Discovery Institute recently launched its newest program, the American Center for Transforming Education (ACTE), to target one of the nation’s highest priority public policy objectives: improving the performance of the U.S. education system. ACTE blends a focus on increasing parental choice and empowerment with the complementary objectives of reforming certification for teachers and administrators and strengthening teacher preparation programs.
ACTE’s work is rooted in the philosophy that the education of the child is a fundamental responsibility of the family. All families, regardless of socioeconomic status, should be able to access the school that they believe will best serve their children. A ZIP code should not be the determining factor in what education a child will be able to receive.
In Washington state, the ACTE has actively supported a reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision to declare charter schools unconstitutional. Through our Facebook page, we’ve launched a social media campaign to educate citizens and policy makers about the importance of charter schools in the state. As a result of this effort, we’ve been able to reach over 345,000 people with this message. Our strategy includes a focused outreach to policymakers—including legislators, their staff, and judges—which has generated 4,600 “engagements” (a measure which includes likes, clicks, shares, and comments), with a response rate of 70%. This show of public interest in charter schools is vital to spur legislative action that would reverse the Court’s decision in 2016.
In 2016, the ACTE is excited to be partnering with local like-minded organizations, Oklahoma Council on Public Policy and Choice Matter, to expand school choice within their state. After an intensive process of research and analysis, we’ve identified Oklahoma as a state that is ripe with potential for reforms, and hope to have many positive developments to report throughout the year. Our work in Oklahoma will be modeled after that of the American Center for School Choice—an organization that is newly merged with the ACTE. The American Center for School Choice has seen previous success in Florida, where, in 2014, they were successful in working with local groups for the formation of the Florida Interfaith Coalition for School Choice. This resulted in 80,000 Florida children receiving scholarships to private schools! We are already well on our way to seeing similar progress made in Oklahoma, and have begun the process of building a faith-based coalition that will educate policymakers about the importance of providing Oklahoma parents with more education options for their children. You will hear more details as they emerge in early 2016 and the Oklahoma legislature begins its session in February.
Going forward, ACTE will continue to identify states that are poised for certification and teacher preparation reform, and develop partnerships We want to encourage and assist local groups seeking to improve the quality and training of people in our education system, which continues to be a critical element for delivering consistently better academic outcomes for American students.