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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, 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
Today the Kentucky Department of Education released school performance data for the 2018-2019 year, the first year of implementation for our new accountability system, and the first using a new 5-star ratings framework. The new system has generated various reactions, including some negative comments from educators about the 5-star method... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2019 at School Leader
On Saturday I was honored to be part of a terrific panel of invited guests at the Kentucky Teachers in the Know Conference for a Cause. The conference was organized by Rowan County special education teacher Allison Slone, who appeared with me on a recent episode of KET's Kentucky Tonight... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2019 at School Leader
Creating a policy environment for effectively closing achievement gaps and accelerating overall student learning is the number one priority for the Kentucky Board of Education. To that end, at our annual retreat earlier this month KBE members spent an entire day hearing from a number of speakers from Kentucky and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2019 at School Leader
Next week a special committee of diverse stakeholders assembled by the Kentucky Department of Education will begin defining and setting parameters for the state's new school accountability rating system, which will use one to five stars to communicate each school's overall performance. Social media has flickered with discussion about the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2019 at School Leader
In his report to the state board of education in June, Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis argued that Kentucky needs to rethink its structures for paying teachers. His remarks were part of a larger point that just increasing funding for education across the board - something Dr. Lewis supports - won't... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2019 at School Leader
The Kentucky General Assembly is wrapping up its legislative session, and for two years in a row, lawmakers have utterly failed Kentucky families on the issue of expanding education options. But the lonely champions of parental, student, and teacher empowerment will carry on their struggle against the education establishment until... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2019 at School Leader
The battle to give more Kentucky families choices in who educates their children rages on, as lawmakers continue to consider a scholarship tax credit bill, introduced to the legislature this year as HB 205/SB 118. Eighteen other states have such a policy, which creates a tax credit that encourages private... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2019 at School Leader
This week I was privileged to attend the National Classical Education Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona. The symposium is a convening of the Institute for Classical Education, an organization rooted in the Great Hearts network of charter schools based in Arizona and Texas, but representing a wide array of educators interested... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2019 at School Leader
The Kentucky Association of School Administrators, which represents principals, district administrators, and superintendents across the state, is actively lobbying lawmakers to oppose a bill that would help families obtain more education options for their children. In doing so, they are spreading misinformation and attempting to hold children hostage to their... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2019 at School Leader
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, one of Kentucky's most influential education advocacy organizations with roots in the state's historic education reform act of 1990, has decided to take a position on scholarship tax credits, a proposal that would encourage private donations for scholarships that help children access the school... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2019 at School Leader
It's National School Choice Week, and today I was honored to be a speaker at the second annual Western Kentucky School Choice Rally held in Madisonville. While some of the schools we were expecting didn't make it due to snow closures, we still had over 250 students and faculty members... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2019 at School Leader
Today the Kentucky Board of Education heard first reading on a proposed revision to the state's social studies standards (access a pdf version of the standards at the end of this post). This was a long-overdue process, but has been accelerated under the mandates of Senate Bill 1 (2017) which... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2018 at School Leader
Recently my colleagues and I in Western Kentucky University's Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research attended an event in San Diego as part of our Wallace Foundation grant-funded initiative to rethink school principal training for the 21st century. The event was hosted by the educational leadership department at San... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2018 at School Leader
Today, after a vigorous discussion, the Kentucky Board of Education unanimously approved revisions to the regulations governing high school graduation requirements. I want to take some time here to explain these new requirements and my vote of support, since some provisions of the regulation have generated concern or even opposition.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2018 at School Leader
Ted Dintersmith's new book, What School Could Be, profiles dozens of schools across the United States that are engaging students in rich, real-world learning, and contrasts their experiences with the vast majority of other schools. Dintersmith calls on schools to innovate in ways that closely parallel some of my own... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2018 at School Leader
Today I was pleased to join other members of the Kentucky Board of Education in unanimously dismissing the scheduled appeals hearing requested by the Jefferson County Public Schools to contest the recommendation of state management by Interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis. Dr. Lewis, Superintendent Marty Pollio, and JCPS Chair Diane Porter... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2018 at School Leader
Thanks, Judy. I am proud of my degrees also, and of all those who earn them. By state mandate, districts will continue to reward teachers who advance their education with graduate degrees, and graduate degrees will continue to be required for additional certifications like administration. The only change is that teachers will no longer be forced to earn them if doing so does not make sense for them or fit with their career plans.
All good points. Every research study and methodology has its limitations. My own review of this research leads me to the conclusion that we just can't say with confidence that the Master's degree does, in fact, have a measurable impact on student learning. And therefore it shouldn't be a mandated requirement, no matter what other positive benefits advanced degrees may bring.
I don't believe the task force has considered Option 6 at this point. I don't believe the state requires a master's for Option 6. Rather, I think that's just the way universities typically package such programs. With the change in the Rank 2 requirement I wouldn't be surprised if universities rethink that approach.
The same EPSB task force that recommended waiving the Rank 2 requirement has also recommended removing the requirement that one must have a master's degree for admission to a principal certification program. I'm hopeful that will be approved in coming months. This will allow universities to offer principal certification as either a Rank 2 or Rank 1 option (or cert only).
One of the recommendations the committee is expected to make to EPSB is to remove the Master's requirement for admission to principal certification programs (a return to the same policy we had before 2013). I support that change also. Many outstanding administrators earned their principal licensure at the master's level, and that sets them up to continue toward additional certifications at the Rank I or doctoral level. I believe that change will broaden the pool of potential principal candidates, which will be beneficial to districts.
I've seen a lot of concerned and angry responses in social media to yesterday's decision by the Education Professionals Standards Board (EPSB) to drop the long-standing requirement that Kentucky teachers earn a master's degree (or equivalent) by their tenth year of service. There seems to be some confusion and misinformation... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2018 at School Leader
When I was first appointed to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) in 2016, I mused on the irony. As a professor of education administration, I was accustomed to telling my students (all aspiring school principals) to pay little attention to education policy or the workings of the state legislature... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2018 at School Leader
Leo, I really appreciate your thoughtful comment here. You are right that Montessori and classical education are different in significant ways. But I think there's more compatibility here than meets the eye. For example, I think the Montessori curriculum is a lot more specific than people sometimes realize (though perhaps not as comprehensive as classical tends to be), and while children move at their own pace in Montessori, I think there's an implicit assumption that most children will eventually master a specific body of knowledge and skills. So I think it's possible to substitute the classical curriculum for the Montessori curriculum but still utilize features of Montessori like student choice, long work times, and flexible pacing. At any rate, I'd love to see more experiments in this approach, both in homeschool and traditional school settings.
Beverly, I'm not sure how your comment relates to the post above, but I'm always eager to engage in discussion on charter schools. First, I would agree with you that choice is not a panacea. We should have more choices because it works, it is fair, and it's more consistent with how we deliver other highly personal public services. Please see more about how charter schools work, and the argument for school choice, here: