Areas of Teacher Autonomy

Kim Farris-Berg, Edward J. Dirkswager and Amy Junge originally identified ten potential areas in which teachers could secure collective autonomy when conducting research for Trusting Teachers with School Success: What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots. That list was developed from research about school decentralization and autonomy by Fordham Foundation, William Ouchi of the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, and RAND Corporation. It was also based on the observations of field practitioners and observers at the Center for Collaborative Education, EdVisions Schools and Education Evolving.

The original ten potential areas for collective autonomy at that time included:

  1. Selecting colleagues
  2. Transferring and/or terminating colleagues
  3. Evaluating colleagues
  4. Setting staff pattern (including size of staff; allocation of personnel among teaching and other positions)
  5. Selecting leaders
  6. Determining budget
  7. Determining compensation, including leaders
  8. Determining learning program and learning materials (including teaching methods, curriculum, and levels of technology)
  9. Setting the schedule (of classes; of school hours; length of school year)
  10. Setting school-level policies (including disciplinary protocol, homework, etc.)

After the investigation, Farris-Berg, Dirkswager and Junge added five additional areas of collective autonomy based on what they had learned from teachers about their importance. The additional five include:

  1. Determining tenure policy (if any)
  2. Determining professional development
  3. Determining whether to take, when to take, and how much to count district/EMO/authorizer assessments
  4. Assessing school performance according to multiple measures (not only a mean proficiency score)
  5. Determining work hours
For more information, see this detailed descriptions of these autonomies, as well as examples of what they look like in practice.