Autonomous school policies are becoming increasingly prevalent in school districts and states, and currently exist in 24 states nationwide. These policies provide school leaders with greater decision-making power over their budget, staffing, or curriculum and sometimes include governance innovations, such as when a district delegates operational authority to an independent nonprofit.
Our colleagues recently published a deep dive into the autonomous school policies being implemented in San Antonio, Texas. However, that’s just one example. Across the nation, autonomous school policies vary widely in terms of their goals, the flexibility they provide to schools, and the ways in which schools are held accountable for student performance. In some states, for example, autonomy is available only to schools meeting certain performance thresholds. In others, any school is eligible to apply for autonomy. Some states explicitly name the policies from which all autonomous schools are exempt, while others allow school leaders to choose which policies to waive.
"Staking Out the Middle Ground: Policy Design for Autonomous Schools" provides state and local leaders with key insights into the various contours of autonomous school policies. Two research briefs drawing from the full report provide specific summaries of Recommendations for State Leaders and Recommendations for Local Leaders. The report also surfaces lessons and recommendations from in-depth Profiles of Autonomous School Policies in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, and Massachusetts.