Increasingly, public schools are coming to acknowledge that new ways of doing business are necessary if students are to excel in the 21st Century. Contracting for instruction is a practical option for school boards and school administrators interested in strengthening accountability, cutting costs, increasing flexibility, or taking advantage of outside expertise and innovations. Instead of hiring an employee at a given rate, school administrators buy the performance and output of an educator for a given price, to paraphrase Ted Kolderie, one of the pioneers of the private-practice concept and director of the Center for Policy Studies in St. Paul. Such an arrangement, if properly monitored, makes the private-practice teacher accountable for results, not just for the process of teaching.

In turn, the contract arrangement elevates the professional status of teachers. Contracting with a private-practice teacher requires school administrators to deal with educators on a professional basis. Private practice enables teachers to take control of their own careers, negotiate their own compensation, and make their own decisions about how to use time, resources, and methodologies.

Ellen Larkin Sternig, an educator in private practice, says the "new breed" of teachers is demanding greater opportunities for autonomy and professional growth. Meanwhile, parents are demanding better educational outcomes for their children. These two crosscurrents in education are changing the way schools--and educators--deliver instruction. "Every major company is going through restructuring and so is education," says Sternig. "Either you're going to be part of it, and make it happen, or you're going to be pulled along."