Louis (1995) discusses three urban schools--City Park Secondary School, Brigham Alternative High School, and Hillside High School--that have empowered teachers through decisionmaking, collaboration, professional development, and curriculum improvement:
At City Park, the faculty saw the entire school structure as designed for empowerment:
At Hillside, the steering group structure worked well for teachers because it was tied to the kinds of curriculum renewal that were at the heart of their interests.
Creating Structures to Promote Collaboration. In all three schools, teachers linked high levels of engagement to spending more time with each other. Changing the way schools use time is one of the most difficult tasks of school reform. Two of these schools had restructured to give teachers more time to work together, while in the third peer pressure made teachers put in extensive after school time on collaborative work. This not only strengthened personal bonds, but also infused new enthusiasm into instruction. City Park's schedule makes time for a weekly two-hour meeting in which teams develop curricula, teaching strategies, and student assignments.
The schedule reflects the value the school places on teachers' engagement with the academic program:
At Hillside, collaborations usually revolve around task force work, or time spent in groups at the district's professional development center (both were made possible by the use of substitutes). In Brigham, the lack of resources and the school's inability to change district imposed schedules made collaboration difficult. The school was extensively involved in the development of cooperative learning, but other collaborations had to be more informal. Still, teachers did not feel isolated. A Brigham teacher said:
A Hillside staff member pointed to the link between collaboration and engagement:
In City Park, the principal had a philosophy of collaboration that tied teacher engagement to student engagement:
Creating Structures to Promote Professional Development. To increase teacher engagement, urban schools must become learning centers for professional staff as well as for students. Collegiality boosts engagement, in part because it increases interpersonal knowledge and the 'family' feeling. This in turn, enhances the development of professional competence.
At Hillside, with its enormous resources and new enthusiasm for change, teachers viewed each day as an occasion to learn from others:
Another remarked that:
Teachers at Hillside and City Park viewed their school-wide retreats as critical for both personal and collaborative development. Yet, none of the schools considered the days officially dedicated to staff development as important as the time spent on ad hoc or semi-planned development opportunities. A teacher from City Park summarizes the importance of continuing experimentation and skill development:
Creating Structures to Improve Curriculum. Giving teachers the support they need to write curriculum specifically for the students they teach can increase engagement. The problem of curriculum in urban settings is profound. Investigators have found that inner-city teachers often spend their energies on curricula that are of questionable benefit to students. They either teach a traditional college preparatory curriculum to students who lack basic skills or, conversely teach nothing but basic skills (Louis & Smith, 1991).
Teachers had autonomy over curriculum in all of the schools we studied except Brigham. There, the school had only recently been released from rigid district controls. Even at Brigham, however, teachers spoke of how they 'worked hard to make [the curriculum] ours,' by introducing, for example, interdisciplinary perspectives. In the three schools discussed here, teachers developed curricula, instructional units, lesson plans, and instructional designs in teams. The purpose of City Park's weekly team meetings was to develop curricula and to discuss instruction. Hillside had both departmental and cross departmental curriculum teams. We have already described how collaborative group experiences benefit teachers. Curriculum writing, in particular, encourages teachers to think about and discuss fundamental issues of knowledge and learning. Moreover, it enables teachers to calculate the level of knowledge and the kind of instruction that are best for the students they teach. That process engages teachers with their students, with the school's academic program, with the craft of teaching, and with the subjects they teach." (p. 92-94)