Over the course of a decade, starting in 2004, our founding team of public school ‘teacher leaders’ launched three schools in Tucson, Arizona to serve as innovative learning communities where best educational practices could be practiced and shared with the wider educational community. We had over 60 years of combined experience as classroom teachers as we moved into the realm of school founders. For us, the next step in our evolution as teacher leaders was to work with our communities to create schools that put student learning front and center and allowed teachers to do their best work.
We were following the lead of many advocates of public school transformation after the release of A Nation at Risk, especially the work of Ted Sizer. In 1983 A Nation at Risk was released. In 1988 Albert Shanker, the long-time AFT President, first proposed the idea of allowing teacher leaders to create innovative learning spaces within the public sector to support public school transformation (read Shanker’s 1988 speech). At the same time, Ted Sizer, building on his study of secondary public education in America, authored the Horace trilogy (Horace’s Compromise, Horace’s School, Horace’s Hope), founded the Coalition of Essential Schools, and renewed the call for teacher leaders to create powerful innovative spaces as an integral part of nationwide, public school transformation.
We founded our schools on the ‘Ten Common Principles’ of the Coalition of Essential Schools and have never forgotten that we are about serving the larger public school community. We have worked diligently to lead City High School and the Paulo Freire Freedom Schools as innovative educational environments and, simultaneously, to share our work with other educators and the community. Now, with the emergence of CITY Center for Collaborative Learning, we have the capacity to create contexts for ‘joint work’ within the greater Tucson educational community and to support the growth of teacher leadership throughout Tucson, Arizona, and the southwestern United States.