Dreams to Reality: Teacher Powered Schools

Are you one of those teachers who has said, “I want to start a teacher-powered school” or had a conversation with your colleagues about what you would do if you were in charge?

If the answer was yes to either question, it is time get started.

Looking for resources about teacher-led or teacher-powered schools?

Check out www.teacherpowered.org!


“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

-Lao Tzu

Are you one of those teachers who has said, “I want to start a teacher-powered school” or had a conversation with your colleagues about what you would do if you were in charge?

If the answer was “yes” to either question, it is time get started.

As traditionalists and reformers battle it out, space is being created for teachers like you – that’s right, I said YOU – to step up and be the designers of a new type of school. Never has the time been more perfect, or the resources more abundant, for you to start your journey to creating a teacher-powered school!

Think it can’t be done? Think you can’t do it?

Think again!

There are currently over 60 teacher-powered schools across this country, and more being designed every day.

If they can do it, so can you!

Step 1 – Know that all things are possible

“You are never given a dream without simultaneously being

given the ability to make it come true.”

–       Cynthia James

I have written before about believing that something is possible as the first step to making it manifest in your life. The degrees to which you know, believe, and are willing to commit to making something happen, will determine whether or not something will manifest in your experience. And – you cannot worry about what other people think, especially the naysayers.

There was a time when everybody thought flying machines, manned space flight, and, in some cases, teacher-powered schools were all silly ideas. Yet, people have persevered and made these things into reality. They did not possess any supernatural powers or abilities. They were people just like you who were able to envision a future very different from their current reality, believed that it was possible, and were willing to commit to doing the work required to make it a reality.

Step 2 – Connect with others who have shared interests.

There is a growing community of teachers who have either started teacher-powered schools or are in the process of doing so. Connecting with like-minded people provides an opportunity for you to learn from each other, support each other’s efforts, and create synergy with each other and around the concept.

So, where do I find these people?

As luck would have it, I now EXACTLY the right place – the Teacher-Powered Schools Lab in the CTQ Collaboratory! (Signing up is FREE and takes 3 minutes.) In the Teacher-Powered Schools Lab, you can find people like:

  • Kim Worth, whose entire blog is dedicated to documenting her journey to creating a teacher-powered school.
  • Delonna Halliday, who has submitted her proposal for her school in Tacoma and is actively engaged in getting it up and running.
  • Cheryl Suliteanu, who is in the early stages of trying to find a way to make a teacher-powered school possible in her district.

And, there are many, many others with whom I have spoken who want to begin this journey (you all know who you are), and would LOVE to connect with you.

Not only should you connect with teachers in other locales that are doing this work, you should also connect with teacher leaders in your area. Create a team of like-minded individuals who can join you on this journey. A key ingredient to the success of teacher-powered schools is collaboration. Create a team and begin the journey!

Step 3 – Explore available tools and resources

Many of those who started teacher-powered schools were completely disconnected from others who had previously done the work. Historically, there have been no means by which teachers interested in designing a teacher-powered school could connect and learn from each other’s experiences.

That has all changed! There are now several resources that you and your colleagues can access to get started:

Steps to Creating a Teacher-Powered School: Released in the spring of 2014, Steps to Creating a Teacher-Powered School is a compilation of over 200 resources that your team can use to walk through the process to create your school. Teacher teams can learn more about the five stages for designing and maintaining a teacher-powered school–with tips and lessons learned from teams who have already gone through the journey.


Discussion Guides for Creating a Teacher-Powered School: Lessons from the Pioneers: This recently released set of discussion guides will get your team started designing your own teacher-powered school. These guides were created by the pioneers from nine teacher-powered schools and include information about how they do things at their schools, tips for your team as you begin designing your school, and discussion questions for your team to use to guide your work.


It is time to take those first three steps. It is time to begin translating that dream into a reality. What are you waiting for?

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  • CarlDraeger

    Thanks for the nudge…

    I’ve thinking “What if” for too long without action. In my mind (and on paper) I have begun to ‘brain dump’ the whys, values, and benefits to students for starting a teacher-led school. I’m not sure about others, but I see my peers in elementary, middle, and high school are working more in silos despite the collaborative efforts of administration and the local union to promote professional learning communities. It seems we are getting really good at horizontal articulation component (grade level teachers planning lessons and creating pacing guides) without pursuing the vertical conversations required to make holistic, systemic change. That is, our teachers are really working hard on their piece of the puzzle without considering how the whole thing fits together. The whole school concept would be central to everything we would do.


    My starting points are designing a PreK to 12th grade school (yep, the whole enchilada) with daily built-in collaborative time. Classes would be made up of students from multi-grade levels. The intention is to have a general education individual education plan (IEP) for each student. The day would be longer than the traditional school day to allow teachers to collaborate school wide during an extended pull out for physical education, art, music, and exploratory classes. These pull-out classes would be staggered throughout the day allowing staff to be assigned to either an early or late start times (a shift of 8 to 3 or a shift of 9 to 4). I have more details, but they are too fluid to share at this juncture.


    The exploratory classes would be independent study model.  This are not Montessori-esque, but rather following in line with the principles of the Common Core which promote problem solving in real-world situations. The initial thought is to leverage parental experiences, participation and resources into the course. For example, if the 3rd grade class is interested in machines, a parent that is a mechanic can come in and assist with the students’ creating a high mileage vehicle.


    Regardless, I am struggling with all of the “we can’t” and “they won’t let us” issues that come up in casual conversation. It is hard to maintain the forward momentum and excitement when the naysayers come around.


    Current steps:

    1. Finish reading ‘Steps to Create a Teacher-Powered School’.

    2. Continue to network with like-minded elementary, middle, and high school teachers.

    3. Maintain contact with the local Union President.

    4. Continue brainstorming vision.


    Next steps:

    1. Schedule time with the content coordinators in our unit district to vet and verify student learning outcomes in all areas.

    2. Start recruiting adventurous pioneers to join the work.

    3. Get community input from the active Citizen’s Advisory Council.


    If anyone has ideas, questions, advice, etc., please share.

  • foleyla

    Getting started!

     The grant is written. The blueprint has been approved. Now, implementation!  I am nervous about all the negative attitudes.  It is hard for me to understand! Stop complaining and get moving – if you want change, you have to do something to get it! The guidelines you have supplied are an amazing help.  I will keep you posted!  

    • Lori Nazareno

      Tell us more!

      Hi Lauren,

      Please tell us more about you and your proposal! Where are you? What are your doing? Where are you in the process?