We've had the standards-and-accountability movement, the school choice movement, and even the small schools movement. Are we finally witnessing the rise of an autonomy movement? So one might infer from Education Week, which spots at least five districts and three states that are experimenting with giving schools a lot more operational autonomy in return for strict accountability for results. Used to be that only high-performing schools, those that had already proved their mettle, were given autonomy. But Massachusetts is offering charter school-type freedoms--the ability to decide curricula, staffing, budgets, etc.--to four of its lowest-performing schools. That autonomy will be coupled with strict accountability, too. Such plans assume that failing schools will have more luck improving when they have something invested in the restructuring process. Similar autonomy ideas are taking hold in Nevada and Connecticut, and in New York City and Chicago, too. Sounds promising to us; bring on the All Regulations Left Behind era!
"Easing Rules Over Schools Gains Favor," by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week, March 16, 2007