The Bottom Line

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A Message from Don Nielsen

During the summer I completed a revision to my book, Every School. The revision brings all the information up to date and also adds an important new chapter—a detailed “Game Plan” for a state. I believe the only way we will transform our schools is to change the governing state laws and this chapter gives state legislators and Governors a game plan on how to start and accomplish the transformation of their schools. The highlight of the last few months was the hiring of a new program coordinator, Bailey Takacs. Bailey comes to us with a lot of experience in legislative matters and with a passion for education. He is already making a huge difference in our ability to do Read More ›

Broadcast
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Don Nielsen on the Education Gadfly Podcast

Don Nielsen, program director for the American Center for Transforming Education and author of Every School: One Citizen’s Guide to Transforming Education, appears on the Education Gadfly show to discuss “the feasibility of empowering school administrators, and whether it’s feasible in district schools.” Also discussed on the show is why Nielsen has crafted the new version of his book and how states can move forward with what he refers to as the “Game Plan.” Listen for yourself by clicking the audio below!

Grunge state of Washington flag map
Grunge state of Washington flag map isolated on a white background, U.S.A.
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Students and Parents Badly Hurt by the Legislature

The 2019 legislature missed out on a big opportunity this year. Instead of working to reform how our schools operate, the legislature took a step backwards by undoing much of the good work that was done in response to the McCleary court ruling just two years ago. In 2017, Democrats and Republicans approved a bi-partisan school funding bill, reforming state and local property taxes to ensure that the state met its constitutional obligation to fully fund K-12 education.  The law reduced inequities by capping local property taxes, so wealthy areas would not have an imbalanced benefit, by providing equitable state funding to all schools on a per-student basis. All parties, including Governor Inslee, lauded and moved forward with the agreement. Read More ›

frau liest kindern in der schule etwas vor
frau liest kindern in der schule etwas vor
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How to Maintain High-Quality Teachers

Don Nielsen underscores the critical role of teachers in his book, Every School: “Quality teaching yields quality learning for students.” The enormous influence of teachers on a range of student outcomes has become even more clear in the last decade—an influence only slightly less than that of parents. Yet with the extensive variability in teacher quality within schools, it’s not easy to provide students with access to high-quality teachers. So how do we produce and maintain high-quality teachers for public schools? Three issues are paramount: selection and preparation, placement and working conditions, and compensation for teachers.   As Nielsen argues, “Professionals in areas of law, medicine, engineering, etc., are carefully selected prior to being accepted into a college program. They Read More ›

Old used can of street football game and legs in sneakers.
Old used can of street football game. Legs of a young man in sneakers. Children's street games with a can on the road.
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We Cannot Continue to Kick the Education Can Down the Road

Earlier this year, I wrote on Florida’s major expansion of education vouchers. It is wonderful to see that this legislation made it across the finish line. It is even more powerful than one imagined because it allows for even more students to enter the program than what was earlier discussed. Originally, the Senate attempted to keep the eligibility requirement at the 260 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Now that number is up to 300 percent, allowing for more students to enter. Allowing “Up to 18,000 students [to] enroll in the program’s first year” is just the beginning as, “the number of students who can participate could rise in future years,” writes The Associated Press. Not only does this legislation Read More ›

kids making team gesture
team of adorable kids making team gesture
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Separate Students by Achievement, Not Ability

In an article published on Aeon, Oscar Hedstrom suggests that tracking, measuring a student’s ability to learn (i.e. ranking students as above average, average, or below average) is not a good idea. The author is right. If you believe every child can learn, as I do, then you need to take into account where a child is in their learning. Rather than tracking, what I propose in the updated version of my book Every School is simply giving kids who are behind in their learning more time (longer day and longer year) and smaller class sizes with the best teachers. That is, give them the opportunity to catch up quickly so they can rejoin the others. This is not tracking; Read More ›

student problem concept and stress
student problem concept and stress
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Unions are Unfulfilled. So are Children.

EducationWeek recently published an article on labor contracts for school districts in three states: California, Colorado, and Washington. All three have struggled with recent teacher strikes and now “will have to lay off hundreds of teachers and central office staff, increase class sizes, shutter after-school programs, and take other actions they warn will have devastating academic effects for years to come.” Everyone in Washington knew this problem was coming. That includes the Washington Education Association (WEA), a union supported by education funding. Yet, the WEA still pushed for a massive pay increase that caused these problems. To understand how we got here, one needs to step back a couple years. During the 2017 legislative session, in response to the McCleary Read More ›

How to get systemic changes
How to get systemic changes
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Fixing Education Requires Systemic Change

School reform has been tried and doesn’t work. What is needed is systemic change.  An article on EducationNext highlights key components of select schools that implemented systemic changes in order to transform their schools. Much of which are in line with senior fellow Don Nielsen’s policy propositions in his book Every School: One Citizens Guide to Transforming Education. Authors Karen Hawley Miles and Karen Baroody recognize eight school systems that “focus less on specific interventions and more on the systemic conditions that lead to results.” They continue, “to address these challenges, [deplorable graduation rates and low-performing schools] they had chosen from a small set of clear strategic priorities such as getting the right people in the right roles, differentiating and Read More ›

News Release

Discovery Institute Bailey Takacs (206) 292-0401 x1290 [email protected] Education expert applauds Idaho’s move towards student-centered learning He recommends a game plan for advancing education reform “Idaho’s model education legislation is an outstanding step in the right direction,” according to Don Nielsen, former Seattle School Board President and author of Every School: One Citizen’s Guide To Transforming Education.  He was referring to the legislature’s work with the Governor to eliminate the cap on the 20 schools that can enter the state’s pilot program for “mastery-based education.” “Next up Idaho should move forward in creating ‘Institutes for Educational Leadership’,” explained Nielsen, and added that “These institutes would have extraordinarily high admission standards, and would be populated with instructors from business, education, and Read More ›

Pupils In Class Using Digital Tablet With Teacher
Pupils In Class Using Digital Tablet With Teacher
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Technology Can Revolutionize Education, But…

“Perhaps no change in our society has affected learning more than the advent of computer technology,” says Don Nielsen, Program Chair of the American Center for Transforming Education and author of Every School: One Citizen’s Guide to Transforming Education. How we implement and train on the use of technology within the classroom is an hot topic in education. Nielsen states, “Neither the infrastructure of our schools nor the competency of our teaching corps is keeping pace with this new phenomenon.” (Superintendent Doug Brubaker of Fort Smith, Oklahoma, makes a similar point in a recent Education Week article here. Nielsen states in his updated version of Every School, “Across sectors, adopting new technology is the easy part. Much more difficult is Read More ›