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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teachers as Decision Makers: Empowering Educators

At this Washington school, teachers create more than just a curriculum.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

From the beginning, teachers at Silver Ridge Elementary School in Silverdale, Washington, were the ones to decide what they wanted education to be like for their 650 kindergarten through sixth-grade students. The staff agreed together on what they believed constituted good teaching. Getting everyone on the same page can be a tough task for schools, but seven years later these ideas still guide learning in every classroom at Silver Ridge.

Most of these early decisions redefined teachers' relationships with students, such as staying with the same class for two years instead of one and including students with special needs in regular classrooms. Silver Ridge teachers also strive to be the guide on the side in the classroom, allowing students to direct their own learning. One of the ways they've found to take on this role is through what they call inquiry-based projects.

Several times a year, teachers help students develop questions in science or social science that the class wants to find out more about. Teachers then integrate reading, writing, and communicating into long-term projects. Instead of giving students all the answers, teachers guide students in searching for responses to their own questions by helping them research, identify, and sort through information and resources.

Silver Ridge teachers have created a climate of collaboration to support their changed role in the classroom. In daily conferences with team partners, teachers encourage each other to make changes and try new things. "Because we stay with our students for two years, we can't use the same ideas with the class the next year, so we are always coming up with new projects," says teacher Andrea Elves. Together, the teachers at Silver Ridge are still doing what they decided to do years ago -- improving learning for every student.

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