How much voice should teachers have in running the schools where they work? Common sense says that teachers ought to be deeply involved; after all, they have first-hand experience and are the ones who must translate policies into action.
Yet a survey by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching found that teachers feel they too often are ignored in putting the education package together.As the foundation logically pointed out: "Education is a human enterprise, with teachers and students interacting with each other. There is just so much that can be accomplished by directives from above."
The study discovered that teachers have little influence over education procedures. While most help choose textbooks and shape curriculum, the majority are left out of personnel decisions, and are not asked to participate in such matters as teacher evaluation, staff development, budgets, student placement, promotion and retention policies, or even standards of student conduct.
That seems like a terrible waste of experience, knowledge, and human resources.
Teacher involvement varies dramatically from state to state, the Carnegie Foundation reported. On various issues, Utah usually falls somewhere in the middle, neither the highest or the lowest.
For example, on setting standards for student behavior, 59 percent of Utah teachers questioned said they were very involved, 41 percent said they were not very involved. That compares with 68-32 percent in Oregon, and 37 and 63 percent in several Eastern states.
Improving education requires clear goals and procedures by which schools can demonstrate - at regular intervals - the effectiveness of their programs. But that will not be possible unless teachers are full partners in the process.
That does not mean asking the opinion of every teacher on every question; policies must be more than a popular vote. But there must be some mechanism whereby teachers have input, whereby their voices are heard and taken into account, a system that fosters cooperation, enthusiasm, and a feeling of belonging.
Teachers can put up with a lot if they feel it is their system - and they are not simply caught between students and parents on one hand and school administrators on the other.