Schools are places of learning but they are also workplaces, and teachers are employees. As such, are teachers more akin to professionals or to factory workers in the amount of control they have over their work? And what difference does it make?
Drawing on large national surveys as well as wide-ranging interviews with high school teachers and administrators, Richard Ingersoll reveals the shortcomings in the two opposing viewpoints that dominate thought on this subject: that schools are too decentralized and lack adequate control and accountability; and that schools are too centralized, giving teachers too little autonomy. Both views, he shows, overlook one of the most important parts of teachers' work: schools are not simply organizations engineered to deliver academic instruction to students, as measured by test scores; schools and teachers also play a large part in the social and behavioral development of our children. As a result, both views overlook the power of implicit social controls in schools that are virtually invisible to outsiders but keenly felt by insiders. Given these blind spots, this book demonstrates that reforms from either camp begin with inaccurate premises about how schools work and so are bound not only to fail, but to exacerbate the problems they propose to solve.
Who Controls Teachers' Work? is about teachers' lives in their classrooms and the way that those lives are becoming more circumscribed. Looking at teachers in many different schools, Ingersoll reveals that life in classrooms is not a closed kingdom where teachers have authority over what gets taught and how. Rather, control of a classroom is nested within the decision-making powers of the principal, the school district, and the state, so that ultimately teachers are free largely to perfect their pedagogical technique--a freedom that is itself being limited by new national and local policies. This is a very important contribution to the study of teaching, in the real political world of schools.
Ingersoll offers a significant contribution in theory, and he manages to answer questions about the distribution of power and control in schools in the United States.
Ingersoll's book is both scholarly and eminently readable. As a well-argued plea for a fairer deal for teachers, it is timely...This is an important book which should be read by all those involved in the task of educating the next generation.
- 366 pages
- 1-1/2 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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