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Gary Houchens
Bowling Green, KY
I am a former teacher, principal, and district administrator now serving as Associate Professor of Educational Administration, Leadership, & Research at Western Kentucky University. In 2016 Governor Matt Bevin appointed me to the Kentucky Board of Education for a 4-year term of service.
Recent Activity
This month the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a fascinating study, Three Signs a Proposed Charter School is At Risk of Failing. The report searches for indicators in the applications of proposed charter schools that were associated with those schools eventually posting low student performance. The authors found three signs... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at School Leader
I recently enjoyed watching the 3-part PBS series, School Inc., hosted by the late Andrew Coulson, who until his death in 2016 served as director and then senior fellow at Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom. Full episodes are now available to watch online, and while School Inc covers familiar... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at School Leader
Last night I had a dream. I was attending a very large meeting of regional and state education leaders. I recognized many of them as friends and colleagues I have known for years. In this meeting they were passionately discussing their fears about Kentucky's recent move toward charter schools, the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2017 at School Leader
Following the passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, states have been busy re-imagining what education accountability might look like under the new law. ESSA devolves a lot of decision-making authority back the states, providing new opportunities to define what an effective education system really means... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2017 at School Leader
Last week Representative John "Bam" Carney, chair of the House Education Committee, introduced House Bill 520, and on Tuesday Governor Bevin held a press conference with Carney and Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Hal Heiner to announce his support. While there will undoubtedly be debates and proposed amendments, the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2017 at School Leader
Image Above: Parents and teachers blessing students at St. Joseph School, Bowling Green, on opening day 2015. School choice programs like scholarship tax credits would enable more low-income students to attend schools like St. Joseph. In this series of posts I've attempted to explain in a straightforward way the basic... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2017 at School Leader
In the first part of this three-part primer on school choice, I explained the basic philosophy that education dollars should generally follow students to the schools of their families' choices instead of flowing directly to a network of government owned and operated schools that essentially functions as a monopoly on... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2017 at School Leader
This semester I'm teaching courses on school law and education policy, and the topic of school choice has quickly surfaced, not just because of its relevance to the classes but also its prominence in the news. The nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education and the Kentucky legislature's... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2017 at School Leader
Today I was thrilled to join over 500 other Kentuckians on the steps of the state capitol to celebrate National School Choice Week. I was honored to join a large slate of speakers and enthusiastic supporters calling for more education options for Kentucky families. The Kentucky legislature will consider at... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2017 at School Leader
In my recent review, I argued that Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing our Children From Failed Educational Theories by E.D. Hirsch was perhaps the most important education book of 2016. Indeed, I believe that Hirsch's call for a more rigorous and rich elementary school curriculum has significant implications for addressing persistent... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2017 at School Leader
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis was one of the top non-fiction bestsellers of 2016. The page-turning story by J. D. Vance, which describes his volatile upbringing between the Appalachian coal country from whence his maternal grandparents migrated and the fast-declining Rust Belt city of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2017 at School Leader
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of touring two charter schools in Nashville and visiting with their principals. As Kentucky looks forward to its first charter school law, it was helpful to see first hand two different charter schools pursuing different strategies and serving different needs, each with its... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2016 at School Leader
The struggle to make Kentucky one of the last states to embrace school choice is going to be an ugly one. The first charter school bill of the upcoming General Assembly has been introduced, but it is a charade of a law filed by a long-time charter school opponent and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2016 at School Leader
Update, 1/22/17: A version of this review has been published in the Bowling Green Daily News. E. D. Hirsch is well known in education circles as a long-time advocate for "cultural literacy," the notion that there is a body of knowledge all educated people should master to be effective and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2016 at School Leader
UPDATE, 12/10/2016: A version of this post was published as an op-ed by Kentucky Today. The GOP's takeover of the Kentucky legislature last month means that charter school legislation is finally coming to Kentucky. After a day-long study session on the topic last week, yesterday the Kentucky Board of Education,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2016 at School Leader
Good grief. Thanks for catching this glaring error. I have revised accordingly. Humans at work here!
An op-ed in today's Courier-Journal recycles the kinds of inaccurate information all-too typical of those who oppose the idea of parental choice in education. Let's set a few things straight. The piece, written by Gay Adelmann, co-founder of a group called Dear JCPS, is mostly a protest against the newspaper's... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2016 at School Leader
Kentucky is one of a handful of states that still has no meaningful mechanism for school choice - not open enrollment, not charter schools, not education savings accounts, not even tuition tax credits. But as we inch ever closer to our first real debate on this topic, the rhetoric about... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2016 at School Leader
On October 15, I was honored to participate in a panel discussion on “New Visions for School Leadership” at the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence’s annual meeting in Lexington. My fellow panelists included Jennifer Carroll, project director for the Appalachian Leadership Lab at the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative; Ron Chi,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2016 at School Leader
As a new member on the Kentucky Board of Education, I was honored recently to do a question-and-answer exchange with Kentucky Teacher, the award-winning media platform produced by the Kentucky Department of Education. Fellow new appointee Rich Gimmel's Q&A can also be accessed here. Interviews with Milton Seymore, Alesa Johnson,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2016 at School Leader
Kentucky's education achievement gaps have been in the news recently, with a new report from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the latest round of ACT data showing the gaps are about as big as ever. Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt devoted a blog post to the topic, calling... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2016 at School Leader
Yuval Levin, editor of the conservative journal National Affairs, has been called "one of the most insightful and original thinkers of our time." His new book, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, is an outstanding examination of America's polarized political landscape. Levin criticizes both... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2016 at School Leader
Earlier this week I had the honor of speaking at the Metcalfe County Schools opening day event. It was a chance to support my friend, Metcalfe superintendent Dr. Benny Lile, but also to highlight why Metcalfe's new status as a Kentucky District of Innovation is so important. I gave a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2016 at School Leader
I've learned a lot in my two decades working in education. One thing I've learned is that no school, no matter how good, can adequately meet the needs of every single student. That's why every family deserves the chance to choose from a variety of high-quality schooling options, regardless of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2016 at School Leader
We know that Kentucky's high school graduation rates are improving, even if we're not sure how they really compare to other states. That is probably a good thing; if students aren't staying in school we have no chance to educate them. But in the long run, a diploma only has... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2016 at School Leader