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Power Politics Trumps Children

Karl Zinsmeister, editor in chief of Philanthropy magazine, recently writes in the Wall Street Journal, “We are now in the midst of a counterrevolution against school reform.” This could not be more true. Both Republicans and Democrats have at times supported school reforms such as school choice, teacher accountability, and more rigorous testing. Now, as Chris Stewart, education expert at a Philanthropy Roundtable conference commented, “School reformers are getting punched in the face.” For example, in Texas, Houston’s Board of Education announced it will no longer allow Teach For America volunteers to serve in the district. And in California a panel appointed by the governor placed new constraints on educational choice, allowing local school-district officials the ability to veto public Read More ›

A Quest for a More Purposeful Education

The Center welcomes a new program coordinator, Bailey Takacs The American Center for Transforming Education (ACTE) is pleased to introduce our newest staff member. Bailey Takacs has multiple years of experience in increasingly responsible roles at the local, state, and federal levels of government. In his most recent position, Bailey managed a campaign for State Representative Paul Graves. His experience is escalated by his Bachelor’s degree, earned from Pacific Lutheran University, with a major in Politics and Government and a minor in Philosophy. Having been a product of public education in Washington State, Bailey has had firsthand experiences with the challenges facing the existing public school system. His experience aligns with that of Don Nielsen, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, Read More ›

Nowhere to Go but Up. A look at Student Achievement

As we contemplate dramatically improving the performance of our education system, the monumental effort this will take, and slow pace, makes many resign themselves to small tweaks to an outdated K12 model. Others, however, are tackling the issue head on. The American Center for Transforming Education recently sat down with Dr. Edward Lee Childress, Superintendent of Corinth, Mississippi School District. Why Lee? Because he is from Mississippi, a state ranked 50/50 on K12 Achievement in Education Week’s Quality Counts 2017 report. The data isn’t good for these students who go to school in the worst performing state in the nation. However, in Corinth, a district with 61% poverty, 43% minority, and thousands less dollars per student than the national average, Read More ›

With Learning, Take the Scenic Route!

The world’s information is literally at our fingertips every hour of the day. Getting info is as easy as pulling out that smartphone or tablet and asking a search engine for the answer. In less than a second, there it is. “How many millimeters are in an inch?” Boom, there it is. “There are 25.4 millimeters in one inch,” the virtual assistant responds. “What’s the capital of Peru?” “Lima is the capital and largest city in Peru.” Done. You are now smarter than you were a few seconds ago. Or are you? It turns out that learning is not as efficient a process as Big Tech would like it to be. The latest research in cognition shows that learning takes time, requires repetition, Read More ›

Career Technical Education

The USA is waking up to the disconnect between jobs available and the lack of American youth with the skills to fill them. Apprenticeships and skills-based learning for students is a big focus of our nation’s educational reform today. Many of these models are crafted from the success of Germany, Switzerland, and other countries who long ago recognized that technically skilled wage earners are the backbone of their country’s economy. Public Private partnerships are leading this innovation. IBM started the P-Tech model as a six-year public school career program for grades 9-14. AJAC (Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee) and other apprenticeship programs are offering high school students paid adult apprenticeship hours, and high school and college credit, during the public school Read More ›

K-12: Delivering as Promised

America’s public education system, which was established over 100 years ago, was never designed to effectively educate every child. In fact, it was designed to prepare most children for hand labor in our factories and farms. A few children would excel and those children would become the supervisors, managers, and community leaders. Today, we employ the same system and we find that our schools still effectively educate a small percentage of our children. In fact, about 30% of today’s high school seniors will be prepared to attend college and become our leaders. This 30% is comprised primarily of white, upper middle class students. The other 70% of students were expected to go far enough to learn to read and write, do basic math, and then go to work for the top 30%. Should the expectation of our education system today be that it prepares all students for self-sustaining employment of their choosing? Read More ›

A Look at Louisiana’s School Transformation

“Local Control.” Often we presume comprehensive systemic alignment at a state level in our K12 system will remain a suggestion in practice. There is truth to this. States determine the standards all students should meet in order to graduate. It is up to the local districts to decide methods and with what courses and materials students employ to attain these standards. Certainly there are a few checkpoints along the way through standardized testing. However in most states these test have no bearing on the individual student. Rather the results inform how the school district is doing in educating to the state standards. In the end, the secondary Principal approves course credits, and the Superintendent of the district signs off on Read More ›

“You Could Always Teach”

The National Center for Educational Statistics ranks the United States 25th in academic achievement internationally. If teachers are the greatest influence on academic growth, perhaps a look at the teaching force in Country #1 would shed some light on how we can move our students up in international comparisons. Singapore has the top overall student achievement in math, science, and language arts. Unless Singapore’s children are born much smarter than American children (which they are not) then they must be doing something very different in preparing their teachers. Read More ›

When Producing the Same Results Isn’t Enough: One School’s Story of Transformation

What if money wasn’t the answer? What if student success was actually more impacted by staff perception of what school should be, and the willingness to team up for change? Phew, on one hand, there will always be a struggle for revenue. Ugh, on the other, because this means adults must be willing to take risks, work really really hard in a way they haven’t been stretched before, and deeply trust each other. Control is a concept that brings a sense of autonomy. The example we will explore here is the exact opposite. It is relinquishing classroom control to the entire staff body. It is being transparent to colleagues about data and areas of growth. It is fully sharing student Read More ›

Robert Aguirre: Lessons from the Horizon Edgewood Tuition Voucher Program

Robert Aguirre has spent nearly fifty years in business, and devoted nearly forty of those years to being an education reform activist. He was an education reform adviser on both Reagan campaigns, both GHW Bush campaigns, and on numerous gubernatorial campaigns in multiple states. He has worked in over twenty states on reform/choice legislation, and is among the top ten people in the country in terms of designing choice legislation. From 1989 through 2009, he worked with Nobel Laureate Dr. Milton Friedman, Ted Fortsmann, John Walton, Dr. Jim Lieninger, Pete Peters, William Simon, Betsy DeVos, Steve Schuck, Patrick Rooney and many others in the crusade to reform public education. They had all come from many years of investing time and Read More ›