here for PDF format
for participants' responses to this summary
of Meeting with Jim Bartholomew and
8301 Creekside Circle,
Bloomington, MN 55437
speaker: Jim Bartholomew,
education policy director, Minnesota Business Partnership; additional
input provided by
phone): Verne C. Johnson, chair; David Broden, Marianne Curry, Paul
Gilje, Jim Hetland, Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, and Wayne Popham
Context of the meeting--The
Civic Caucus has been conducting several meetings this year on pre-K and
K-12 education. Today’s meeting concerns work by the Minnesota Business
Partnership on best practices and student achievement.
Welcome and introductions—Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced Jim
Bartholomew, education policy director for the Minnesota
Business Partnership(MBP). Bartholomew has been with the MBP as education
policy director since 1997, except for a one-year stint in 2003 as
director of governmental relations for the Minnesota Department of
Education. He is a member of the State Board of Teaching and a founding
board member of the
Academy, a charter school. He served on the State Board of Education from
1998-2000. Previously he served on the staff of the Minnesota Senate
Republican Caucus. He is a 1982 graduate of the University of Minnesota.
Comments and discussion—During
Bartholomew’s comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the
following points were raised:
1. Description of MBP—MBP is an
organization of 100 chief executives of the larger companies in
Minnesota. Since its founding in 1977 it has had education as a major
emphasis. According to the MBP’s website, its members “have a global
perspective on the vital role education plays in the success of their
companies and the state as a whole. While Minnesota's students rank among
the best in the nation, they appear more average in global comparisons.
Equally troubling, Minnesota has one of the worst achievement gaps in the
nation between white and minority students.”
2. Good results on fourth-grade math comparison
with outstanding schools in other nations—Bartholomew said
that. Minnesota's students have made considerable international progress
in math during the past 12 years, and retained their spot near the top of
the world in science, according to the Trends in International Mathematics
and Science Study (TIMSS), a study released in December.
The study, published
by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational
Achievement, shows that Minnesota's students are outperformed by only four
of 36 countries in fourth-grade math, five of 49 countries in eighth-grade
math, one of 36 countries in fourth-grade science and four of 49 countries
in eighth-grade science.
The most encouraging
results are the fourth-grade math scores, Bartholomew said. Minnesota's
fourth-graders improved their performance at more than three times the
rate of the entire United States.
Math gains are due to
rigorous state math standards that are based on international standards of
what kids should be taught, and increased time spent on math instruction,
international test results are promising, other recent results have been
cause for concern. State test results released in August showed that only
about four of 10
students can be labeled "proficient" in science. And educators statewide
have been concerned about the state 11th-grade math test, where only
one-third of students were deemed proficient last spring.
For more information
on the study, go to:
Bartholomew said that the study was based on a representative sampling of
students throughout the state. One reason for improved math performance
between 1995 and 2007 is that teachers are using the state’s math
standards which help focus and provide consistency in what is taught, he
3. High school graduation rates illustrate a
serious problem in achievement—Statewide, Minnesota high school
graduation rates for the class of 2007 were 73.1 percent. However, the
racial-ethnic breakdown of that data illustrates a significant problem,
with one grouping, American Indians, one-half the statewide rate,
2007 graduation rate
students 73.1 percent
non-Hispanic 79.5 percent
Asian 65.8 percent
Black 40.5 percent
Hispanic 39.8 percent
Indian 36.8 percent
Bartholomew said the
data indicate to him that we've not sufficiently customized our
instructional practices to meet the needs of all kids. A Civic Caucus
member wondered whether too much attention has been focused on giving
students a college experience, instead of preparing all students for the
job market. Is technical training being downplayed, the member asked?
4. Importance of empowering teachers—During
discussion of graduation rates, Bartholomew and
McDonald, an associate with Education|Evolving,
http://www.educationevolving.org/bios.asp, agreed that a key component
of improving achievement and graduation rates is to empower
teachers. Empowerment, they said, requires that teachers be given greater
professional opportunities, with responsibility and accountability for
what happens not only in the classroom, but in their school building and
district. This means a substantial elevation of the role of teachers,
relative to the role of school administrators, they said.
Smaller schools along
with greater choice of school are part of the equation, they said.
McDonald contended that in schools with 200 or fewer students, with
teachers in charge, discipline and attendance problems evaporate, and
parents become much more involved. Charter schools are helpful, but not
essential, they said. “District schools”, that is, schools operating
totally within the framework of existing school districts, also can
operate successful, smaller, teacher-managed schools, they said.
McDonald added that charter schools are inherently self-governed, while
with district schools permission must be given.
Bartholomew said that giving choice to racial-ethic minorities must be a
higher goal than achieving racial-ethnic balance in schools. McDonald
rejects the argument that minorities cannot learn unless surrounded by
white peers as ‘premised upon racial inferiority.’ He draws a distinct
difference between state-imposed segregation of the 1950’s and the
unintentional, ‘de facto’ segregation that happens when non-white families
exercise choice over multiple public school options. ‘Not the same thing.’
recent legislative testimony by Eric Mahmoud of
Harvest Prep and Bill Wilson of
Ground Academy, both charter schools with high minority enrollments that
are performing well.
