Home On the Agenda An Amazing Learning Environment For Students And A Great Workplace For Educators

An Amazing Learning Environment For Students And A Great Workplace For Educators

September 21, 2017

Teachers, leaders and school districts can benefit from an environment that allows for greater collaboration, which is ultimately a win for students too.

I was lucky enough to go to a private school for kindergarten through eighth grade, where the educational philosophy was grounded in community, cooperation and collaboration.

When my school was established in the 1970s in Virginia, the founders literally named it the “new” school, because its model challenged the status quo of the educational system at the time. Instead of structuring the administration as top down, with decision-making power concentrated in the hands of the principal, this school envisioned one where teachers, together with parents, shared in decision making.

Instead of teachers working alone in their classrooms, largely isolated from their colleagues, this school envisioned teachers collaborating closely on curriculum, school policies and procedures, and coordinating classroom schedules to allow space for students who were learning about different subjects at varying levels.

What resulted was, in my opinion, an amazing learning environment for students and a great workplace for teachers, many of whom stayed on to work there for a decade or more.

This collaborative structure was “new” back then, but still today, we find ourselves in an educational landscape where K-12 education is largely dominated by the individualistic model. Even while other sectors are valuing and incorporating collaboration more frequently into their work and operations, we don’t see this type of collaboration happening in our schools very often.

However, there is indication that the K-12 system might increasingly consider reforms in this area. A growing body of research shows that when teachers work more collaboratively, student outcomes can improve, teachers can be more satisfied in their jobs and teacher turnover can decrease.

Public Agenda, in partnership with the Spencer Foundation, is supporting this development in K-12 education through the second installment of our In Perspective web resource series. Like our first on charter schools, our Teacher Collaboration site offers materials that can not only lead to a better-informed conversation on an important education issue, but can result in significant and scalable change.

The Guide to Research on teacher collaboration provides a nonpartisan, nonideological and easily digestible summary of key research on teacher collaboration, including studies that are typically accessible only to academics. The Discussion Guide can help teachers and education leaders make decisions on how to work more collaboratively in their own schools and districts. Critical Questions for Superintendents and School Board Members allows for leaders at the school and district level to examine their own teacher collaboration efforts.

Pursuing policies and encouraging dialogues that allow for increased collaboration among teachers, and between educators and school leadership, are alone not going to solve the problems facing our education system. Indeed, key questions about collaboration remain unanswered. But teachers, leaders and school districts can benefit from an environment that allows for greater collaboration, which is ultimately a win for students too.



Submitted by: Rebecca Owen on Friday, September 22nd, 2017

I think teachers should offer their strengths and utilize other teacher’s strengths to make sure students are receiving a well rounded education that sparks passion. Kids aren’t passionate about anything aside from being youtube famous…. It’s terribly sad.

Agree with conditions

Submitted by: JP on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

To me the missing person in all of this is the tax payer, afterall that is who’s funding the schools. These children are the future of the community and are a tax burden on the community until they finish school so for me to be on board with this idea there would also have to be an amount of cooperation with taxpayers. I would also like this idea to be the death of state run and federal run educational programs and give all control back to municipalities and counties, along with that all forms of standardized testing will be abolished. Children should always be attended to and educated from the aspect of every child is different than the rest instead of putting them all into one box like we have done for too long. Every school should educate how they want to in agreement with the parents and the community, local competition would guarantee high performance from all schools in the district.


Submitted by: Corey Feldhaus on Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Collaboration among co-workers in any occupation is positive and should be encouraged. This gives the oppotunitity for new teachers to learn from seasoned teachers and the introduction of new ideas to seasoned employees. It helps for decompression and gives the opportunity for teachers to realize they are not alone.

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Chloe Rinehart

Former Research Associate, Public Agenda