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Gary Houchens
Bowling Green, KY
I am a former teacher, principal, and district administrator now serving as Professor of Educational Administration in the School of Leadrship and Professional Studies at Western Kentucky University. I am Senior Fellow at the Pegasus Institute, serve on the Board of Scholars for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, and on the board of directors for EdChoice Kentucky. From 2016-2019 I was a member of the Kentucky Board of Education.
Recent Activity
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In the last five years, the number of Kentucky students being educated at home or in private schools has grown by more than 26%, to nearly 100,000 children, representing more than 15% of the state's student body. In a report tracking these trends for EdChoice Kentucky (where I serve on... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at School Leader
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The 2022 Kentucky General Assembly concluded its work last month. The Republican-dominated legislature made record financial investments long desired by the education establishment, but failed to pass all but the most modest bills that would further empower Kentucky parents with more choices and stronger voices in their children’s education. The... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2022 at School Leader
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The Kentucky legislature has decided to redeem its failure to follow through on its flawed 2017 charter school law by trying again. HB 9 was introduced this week, and if passed as written it will correct a number of important problems with the 2017 law - which never yielded a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2022 at School Leader
I've written extensively on this blog and elsewhere about the legitimate need for parents and the public to confront the risk of critical race theory (CRT) being taught in Kentucky's schools, and also about deficiencies in the state's social studies standards. A bill currently under review in the Kentucky Senate... Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2022 at School Leader
A recurring theme in my life over the last eight or so years has been how frequently I get painted, especially on social media, as an enemy of public schools. Sometimes I can laugh it off. After 25 years of working mostly in direct or indirect service of public schools,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2022 at School Leader
In my latest guest editorial for Kentucky Fried Politics, I argue that it's past time to reform Kentucky's law governing School-Based Decision-Making (SBDM) Councils. But unlike proposed legislation that would divest SBDM Councils of all their power and give it to the district superintendent, I argue that a better path... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2022 at School Leader
Great question! I need to write about this as I believe my thinking has indeed evolved. I'll try to update with some links or write something fresh when I can!
Last Saturday I was greatly honored to be a guest speaker at the first statewide event sponsored by No Left Turn in Education - Kentucky. NLTE-KY is the state chapter of a national organization dedicated to fighting against leftist indoctrination in K-12 school curricula, promoting greater transparency in what is... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2022 at School Leader
Education history was made in Kentucky earlier this year when the state legislature passed - over the expected veto of Gov. Andy Beshear - one of the nation's most expansive school choice laws. But now the education establishment, in a last ditch effort to preserve their monopoly, is trying to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2021 at School Leader
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Homeschooling is exploding in popularity across the United States and here in Kentucky. COVID-related school closures, mask mandates, and concerns about what students are learning may all be contributing to the exodus of families from traditional public schools. It is too soon to know whether these students may eventually return,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2021 at School Leader
In my latest op-ed for Commonwealth Educational Opportunities with co-author John Garen, now published in multiple newspapers across the state, we highlight a new "anti-racist" math program in the Jefferson County Public Schools. We contrast this with the approach to rigorous math instruction made most famous by Jaime Escalante at... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2021 at School Leader
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In my debut guest editorial for the website Kentucky Friend Politics, I wrote about the recent behavior of Jefferson County Public Schools board member Chris Kolbe, who responded to a legitimate question posted by a Kentucky state senator via Twitter with "F--- you." Turns out Kolbe has a history of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2021 at School Leader
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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently issued a report that grades every state based on the quality of the social studies standards teachers are supposed to use to guide instruction in K-12 schools. Sadly, Kentucky’s social studies standards earned a “C,” with significant revisions strongly recommended. Fordham rated each state’s... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2021 at School Leader
Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I believe that if the SBDM statute was amended to include equal parent-teacher representation AND a non-parent community representative, then this entire discussion could stay at the local level. I also like the idea of student representation. When I served on the Kentucky Board of Education we approved several SBDM waivers from high schools that wanted to include non-voting student members in their council. To my knowledge no school has officially "adopted" CRT materials. But there's no doubt that teachers are using CRT-inspired materials and there are few ways to know how that is being done or make it more transparent. I wrote more about this here: https://schoolleader.typepad.com/school-leader/2021/06/equity-and-diversity-are-good-crt-is-not.html Finally, I think depending on the author there are some linkages between CRT and culturally responsive teaching practices but here too I think everything comes down to HOW a strategy is being used and with what age level of students. I use Zaretta Hammond's book in one of my classes and find its perspectives very useful, especially for teachers who may not have worked with many diverse learners. But I think it's also possible to use culturally responsive instructional materials that do not rely on - and in fact reject - some of CRT's assumptions. The 1776 Unites materials are a good example: https://projectforeverfree.org/1776-unites-celebrates-black-excellence-and-rejects-victimhood-culture/
Evidently the crowd at last night's meeting of the Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education got rowdy, with many attendees showing up to voice their concerns about how critical race theory (CRT) is being presented in the district's schools. The board was meeting in a work session to discuss... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2021 at School Leader
The national controversy over critical race theory (CRT) and how it is presented in K-12 schools has come to Kentucky. (See my discussion of Bill Request 60, which would prohibit key components of CRT, and why this whole issue is a source of legitimate concern for everyone). The Gallatin County... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2021 at School Leader
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Last night I was a guest on KET's Kentucky Tonight program talking about critical race theory and its place in Kentucky schools. Fellow guests included Rep. Joe Fischer, who recently introduced legislation that would restrict teaching certain CRT concepts in schools (I wrote about the bill here), Sen. Gerald Neal... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2021 at School Leader
Over the last year American schools have seen an explosion of teacher training and classroom instruction based on critical race theory (CRT), which explores how racism is supposedly perpetuated in every aspect of society. Several state legislatures have moved to ban classroom instruction that reflects some of the more extreme... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2021 at School Leader
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Personalized learning has been a hot topic over the last decade and the challenges of education during the COVID pandemic have made it even more timely as educators have struggled to address student learning needs. The tendency of schools to approach instruction through a one-size-fits-all lens has never been more... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2021 at School Leader
Update, 4/29. I made a five-minute video as a companion piece to the essay described to below. In it I describe what critical theory is, how it can be useful, but why it has to be rejected as the single lens through which we address issues of racial achievement gaps:... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2021 at School Leader
With little fanfare, today Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed HB 178, which prohibits governors from doing what Beshear himself did in December 2019 when he fired me and the ten other members of the Kentucky Board of Education for purely partisan reasons, quickly initiating the resignation of then-Commissioner of Education... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2021 at School Leader
After years of hard work on the part of lawmakers, educators, and parent activitists, Kentucky has finally passed a school choice law. HB 563 was vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear, but last night both houses of the state legislature overrode his veto and the bill will go to Secretary of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2021 at School Leader
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Rod Dreher's Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents is probably the most important book I have read in the last year. Today The Chalkboard Review published my essay on the lessons of Live Not By Lies for educators, students, and parents of students in K-12 schools. Dreher... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2021 at School Leader
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Last night I had the opportunity to give a virtual talk sponsored by the Kentucky chapter of Americans for Prosperity on the topic of "Unleashing Parent Power in Education." The talk itself isn't available to share, but I wanted to briefly summarize my comments, which I used as a springboard... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2021 at School Leader