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School teachers in charge? Why some schools are forgoing principals.

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More districts are willing to experiment with a teacher-led school because "we're entering a period where people are trying to introduce variation into the system," says Charles Kerchner, an education professor at Claremont Graduate University in California.

Many big cities have already tried to boost student performance by standardizing procedures and teaching methods. "They've gotten what they can from that, and it's not enough," Professor Kerchner says.

In Denver, teachers jointly govern the Math and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA). By removing rigid curriculum dictates, the school has attracted a top-notch staff that serves some of the district's most disadvantaged students. District officials are pleased with how MSLA has done since opening last year.

The teachers "appreciate that their professional judgment is being respected," says Lori Nazareno, one of the founders and co-lead teachers.

MSLA, backed by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, needed a waiver from a state law requiring principals to evaluate teachers. Instead, teachers set specific goals and give one another structured feedback on a regular basis.

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