Teachers Have Not Been Stripped of Their Autonomy

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Over the past few years, there has been an ever-growing chorus of pundits who argue that teachers have grown to deeply dislike their jobs. They argue that teachers are unhappy with their lack of control and freedom. These pundits believe that discouraged educators have been fleeing the profession in droves.

Take, for instance, teacher and education blogger Vicki Davis who recently argued in TheWashington Post that many educators are leaving schools because of cookie-cutter approaches to teaching and learning. “Many U.S. teachers don’t even have the authority to upgrade their web browser or fix a printer,” Davis wrote. Or consider UCLA education management expert Samuel Culbert who wrote in a New York Times article last year that teachers need far more space to try new things. “If [teachers] are allowed to search for the best answers, they’ll find them.” And then there is Furman University education professor Paul Thomas, who argues that educators today are “teaching in a time of tyranny.”

But do teachers really lack autonomy and freedom? And more importantly: As a nation, have we reached the right balance of accountability and autonomy that is necessary for workplace innovation, career satisfaction, and overall results?

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