here for PDF format
for Participants' Responses to this Summary
of Meeting with Angela Eilers
8301 Creekside Circle,
Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, August 22,
speaker: Angela Eilers,
and policy director, Growth & Justice
David Broden, Bill Frenzel (by phone), Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland (by phone),
John Mooty, Jim Olson (by phone), and Wayne Popham (by phone)
Context of the meeting--Today's
meeting is one of several that the Civic Caucus is scheduling to obtain
background on key education issues facing Minnesota.
Honoring John Brandl--Verne
asked for a moment of silence in honor and memory of John Brandl, who died
this week. Brandl was the first Civic Caucus speaker about three years
ago. The summary of our meeting with Brandl on September 14, 2005, may
be found at http://www.civiccaucus.org/Interviews/Brandl_John_09-14-05.htm
Welcome and introduction--Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced Angela
Eilers, research and policy director, Growth & Justice, a
Minnesota-based nonprofit economic think tank. Eilers has been engaged as
an educational researcher/evaluator, professor, and advocate of
educational policy issues since 1989. Her area of expertise is in reform,
implementation, and evaluation of educational issues as they intersect
with issues of urban and rural poverty. Eilers holds a Ph.D. and M.A.
from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor's degree in
political science from Lawrence University. Before joining Growth &
Justice, she was part of a multi-institutional team of researchers at
University that examined the implementation of an urban education
reform. She was awarded a Bush Foundation fellowship in 2008.
Comments and discussion--During
Eilers' comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the following
points were raised:
1. Increase percentage of Minnesotans with
post-secondary education--Growth & Justice has a goal of using
smart investments to increase the number of Minnesotan's with a
post-secondary education by 50 percent by 2020. Eilers said that a high
school diploma no longer is sufficient for two earners to make a basic
needs budget wage ($44,000) for a family of four. Currently about
one in two high school graduates has received post-secondary education by
age 25 in Minnesota, she said. When you factor in those who drop out of
high school before graduation, the percentage without post-secondary
education is even greater, she said. About one in four persons who enter
ninth grade don't graduate with a post-secondary degree, she said. The
public expense associated with high school dropouts is a culmination of $1
million per dropout, she said.
moving backwards on educational achievement--Growth & Justice
is looking first at how well
is doing in achieving existing K-12 outcomes that have been mandated by
the State Legislature. Achieving these outcomes, Eilers said, will be key
in determining an adequate base for ultimately increasing by 50 percent
the number of students finishing post-secondary education.
legislatively-prescribed outcomes, she said, are that within five years
(by 2013) (a) all 3rd graders will be reading at or above their grade
level, (b) all students must pass algebra 1 by the end of 8th grade, and
(c) all high schoolers prepared for post-secondary school must have
completed algebra II, and chemistry/physics.
distributed a chart illustrating how well students are doing. The chart
entitled “Not on Track,” revealed substantial percentages of all children
are below expectations, with the highest percentages among non-white
groups. For example, the percentage of fourth graders reading below
proficiency standards of the National Assessment of Educational Progress
was 59 percent for whites, 71 percent for Asian; 78 percent for low
income; 80 percent for native Americans, 84 percent for Hispanic, and 88
percent for African-American.
students are lagging in basic skills in the elementary grades, they're
less likely to graduate from high school, let alone be prepared for
post-secondary, Eilers said.
3. Identifying which investments work best in
improving education--Eilers is preparing a detailed list of
options for improving education in
from pre-natal to post-secondary. Growth & Justice hired seven
economists to identify the best options. The options are being ranked
according to research findings on how they have worked in various settings
and experiments in the past. The findings also have identified a dollar
return on investment for each option. The total expense would be about
$1 billion a year. Partial list of options and results:
a. Pre-natal to age
3--A program of prenatal care, with health care access, parent
monitoring and home visits for poverty-level families would yield a
$6-to-$1 return on investment and would cost an estimated $20 million
annually for some 30,000 families in Minnesota. Half-day pre-school for
3- and 4-year-olds would yield a $7-to-$1 return on investment and cost an
estimated $60 million annually to serve 17,000 poverty-level pre-schoolers.
b. Pre-K to grade 3--Quality
half-day preschool, a $10-to-$1 return on investment, at a cost of $6,000
per student for some 8,600 students.
teacher pay by 10 percent, with increases tied to performance outcomes.
