Private-practice teachers are professional educators who provide their services to schools or other organizations on a contract basis. It is often said that all children are unique, that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work very well for students. Nor does it work well for teachers. Most teachers graduating from education schools are limited to a lifetime of public employment.4 They are not offered the variety of professional opportunities available to graduates of other disciplines. Nor are they offered the same kinds of opportunities for career growth. Private practice changes that by broadening career options for teachers.

Instead of becoming an employee of the district--subject to all its rules and regulations--teachers can be owners of a professional practice or employed by a private business. They can contract with schools or parents to provide instructional services to students. Some teachers in private practice tutor students on a parent-pay basis; others contract with schools or school districts to provide specialized instruction in remedial education, science, or foreign language. Still others use private practice to tap the market for adult education, teacher training, or employee education.

Private practice opens up new opportunities for teachers. It provides greater choices for teachers who don't want to leave the classroom in order to grow professionally. Private practice is not for the risk-averse. In exchange for entrepreneurial freedom, private-practice educators forgo the safety net of district employment--and the protection that tenure and collective bargaining often afford.

But for many educators, the chance to chart their own course is worth the risk. For those teachers who are frustrated with status-quo employment opportunities, who want to drive their own careers, or who have a good idea and want to market it, private practice offers the means to do so. In 1991, a reading and language skills tutor in Michigan started her own successful education business (see Case Study #1).