The Bottom Line

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 ›

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 ›