So let me play devil's advocate here. Wasn't it autonomy that got us into this whole NCLB and economic mess. Schools weren't cutting it or couldn't agree on a good way to show that they were doing their job so now there are articulated standards and state mandated tests. Banks did what they wanted and now there are bailouts so they don't fail and talk of better oversight.
When you're traveling out of state where do you stop to get something to eat, the autonomous independently-owned restaurant or a familiar name brand chain? In some cases the independent restaurant might have the better meal, but often we'll sacrifice the risk for the known - not that all chains guarantee the same quality but let's assume a minimum standard of quality as opposed to a range far above and below for the independents.
I don't think it was autonomy that got us into NCLB. I think the failures in public education were partly a result of the 80's practice of 'starving the beast' and partly a case of limited imagination on behalf of all actors involved. I always appreciate the devil's being advocated for, but I find it hard to blame the autonomy of teachers in their classrooms for the historical political in-fighting and failures of conscience between the big players in Washington.
A quick glance at the early history of the Dept of Ed -- [Ed. I made a flub... blogging too fast, too early in the morning and mistakenly wrote NEA, which is interesting in its own right but not what I meant... Amended 3PM, Apr 22, 2009] and the political reactionism of what would become the Reagan campaign/admin demonstrates this in spades. Subsequent failures were predicated by this initial clash of ideology and the extended battle in policy that was waged throughout the era of Dynasty and big hair.
That's not to say that teachers themselves should be let off the hook. That's exactly where the transparency piece fits in.
In terms of current practice, transparency is of utmost importance. Autonomy should be a matter of responsibility that hinges upon it. And for the first time in history, we have the means -- via Web 2.0 -- to involve all actors -- teachers, students, parents, admins, and politicians, as well as the community at large -- in real time connections with the facts of what learning looks like in a 21st century classroom on a second-by-second basis.
Let's encourage that dialogue.
And if we see that it ain't working, let's work together with the community to fix it.
Bubble-tests be damned.
As for the restaurants, I always go local.