Policy gives autonomy to schools and teachers, in exchange for accountability


So that schools and teachers can design the learning program to meet the unique needs of the students who enroll and that they serve. Design decisions have to be made at the working level, by those who know the students.


Policy should give teachers and other school staff the authority to make decisions as a group at the school, program or department level. This is not a concept of a single leader with full authoritative control, or an individual teacher autonomous in their own classroom.

This delegation of authority can take place in the charter sector (through an agreement between the charter school and its authorizer) or in the district sector (through a site-based governance agreement).

The autonomies granted should be spelled out explicitly, where possible in both state law, and school and district policy. A process of schools and teachers ‘asking permission’ will not work; those granting permission will then feel responsible and will decline to approve significant changes.

Schools and teachers should be accountable for what they agreed in their ‘contract’—with the district or with their charter authorizer—they would accomplish. There will be multiple objectives. ‘Achievement’ will be multi-dimensional. Judgments will be made on balance.

What Will Result?

Schools and teachers will make changes to depart significantly from the givens of traditional school, as described in the “learning” section of this theory. They will adapting the learning program to maximize student motivation and personalize learning. Engagement, student behavior, and learning will all improve.