I've come to believe that teacher research is what can save public education.
My school participates in the teacher research program, which gives us half a day a month to come together, discuss one idea or question we have, and dive deeply into investigation the idea. The school lines up substitutes for us and even hosts the event at the nearby school board building where we get to go and pretend we are busy professionals for a day.
Not only do we get to explore a problem of our choice, but this sends a message that, as a teacher:
1. You are an important professional.
2. Your ideas, questions, and observations matter.
3. Your critical thinking can help children succeed.
4. You have ownership of your classroom. Your ideas, thoughts, and actions can change your kids.
Google gives is employees time to investigate a new creative idea. They support an 80/20 rule, where employees are expected to spend 20% of their time exploring their own creativity that may, or may not benefit the company. Though most of these projects don't turn out, the 20% time is credited for giving us Gmail and other handy google practices.
Unlike programs like NCLB that limit a teacher's creativity, ownership, and professional judgement in the classroom, teacher research allows teachers to see themselves as an integral part of education. And we all know from working with kids, if a child sees himself as an important, valued part of a project he's a lot more likely to work harder and take ownership in the results.