Should public schools have more autonomy?

A significant achievement gap exists between white students and students of color: 70 percent of white students graduate in four years, but for African-American and Latino students it’s less than 37 percent. Only a quarter of American Indian students graduate on time.

“In the latest effort to boost student performance, the Minneapolis school district wants to give more autonomy to individual schools,” writes MPR News reporter Tim Post.

“Under the effort schools would have discretion over budgeting, hiring, scheduling and curriculum.

“It’s not exactly a new idea: School districts across the country have experimented with similar systems over the last 15 years, and researchers say the results so far have been mixed.”

“If you’re going to hold principals and teachers accountable for their results, you’ve got to get them the freedom to do what’s right,” said Christine Campbell, a senior research analyst and policy director at the University of Washington’s Center for Reinventing Public Education. “Otherwise, they’re simply implementing the mandates of the district, and somehow it’s their fault that it didn’t work.”

Today’s Question: Should public schools have more autonomy?

  • Gary F

    Today’s Question: Should public schools have more autonomy?

    You mean like hiring union or non-union teachers? Pro-Choice?

    • Great point, if an individual is a good teacher and has skills with the subject matter why should the state teachers union prevent that individual from entering the classroom? Let the local principal/school determine if the individual is capable of teaching a particular subject, not the teacher’s union buying politicians in St. Paul.

  • Wally

    Of course schools should have more autonomy, but so should local and state governments. The federal bureaucracy regularly uses extortion to force compliance with federal policies by threatening the loss of funds. In many ways, elected officials from school board members to governors just become rubber stampers for the feds.

  • kennedy

    Autonomy in teaching style, using methods that best reach the students, sounds good. Autonomy in curriculum content, not such a good idea. There are some basic skills and knowledge that all high school graduates should have.

  • Jim G

    I taught for 35 years in an outer suburban public system. My fondest educational memories came before No Child Left Behind choked the fun out of teaching. I found that my best teaching experiences, where learning occurred most readily, was in a small school with only two classes in each grade. We knew the families and they knew us. As a result the parents mostly trusted us with their kids’ education. We only gave one standard achievement test yearly, and it was not a used as weapon against the kids, teachers, or school, but as a snapshot of how things were going for the school and the kids. We made curriculum adjustments and grouped kids differently to best meet their needs. Then things started to change. When we became the fastest growing district in the state, small schools were thrown out the window, and we started building schools that could house 850 to 900 students. In my opinion the decision to “go big” was the worst decision the district ever made. With these huge buildings the families didn’t know the teachers, and teachers didn’t know the families or the kids. The sense of community was diluted and with it came distrust. My hope is that someday we will regain a sense of an educational community by keeping our schools small and locally controlled. You’ll see achievement and relationships thrive. That’s my recommendation, but I’m only a 35 year veteran retired career teacher.

  • Duane K

    As a former classroom teacher I totally support more autonomy in the classroom, however, you do need a qualified administration to assure that the required goals are met. I do believe that the biggest obstacle will be the statement Mr. Post pointed out in his attending article, ” a key point in the plan still need to be ironed out with the teachers union”. I fear that the unions will still want to maintain a control over staffing that will negated much of the desired benefits.

  • Sue de Nim

    Finland has probably the best school system in the world. Whatever they’re doing, we should learn from them.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Not if “autonomy” means permission to omit evolution from high school biology or contraception from middle school health classes.