a career ladder is to develop teachers, i.e. leadership and management skills, while retaining them within the classroom, then yes! TPPs do represent a viable, career ladder option. Sure, TPPs aren’t for every teacher, and that’s okay. Sure, not every TPP will succeed. And. That’s okay, too! But for those teachers, who have demonstrated success, perhaps the ultimate professional opportunity is a chance to partner with like-minded colleagues to help tackle some of our greatest educational challenges.