State legislatures are winding down their work for the summer, so there’s less legislation coming down the pike. We’re focusing instead on some larger issues of education reform, including university governance, accreditation, the compromises of the Fordham Institute, and K–12 standards.
Reforming University Governance
The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal has just issued two linked resources on reforming university governance: Blueprint for Reform and Model Legislation: Higher-Education Governance Transparency Act. Together these provide the tools to hold university governance accountable to citizens and policymakers—and this is incredibly important. University education reform can’t begin until Americans know precisely what is happening in all the committee meetings that determine university policy. Right now, bad policies emerge in dark corners, and Americans don’t know who determined them when or how. Reformed university governance will make it possible to find out who made what decision—and hopefully will deter bad policies from emerging in the first place, once their authors know they’ll be held accountable for them. The Martin Center has proposed other reforms in these documents that are just as important, but shining a light on administrative skullduggery is as important as any.
The same transparency needs to be required of school districts and state boards of education responsible for K–12 policy. The Martin Center provides a model for both K–12 governance and university governance.
New Accreditation Policy from the NAS
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has published a new policy on accreditation reform, and soon it will publish accompanying model legislation. The NAS endorses 10 principles and priorities of accreditation policy reform, to be enacted at both the federal and the state levels.
- NACIQI Nomination Reform. Nominate dedicated accreditation reformers to staff theNational Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI).
- Accreditation Scope Reduction. Reduce the scope of accreditation to assessing fiscal health and institutional transparency.
- Accreditation Freedom. Remove accrediting organizations’ monopolies and allow states to create their own accrediting organizations.
- Accreditation Innovation. Remove the institutional bias against new accrediting organizations and new institutions of higher education.
- Accreditation Nondiscrimination. Prohibit accrediting organizations from imposing discriminatory policies on institutions of higher education.
- Accreditation Depoliticization. Prohibit accrediting organizations from imposing politicized policies on institutions of higher education.
- Accreditation Religious Freedom. Prohibit accrediting organizations from violating the religious mission of institutions of higher education.
- Accreditation Autonomy. Authorize state policymakers to give instructions to university officials on how to vote in accreditation organizations.
- Accreditor Replacement. Begin the process by which several states can undertake a deliberate process of preparing a replacement accrediting organization.
- Licensure Nondiscrimination. Depoliticize and prevent group-identity discrimination in every aspect of professional licensure.
America’s unelected accrediting organizations possess broad power over our nation’s higher education institutions and professional licensure—power unchecked by any meaningful public oversight and increasingly used to stifle any challenge to the education establishment’s monopoly and to advance a radical political agenda. Our colleges and universities cannot be reformed unless the accrediting organizations are as well. American policymakers must act boldly at both the federal and state levels to reform the abuses that have become endemic in accreditation and licensure. The accrediting organizations’ stranglehold over America’s colleges and professions must be removed.
The NAS is hardly alone in proposing accreditation reform—notably, the Heritage Foundation and the America First Policy Institute have proposed accreditation reform in far greater detail. But the publication of these principles should help a cause in which many reformers are fighting well.
The Fordham Institute Thinks It Can Secure Gifted Equity
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has issued a new report, Building a Wider, More Diverse Pipeline of Advanced Learners, that continues its compromising ways. In 2021, the Fordham Institute attempted to marry support for rigorous standards with support for action civics. Here it attempts to marry “equity” with support for continued gifted and talented education—which it cannot even bear to call by its right name, but rather by the euphemism of “advanced education.” Fordham’s somewhat euphemized recommendations appears to be, keep the gifted and talented classes, but with race and sex quotas. Fordham’s deal-with-the-devil presumably is predicated on the belief that it’s better to have gifted and talented classes with quotas than no gifted and talented classes at all. Of course, the deal cannot hold—the political reality is that no gifted and talented class can actually maintain its standards once it has accepted quotas.
Education reformers should note that the Fordham Institute bases its educational strategy on a profound error of judgment.
Science Standards—And More
Education reformer John Droz is looking for help to reform K–12 science standards. This is a worthy goal, but only part of what’s needed. The Civics Alliance has published American Birthright, to provide model social studies standards. Education reformers need not only model science standards but also model mathematics and English language arts standards. With those four, they will have in hand a counter-model to the Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the C3 Framework. We need these as soon as possible, to provide a comprehensive challenge to the radical education establishment—and a comprehensive alternative for America’s students.
Education reformers should work urgently for this strategic vision.
American Birthright Taskforce Act
The Civics Alliance has just published the American Birthright Taskforce Act, drafted by the National Association of Scholars. The Act provides model language so that state policymakers can create a social studies task force, appointed by the governor and the state legislature, to draft social studies standards based on American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards. State policymakers may use this Act to establish American Birthright directly, rather than work through (too-often heel-dragging) state education departments.
The Act creates a social studies task force to draft social studies standards based on American Birthright—and which therefore can be tailored to suit the state’s own needs. The task force provides an opportunity for public input, its work product has to be approved by the education committees of both legislative houses, and every member of both legislative houses will have a chance to move amendments of the standard in detail. If the standards pass by concurrent resolution in both legislative chambers, then they are in effect for five years—at which point, they will be subject to review by a new task force.
Civics Alliance State Affiliates
The Civics Alliance is building a network of state affiliates—groups dedicated to removing action civics in their states, whom we will list on our website. We now have nine affiliates, in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas. If you would like to form such an organization, or suggest an existing organization, please get in touch with David Randall (email@example.com).
Monthly American Birthright Zoom Meeting
The Civics Alliance will have its monthly Zoom session devoted to social studies standards reform on Monday, June 26, at 2:00 PM Eastern Time. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join these monthly Zoom meetings.
Social Studies Standards Revision Schedule
2023/Current: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky (partial), Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming
2024: Alabama, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wisconsin
2025: Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas
2026: Colorado, Maryland, North Dakota, South Carolina
2027: Hawaii, Kansas
No Revision Currently Scheduled: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri (but could change), New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington
Waiting Confirmation: North Carolina (2021)
Please email David Randall (email@example.com) if you are interested in further information about your state’s social studies revision process, and what you can do to participate.
Continuing Priorities: Federal Legislation
At the federal level, the Civics Secures Democracy Act threatens to impose action civics nationwide.
The Civics Bill Tracker
Civics Alliance members may now use the Civics Bill Tracker to track all proposed federal and state legislation related to civics.
We encourage Civics Alliance members to inform the public and policymakers about the stakes and consequences of action civics bills.
David Randall is Executive Director of the Civics Alliance and Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars.
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