Estimated 4-to-1 investment return, with annual cost of $270 million in
d. Grades 9-12--Rigorous
college-prep curriculum, family advocacy, instructional alignment, and
engagement. Estimated $6.72-to-$1 investment return, with $860 million
e. Grades 7-12--Dropout
prevention. Estimated $4.77-to-$1 investment return.
4. Analysis of historical data--The
best data available are for early childhood learning and development,
Eilers said, with data going back to the 1960s.
5. Importance of knitting child care/pre-school
with the K-12 system--While it is not essential that child
care/pre-school be organized in the same structure with K-12, Eilers
emphasized that unity of purpose and program is essential for success.
cited the Child-Parent Center (CPC) Program, in Chicago, as reported by
research done by Prof Arthur Reynolds at the U of M, as the best model for
a seamless connection between pre-school and public school. The program
provides comprehensive educational and family-support services to
economically disadvantaged children from preschool to early elementary
6. Under-investment in child care/pre-school--Minnesota
ranks 37th among 38 states where data are available on investment in
pre-school, Eilers said.
7. Reduced class size most needed in early
grades--Reducing pupil-teacher ratios to 15-1 or 18-1 in the
early grades yields the best returns on improved education, Eilers said.
Beyond third grade the evidence is not as clear. Only reducing class size
isn't sufficient, she said. California invested some $11 billion in
reducing class size, but wasn't really successful, because other qualities
such as quality training of teachers and intensive instructional focus
weren't implemented at the same time.
8. Advantages of tutoring and mentoring--Programs
with heavy emphasis on involving adult volunteers, Big Brothers/Big
Sisters type programs, and para-professionals to assist in tutoring and
mentoring have very good success, Eilers said. A Civic Caucus member
mentioned that retired engineers are being encouraged to devote time in
9. What about vocational education?--A
Civic Caucus member wondered whether it's appropriate to insist on
advanced math courses for all high schoolers. Wouldn't it be better, the
member asked, if some students--who might never succeed in higher
math--are encouraged to move earlier to a vocational school?
replied by highlighting the importance of student-motivation in taking
high school courses, which, she said underlines the need for volunteer
mentors. As well, Eilers added, rigorous math coursework is not only
necessary for college preparation but increasingly rigorous math schools
are required for an increasing number of occupations and degree
programs—vocational as well as professional.
Caucus member mentioned the positive experience that many persons have
with Twin Cities Rise, an organization that helps adults develop self
confidence and find suitable vocations.
10. Keys to completion of post-secondary
education--Eilers identified major components that are key to a
student's completion of post-secondary education, whether a two-year
program or some other length:
--Academic preparedness in high school
--Overcoming the social component in families with
limited or no history of post-secondary education.
--Lowering financial barriers. Research
demonstrates, Eilers said, that providing scholarships to low income
students is preferable to reducing tuition for everyone. Tuition increases
are often a reflection of the increased cost of doing business (i.e. cost
of living increases, health care expense, etc).
11. Critical importance of learning to read
in the early grades--A child who doesn't learn to read by third
grade is destined to fall further behind, Eilers said. She said she can't
emphasize enough the importance of learning to read. Helpers can have the
greatest impact here, she said.
12. Recommendations to be forthcoming from
Growth & Justice--Eilers said she works with a 25-member
steering committee at Growth & Justice. That steering committee will be
reviewing the group’s final report to be published before mid-October.
Eilers and Growth & Justice staff will be distributing the report widely
and making numerous public presentations around the region and the state.
For those interested in inviting Eilers/Growth & Justice to speak at an
event, please contact Growth & Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org
13. Future of movement for individualized,
computer-based learning--In response to a question Eilers
briefly addressed the model of on-line education through such groups as
Capella University. That model, she said, can be very expensive. It
might be too early to know its potential and limitations, she said.
14. Thanks--On behalf of the Civic
Caucus, Verne thanked Eilers for meeting with us today.