Recommendations expected within 45 days from business group cooperative
said that the MBP, in cooperation with the
project, a business-related group, will likely issue their new report on
Minnesota’s K-12 system with international best practices within the next
45 days. Bartholomew outlined a few findings of the report to date:
not fundamentally about money—The
main problem isn’t how much money is being spent on education, Bartholomew
spends much more money than many other countries that are performing
better on education. The problem lies in how the money is spent.
Changes needed in quality of teachers and leadership of schools—Schools
need well-articulated goals and expectations, and well-qualified teachers
in classrooms. Achievement is only limited by the qualified people who
work with the kids, he said. It's not that kids, regardless of
background, can't learn, he said
to link experience with the best schools—The
problem isn’t one of finding where education is working. We know where
the best schools are. The missing link is how to create the changes that
need to occur to emulate those schools.
is very important—Bartholomew
agreed with others who are contending that early childhood education is
very important in preparing children to learn.
Customization is important—Schools
have not adapted well to changing demographics. He said he's not sure
specifically whether customization should follow a model recommended by
Clayton Christensen in his book "Disrupting Class". Bartholomew
acknowledged that online learning is exploding and will play a critical
role in the near future. He cited what is happening in higher education,
with Capella University as an example.
6. Four key ingredients identified--In
developing education policies, Bartholomew said the MBP uses four key
principles: (1) defining expectations (2) measuring progress (3) giving
flexibility to design of curriculum, and (4) giving families choices.
further about characteristics of great schools, internationally,
Bartholomew said the schools are primarily, but not uniformly, public
schools. Pre-school education is important. In response to a question,
he said he didn't know specifically how special education is handled those
schools, relative to Minnesota.
7. Dealing with a budget gap--It was
noted that the Minnesota Legislature faces an enormous budget gap in 2009
that will have substantial impact on all state services, including
education. Bartholomew said the state must focus on the concept of public
education, not simply maintaining current structures and practices. This
will allow policy-makers to focus on the needs of students, while creating
opportunities for providing services differently. Responding further to
questions about the budget problem, Bartholomew said he supports relating
teachers’ salaries to performance, not only length of service and degrees
earned. It's not only money that attracts teachers, he said, it's the
nature of the job, and whether teachers are treated as professionals.
New approaches to licensing teachers need to be explored, he said.
McDonald contends that the inputs-focused perspective when analyzing these
budget gaps has become a red herring. We need to look more fundamental, to
the actual design of schools. There are more economical ways of doing
things, he said.
8. Is education the only area responsible for closing the
Civic Caucus member asked whether other areas such as housing and health
care aren't important in helping all students succeed. Many children are
behind the starting line when they first come to school, and we expect
education by itself to bring everyone up to speed, the member said.
McDonald said that one can't expect the schools to become social service
agencies. But what we do know is that with smaller schools, with teachers
empowered, and with parental and community involvement, that students can
learn, regardless of background.
tendency has been to add on: counselors, social workers, breakfast, before
and after school programming, extended day and calendar. We are making a
system that is already heavy and inefficient even more so. He said that
this approach is not financially viable, or efficient. These financial
problems we face are a symptom of a problem with design. The root problem
of perennial deficits has never been legislative appropriation. What is
‘adequate’ funding? Operating expenses of district K-12 have been rising
at three times the CPI for at least a decade. The business model is no
longer viable. We have been focusing efforts almost entirely on the
symptom, not the disease.
9. Relevance of union contracts and seniority
issues—McDonald said we have
been caught in a perennial frontal-conflict between two groups: labor and
management. This does not have to be. The more workers are in charge of
their own destiny, the need for labor protection diminishes. This could
allow for professional associations to emerge, a ‘healthier’ type of union
for schools, and one that would service kids, not adults. Bartholomew
said he totally agrees. Responding to a question, Bartholomew said he
believes the MBP would work together with the teachers union on teacher
10. Important connection between education and strong labor market--Minnesota's ability to remain economically
competitive and build our quality of life will increasingly be determined by our success in dealing with demographic changes, and
ensuring all our K-12 students receive the best education possible, Bartholomew said. Minnesota is aging and becoming more
diverse. For example, growth in our labor force is projected to grow much more slowly than it has between 1970 and 2010.
As a result, our ability to replace and grow jobs is jeopardized. One solution is to make sure all our students are as well prepared
as possible. Today, less than half of our African-American and Hispanic students graduate from high school, yet between 2010 and
2020 their population grow rates are projected at 29% and 66%, respectively (the corresponding growth rate for white students is
3.6%). All our students need an education that allows them to be competitive in the global marketplace.
11. Need to be globally competitive--Summing
up, Bartholomew said our students need to be globally competitive. You
can have standards and still treat teachers as professionals and empower
them at the school level.
12. Thanks--On behalf of the Civic
Caucus, Verne thanked Bartholomew and McDonald for meeting with us today.