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Consumer Empowerment

American Decline can be Reversed through Practical Grassroots Action

Public education has been decaying on the inside for decades. Educators blame poverty, poor parenting, changing demographics, the growth of hedonistic popular culture, insufficient funding, and myriad other factors. Seldom mentioned, however, is education’s failure to adapt and overcome these conditions.

In the view of most educators, schools are doing all they can-an explanation that is contradicted by the visible differences in effectiveness between teachers within the same school and between schools within the same district. Value-added assessments show that high performing teachers and schools can bring about twice as much achievement gain per year as low performers-and that is a level-playing field comparison.

In truth, public education was created as a means of affording each new generation of Americans an opportunity to succeed regardless of the conditions of their birth. If schools can’t overcome these conditions, they are failing at their basic mission.

Thankfully, not all schools and districts indulge themselves in excuses. Instead, they recognize their historic mission and reach their goals despite adversity. Probably the clearest example of such schools today are the KIPP Academies. They take students whose demographic status predicts failure and turn out competent graduates.

How they reach that end is another discussion, but the point that parents, officials, and citizens need to recognize is that effective schools can overcome most of the barriers and that it all starts with leadership. In a democracy, however, leadership must enlist the grassroots, and that is where the breakdown of American public schooling begins.

Schools and districts all over the United States are marginally fulfilling their mission because of weak leadership at the school district level, i.e., boards and superintendents. The underlying issue is that electorate and the board are frequently in the dark about the true state of their schools. The result is that few citizens pay attention, voters are disengaged, school board elections controlled by narrow special interests, and school leadership is largely unaccountable for results.

Reform is Attainable

These circumstances and the poor student outcomes that they produce are neither inevitable nor irreversible; but change does require grassroots action, and that begins with a critical mass of informed citizens. School reform–as old as public schooling itself—has most often failed because reformers have not done their homework and accepted good intentions for sustained results.

The articles and other items listed on this page pertain to various features of the local school reform process:

  • Why the public officials and local citizens are often in the dark about their schools
  • Why school boards can are often captives of special interests
  • How to form a grassroots school reform organization
  • How educational failure originates in the earliest grades
  • An example of the barriers faced by reform efforts
  • An example of how local officials equipped with consumer-friendly tools can take action
  • Why the lack of effective reading instruction is arguably the greatest barrier to better schools

Americans Know Very Little About Local School Quality

In an Investors Business Daily op ed, the president of the Education Consumers Foundation maintains that Americans are largely kept in the dark about the performance of their local schools.  Without a convenient and understandable scoreboard, there…

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Local School Boards are key to Better Outcomes, and Reversing American Decline

Local school boards may be the key to reversing American educational and economic decline. Educators blame school outcomes on poverty but public schools were created to overcome poverty and they were remarkably successful in doing…

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Organizing to Improve Local Schools

What is an Education Consumers Association? An Education Consumers Association (ECA) is local or state level citizen group that is dedicated to empowering parents, school board members, employers, and all others who have a consumer’s…

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Reaching Workforce Preparedness Aims Requires Effective Teaching – Beginning in Preschool!

On November 15 and 16, ECF led breakout sessions for 200 Tennessee school board members on the link between workforce preparedness and early childhood education. You can review the entire presentation, including slides, comments, and links…

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KIPP in charter tug-of-war

The Tennessean reports on the challenges KIPP Academy Nashville has had in getting additional charters approved within Metro Nashville Schools, based in part on the assertion that KIPP is not performing as well as others in…

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A Mayor Uses Consumer-Friendly Charts to Make his Case

Are Tennessee’s Children Learning to Read? Mayor Tim Burchett Asks the Question in Knoxville. Knoxville mayor Tim Burchett is leading on education, highlighting the importance of early literacy:  “I say, before we raise taxes, let’s tackle…

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J. E. Stone: School system must stress reading skills

In this June 1 opinion piece, featured in the Knoxville News Sentinel, the president of the Education Consumers Foundation, comments on the recent reorganization of a low-performing school in the city, noting the tremendous costs of failing…

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