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Group of paper plane in one direction and with one individual pointing in the different way. Business concept for new ideas creativity and innovative solution.
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The Bottom Line Is Reform Achievable?

Dale Chu, senior visiting fellow of the Fordham Institute (an education reform think tank) writes, “the dour forecast [on big education reform ideas] is good reason for reformers to fight even harder in the 2020s and to search for a new path forward.” Given Chu’s conclusion, new transformative measures are required to propel our educational system to new heights.

Simply put, what we are doing is not working.

That is not to say that some pieces of reform haven’t been successful, such as the charter school movement and the accessibility of more choice in education. However, continuing down the path we are on will provide us another dreary decade.

What America needs is one state to step up and lead the nation in systemic change of our education system. Not ideas that merely nibble at the edges.

We should expect (and plan for) this transformation taking  time—likely years—to  see an entire system change, even for one state. ACTE Chair Don Nielsen joins Chu’s call for a new path forward: “we need to approach the effort with a sense of urgency and move at the maximum pace appropriate for complex systems.”

Only a few states are currently positioned to begin this process of transformation. But we need only one. If one state begins this transformation, it won’t be long before others follow its lead.  

If we want sustainable change at the state level, reform must begin with the passage of new laws. Because of the size and complexity of our education system, these changes should be made in stages. This will also minimize resistance from those who like the present system (such as unions or families it currently works for) and mitigate disruption to those industries (unions, families, government agencies, and elected officials) that have benefited from our present system.

Nielsen calls on policy leaders, citizens, education reformers, and others to “develop a movement for change as opposed to a top-down dictum.” His plan involves these components:

Phase 1:

  1. Right-to-work Legislation (many states already have this in place)
  2. Choice Legislation (many states already have this in place)
  3. Innovation Schools and Districts Legislation (only a few states have this in place)
  4. Leadership Institute Legislation (to date, not one state has this)

Phase 2:

  1. Appointed School Board Legislation
  2. Certification Laws Legislation
  3. School Funding Legislation
  4. Teacher Compensation Legislation
  5. Graduation Requirements Legislation

Transforming our schools is going to take time. It will require effort by many people, but it can and must be done. Our children are counting on us.

Bailey Takacs

Development Program Coordinator, American Center for Transforming Education
Bailey Takacs served as development program coordinator to Discovery Institutes' American Center for Transforming Education and Development team. Bailey has experiences which also include: campaign management and administrative roles with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of the government. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Government from Pacific Lutheran University.