The Bottom Line

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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 ›

Fight, two fists hitting each other over dramatic sky
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Combating Union Power

Teacher unions carry a lot of fire power in their holsters, wielding greater influence on the public schools than any other group in American society, including voters. On first glance, one could say it is all “bottom up” influence due to their membership numbers (the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have a combined membership approaching 5 million). Unions drive collective bargaining activities which result in agreements so comprehensive that the organization of public schools is virtually dictated by the union. There is also “top-down” influence, in which politicians are lobbied to pass laws and regulations that are typically anti-reform and block or weaken any attempt to curb union power. In an article for New York Read More ›

Group of American activists is protesting
Group of American activists is protesting
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Civic Engagement has Led to Civic Miseducation

Students are being encouraged to oppose the government rather than to engage the established political process. The preference for protests and civil disobedience, driven by bitterness and resentment,  reflects their lack of sound knowledge about how our democratic republic operates. Bruce Chapman, Chairman of the Board to Discovery Institute, shares a shocking statistic in his book Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government Except for All the Others: “In 2014, the US Department of Education reported (again) that all but 23 percent of eighth-graders are deficient in civics.” This is an impediment to maintaining our democratic society. As Americans we should be embarrassed. Chapman continues by summarizing how the deterioration in the study of history and civics Read More ›

The Bait
a carrot in the sky, like a bait

Merit Pay Obstructs High-Performance

Texas is smart to rid itself of incentive compensation for its teachers. Author Aliyya Swaby of the Texas Tribune writes “Huberty [a Representative and committee chair for the Texas Public Education Committee] removed that portion of [House Bill 3]  and instead included a section incentivizing school districts to pay teachers more to work at high-needs campuses, in rural districts or schools, or in subjects with a shortage of teachers.” They are keen to remove this from the bill because it does not provide the desired outcome. Rather,  it pulls away from having the faculty at schools work as intended, creating a damaging spiral to the academic success of school. Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Don Nielsen warns of a counter-intuitive result Read More ›

Tennessee State Capital Building
Facade of Tennessee State Capital Building in Nashville, Tennessee
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States Stepping Out to Transform Education

Dale Chu of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a national advocate for bettering education, breaks down the Education Commission of the States’ annual report, highlighting what state governors are saying about education in their State of the State addresses. The Education Commission of the States follows and evaluates the policy proposals by Governors from each state, looking for developing tendencies, and summarizing them in a way easy to follow for the reader. Examples of these emerging trends are school finance, workforce development, teaching quality, early learning, postsecondary financial aid, and school safety. The speeches of four governors are singled out for special recognition: Eric Holcomb of Indiana, Brad Little of Idaho, Ron DeSantis of Florida, and Tennessee’s new Governor, Bill Read More ›

Children having swimming lesson
Children having swimming lesson
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Group-Based Learning: Swim Lesson Vs Swim Meet

Senior Fellow Don Nielsen of Discovery Institute writes in his book Every School “A parent needs to have only two children to know how totally different children can be.”  That is why the “one-size-fits-all” system is no longer advantageous during the information age. ExcelinEd, a national non-profit organization focused on state education reform founded by former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, is pushing for more individualized learning. They propose “Next generation learning re-imagines learning for the 21st century by providing innovative educators flexibility and support to meet the needs of all students.” It is important to understand why group-based learning is highly antiquated. To explain this, one must look at the design of the bell-shaped curve and what role that plays Read More ›

Idaho US State Law Legal System Concept
Idaho US state law, legal system and justice concept with a 3D rendering of a gavel on the Idahoan flag on background.
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Idaho: Model Legislation for the Nation

Student-centered learning is being rolled out in Idaho. During the 2015 session, House Bill 110 passed the Idaho state legislature which mandated the Idaho State Department of Education transfer from the traditional group-based education to what they refer to as “mastery-based education.”  The Idaho State Department of Education website states, “This model will move students away from the current time-based system to a mastery-based system to allow for a more personalized and differentiated learning experience. Mastery Education (ME) requires focus on explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that will empower students and prepare them for the 21st Century.” This exciting news suggests that Idaho is ready to revamp the system. The state is implementing this legislation exactly the way it should Read More ›

Teacher woman in stress or depression at school classroom
Teacher woman in stress or depression at school classroom, children or students driving her crazy.
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Certified Is Not Qualified

In a guest blog for the Christensen Institute, Ben Kutylo, Co-Founder and President of Fremont Street, writes of the importance on teaching and rethinking the education system with teachers as the focal point.  Discussing a study done last September, Kutylo states, “authors interviewed teachers to discover what motivates them to adopt new approaches to instruction.” He notes that “teaching is the most important factor impacting student learning. Besides parents, educators know students best.” The American Center for Transforming Education shares Kutylo’s aim to improve the quality of our teaching corps. However, the blog neglects one of the biggest issues with our current teachers: the way we select and train our teachers. Kutylo argues that “change efforts [should] start with teachers—rather Read More ›