Our education model is puzzling when compared to other industries. But it’s been this way so long it’s difficult to imagine anything else. We group children by age, not by knowledge or ability. We send them to schools based on address, not teaching methodology. Parents have very little say over which school their children can attend. And teachers are answerable to more and more people who lack the qualifications to teach, which is the sole mission of the public schools.
Teachers have always answered to the principal, which does track with other professions. The managing partner of a law firm has ultimate authority too. The principal is usually a former teacher, but he no longer spends his days in the classroom. For him, a successful day is one free of dealing with troublemakers. Rather than maintaining proper discipline he can simply shuffle them back to class. But the senior partner defers to an experienced attorney in matters of case strategy. He hasn’t been in settlement conferences, and hasn’t read the judge’s disposition in case management conferences. How often do teachers get the same consideration?
Beyond this disconnect, a teacher might answer to librarians, counselors, and technology staff. A lawyer would never be answerable to administrative staff. As schools trend towards social programs, the focus on education wanes. So too does the teacher’s status. They used to be the reason schools existed; now they are cogs in the social-work machine.
1889 has proposed a solution to put teachers in the driver seat, and give parents meaningful options for educating their children. The Professional Teacher Charter Act allows experienced teachers to open their own school, funded on the same basis as other charters. Parents will be free to choose the school that best fits their child.
The freedom inherent in the plan will allow Oklahoma to become a laboratory of pedagogy. Schools will be able to test and improve their teaching methods. Parents will be free to choose a school that they believe works best for their child. Not every child learns the same way, and what works for nine students might not work as well for a tenth.
“More funding to the classroom” is the mantra and excuse for nearly every demand for increased public education funding. But the single most important classroom expense is the teacher. Yet the system puts the teacher at the very bottom of the decision-making ladder.
1889’s model flips the ladder and puts teachers in charge of schools and then empowers parents to choose the school that is best for their child. Ultimately, this can only benefit Oklahoma’s schoolchildren.
Mike Davis is a Research Fellow at 1889 Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.