Sutherland Newsletter – August 19, 2010


Sutherland Institute is pleased to invite you to attend the next Transcend Series session on Thursday, September 30, 2010.  Once again, our friend and colleague, Dr. Quinn McKay, will guide us as we wrestle with the topic, “Ethics, Integrity, and Public Service,” acclaimed as one of the most stimulating and thought-provoking sessions of the Institute’s award-winningTranscend Series over the past several years.


Following check-in and seating at 8:30 am, the session will begin at 9:00 am and conclude at 3:00 pm.  Venue will be the Sutherland Institute Conference Room, located in the Crane Building, 307 West 200 South, Suite 5005, in downtown Salt Lake City.


There is no charge for this event and limited free parking is available in the Crane Building’s south parking lot; along the adjacent streets; and in the pay lot immediately south of the building ($5 for the day).  Light snacks will be provided.  There will be a lunch break on your own at one of the many convenient eateries located nearby.


Because seating is reserved, please register by sending an email to or calling our office at 801-355-1272.  If we don’t already have your full contact information, you will be asked to provide it when you register as we will be emailing preparatory material to you in advance.


Dr. McKay will refer to his most recent book, The Bottom Line on Integrity, in the course of his presentation.  Copies of the book will be available for purchase, if you desire, on the 30th.


The sessions of our three-part Transcend Series are stimulating, challenging, and enlightening.  We encourage you to make time in your busy schedule to join us.  We look forward to seeing you on Thursday, the 30th.



By Daniel E. Witte


Nearly every year, policy-makers discuss the need for innovation, reform, or improvement in public schools.  Many proposals are offered for this purpose, often through reform of the pedagogy or the organization of government-funded schools.  What is sometimes forgotten, however, is that creating an educational environment conducive to innovation is a prerequisite to the success of pedagogical or organizational policy reforms.


Sutherland Institute’s Center for Educational Progress seeks to establish such an environment in Utah’s education system.  To that end, the Center has advocated four criteria, based on the ideas of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, to help policy-makers evaluate the viability of educational reforms.  Reforms that follow these guidelines will encourage an environment of innovation in Utah’s education system and will thus be more likely to succeed.


The criteria are FlexibilityAccountabilityRepresentation, and Modularity – collectively known as the FARM paradigm.


Flexibility means reducing the number and impact of laws and regulations – federal, state, and local – so that maximum autonomy, discretion, and ability to innovate over time is afforded to the board, principal, school organization, and teachers.  Reforms such as Colorado’s “Innovation Schools Act,” which encourages educational innovation by allowing individual schools or entire school districts to obtain waivers from burdensome state laws or collective-bargaining agreements, embody this trait.


Accountability means that educators must directly, promptly, and reliably be held responsible for results – especially student achievement and efficient use of public resources.  Administrators and teachers who achieve positive results should be employed, promoted, and awarded more compensation than lackluster performers.  Accountability should be aligned with authority.  Those who perform poorly should receive fewer job offers, promotions, and increases in compensation.  Further, they should be terminated if performance is inadequate.  Results ultimately must be benchmarked against the satisfaction expressed by the parents of the students enrolled in the relevant pre-college education program.  Last year, the Center for Educational Progressproposed a system of performance pay for public-school teachers and administrators based on these ideas.


Transparency is also essential to accountability.  Public-school budgets, lesson plans, policies, calendars, activities, documents, and the like should be available on the Internet for public and parental review.


Representation is a concept closely intertwined with accountability.  The selection of local school board members – and the political, cultural, economic, and pedagogical agenda advanced by those representations – should represent the will of the parents of those students who actually attend the school in question.  Further, state school board members should be vetted by political parties in the state to raise the profile and improve the legitimacy of elections for Utah’s education policy-makers.


Modularity means that government-funded schools should design classes and programs to allow portability, transferability, interchange, and efficient interfacing between the many forms of government schools, and between government and non-government schools.  In today’s increasingly mobile society, students, parents, and teachers in one system should be able to easily transfer credit or program participation between various schools on a sequential or concurrent basis.


Sutherland Institute’s Center for Educational Progress looks forward to promoting and implementing these and other innovative ideas to improve Utah’s education system.  We hope you will participate in this effort by attending the Center’s upcoming events, sharing our research publications with others interested in improving education, and otherwise contributing where able.  We are excited about the many positive changes already achieved in Utah and are optimistic that additional innovations are within our reach as a state.


To learn more about the FARM paradigm, we invite you to read Fostering Innovation in Utah Schools: Common Elements of Educational Success, published March 31, 2010 by Sutherland Institute.


The author, Daniel E. Witte, J.D., is director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Educational Progress.  Mr. Witte has an extensive background in issues related to parental liberty, educational choice, and organizational reform.  He has worked with the Utah Supreme Court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah, the Tenth and Seventh Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, the U.S. Senate, and law firms in Korea, Puerto Rico and California.  Mr. Witte currently practices with a large law firm, specializing in commercial litigation, commercial transactions, and insurance law.