The Bottom Line

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 ›

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New Version of Every School

An all-new version of Don Nielsen’s Every School, One Citizen’s Guide for Transforming Education can now be purchased on Amazon here! In this updated version of his book, Nielsen, Senior Fellow and Program Chair of Discovery Institute’s American Center for Transforming Education (ACTE), writes about the urgent need to transform our education system. Updating every chapter with new information, the book also adds a new chapter that provides a “game plan” for a state to implement the changes he advocates. Nielsen’s inspiration for the original version of the book, published by Discovery Institute in 2014, was that it would provide a unique and distinctive approach to education reform—dealing with  the overall “system” of public education rather than subjects like curriculum, Read More ›

Leader versus manager
Leader versus manager
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New Higher Education to Incentivize Educators

The supply of public education leaders is greatly outstripping the demand. The demand comes from parents, teachers, and students—that is, groups immediately impacted by leadership, or lack thereof. Don Nielsen, Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute sums up the cause of this leadership shortage in his book, Every School: “School leaders, whether they are principals or superintendents, are not trained to lead their school/district. They are trained to manage their school/district.” This is a consistent issue across all school levels. Nielsen argues, “The difference is that a leader will look for ways to improve performance, will innovate and will not be satisfied with the status quo. Managers, on the other hand, are trained to take what they have and make sure Read More ›

genius
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Antiquated Funding Creates Disparity

As reported in Education Week, two states recognized as targets for educational transformation by Discovery Institute’s American Center for Transforming Education (ACTE) are in it for the long haul. Idaho and Texas recently battled to revamp their K-12 funding formulas during their respective legislative sessions. The changes are promising, even if some questions remain about the future. The discussions over funding formulas are greatly needed. As the article points out, “Virtually every legislator gets involved with school funding formula debates since they each have vocal constituents at risk of gaining or losing state aid. And anti-tax advocates, parents, and teachers—groups with get-out-the-vote prowess—are among those at the forefront.” The bottom line is that how the schools will be funded impacts Read More ›