Teachers as Owners: A Key to Revitalizing Public Education
reviewed by Martha Casas - 2003
Title: Teachers as Owners: A Key to Revitalizing Public Education
Author(s): Edward J. Dirkswager (Ed.)
Publisher: Scarecrow Press, Lanham
ISBN: 0810843714, Pages: 144, Year: 2002
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The idea of teachers coming together to form teacher professional partnerships (TPPs) is being realized in some charter schools in the United States. Teachers as Owners: A Key to Revitalizing Public Education is a guide to helping educators create TPPs. Dirkswager provides a step-by-step account of how teachers can take ownership of their professional responsibilities by creating a business. The author argues that the current practice of regarding teachers as employees prohibits them from becoming successful leaders. Dirkswager suggests that when teachers own their own professional partnerships, they have more freedom and latitude to practice their trade as other professionals do, notably, lawyers, doctors, and accountants.
The book is arranged topically. Each chapter of the book addresses a key aspect of establishing a teacher professional partnership. The chapters provide information on who the clients will be, the key ingredients of success, the options for designing and operating TPPs, and the implications of TPPs for teachers, students, parents, and the community. Moreover, the appendices of the book provide the names and addresses of organizations that can help individuals who are interested in forming professional partnerships.
Dirkswager does an excellent job in describing teacher professional partnerships. He has managed to encapsulate a wealth of information into a book that is only 144 pages long. More importantly, however, Teachers as Owners is an easy read. Any person who is unfamiliar with setting up a partnership will find this guide easy to comprehend.
The book, however, is not without its shortcomings. The author does not provide research data to support his claims regarding the success of the teacher professional partnerships described in the book. Citing the results of a few studies conducted by the TPPs to determine how successful the schools’ curricula have been in improving children’s reading abilities, for example, could have validated his contention that these schools have been successful.
Although Dirkswager suggests that TPPs can improve the school climate for the better, again he does not provide data supporting his assertions. He states that students who participate in a program or school operated by a TPP may experience the following changes: “a more cohesive and integrated sense of purpose, goals, and measurements of success; a greater sense of involvement in and responsibility for the school or program; and receive more individual attention” (p. 53). Had Dirkswager provided data acquired from studies aimed at determining how students develop a greater sense of involvement and responsibility for the school, his arguments would have been confirmed.
Despite its shortcomings, however, Teachers as Owners is a book that encourages the reader to reflect on how public education is meeting the social and academic needs of children. Although Dirkswager’s use of the word “clients” throughout the book may be disconcerting to educators who view the instruction of children as primarily a humanistic endeavor, his argument that teachers need to be viewed as more than just employees is very humanistic indeed. The author is correct when he states that teachers need to become leaders in education.