Study: ‘Progressive’ Cities Worsen School Achievement Gaps


Discovery Institute, Seattle’s conservative think tank started by Bruce Chapman, has a program looking at education reform. Don Nielsen, formerly on the Seattle School Board, is program chair of the effort, the American Center for Transforming Education.

ACTE just highlighted a new study showing that achievement gaps between minority and majority students are considerably higher in progressive cities, including Seattle. It duly notes that this does not prove causation; nor is it a result of income disparities. The study also finds that conservative cities have significantly lower achievement gaps in schools.

Nielsen observes, “The problem is the system…All kids can learn. However, some are far better prepared than others and they get support along the K-12 continuum. Treating them all the same does not take that into account and, therefore, the system fails the ill-prepared.” It’s an interesting insight into the new directions for education reform, coming from the right. One wonders about the costs of such a tailored program, and if conservatives would be up for such a bill.

David Brewster
David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.


  1. Another factor I would suggest is the potency of labor unions in progressive cities, and such teachers’ unions can be opposed to education reforms, as well as to charter schools. Many cities that register gains in educational outcomes are factoring in students at charter schools. Bloomberg’s claim about improvement in racial gaps in New York City may reflect the high number of charter schools in that city.

  2. Bailey Takas concludes the ACTE study referenced, “At ACTE we aim to transform the education system. In a broad view, our approach is to change an adult-focused system to a student-focused system; change an input-focused system to an output-focused system; change a teaching-focused system to a learning-focused system; change a group-focused system to an individual-focused system; and change a time-focused system to a competency-focused system.” This what another Seattle native has done [Delivering on the Promise: The Education Revolution] and is doing in Russia. [] In parallel,
    ‘Patient-centered|Outcomes-based’ care is the foundation for healthcare system change as well.


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