here for PDF format
Click Here for
participants' responses to this summary
of Meeting with Richard Oscarson and Fred Storti
8301 Creekside Circle,
Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, October 3,
speakers: Richard Oscarson,
president, and P.
Fred Storti, executive director, Minnesota Elementary
School Principals' Association (MESPA)
Johnson, chair (by phone), David Broden, Charles Clay (by phone), Paul
Gilje, Jim Hetland, Marina Lyon (by phone), Tim McDonald, Jim Olson (by
phone), Wayne Popham (by phone), and Clarence Shallbetter (by phone)
Context of the meeting--Among
issues the Civic Caucus is considering for priority attention is
education. We've been holding several sessions. Today we're meeting with
top officials in the state's organization of elementary school principals.
Welcome and introduction--Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced Richard
Oscarson, president, and P.
Fred Storti, executive director, of the Minnesota
Elementary School Principals' Association (MESPA). Oscarson currently is
principal of Eastview Elementary School, Lakeville, MN. He has spent 22
years as a principal at three different schools. Previously he spent 10
years as a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher. He is an adjunct professor at St.
Storti has been
executive director of MESPA since 2002. Previously he had served as
principal and as superintendent in urban, suburban and rural schools in
Minnesota for 27 years.. He serves as chair of the national association
of executive directors of elementary and secondary school principals. He
is chair of the Structure Committee for the Alliance for Student
Achievement, an alliance of 16 education organizations in Minnesota with
the purpose of speaking with one voice on pre K-12 education.
Comments and discussion--During
Oscarson's and Stroti's comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus
the following points were raised:
1. Being principal is the best job--The
principal has the best job in the educational system, Oscarson said,
because the principal has the opportunity to be in direct daily contact
with children, parents and teachers. He said he personally likes to greet
students as they get off the bus at school each morning. He believes
teachers are better prepared today than ever. Their jobs are more
challenging than ever. Years ago they might have taught all pupils the
same, preparing, for example, just one math lesson. Now they might need
to prepare four or five different kinds of math lessons, depending upon
the nature of the pupils. Parents are experiencing more pressure than
ever from their daily schedules. Referring briefly to the federal No
Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, Oscarson said the law justifiably has been
widely criticized, but it has produced accountability.
2. State does well on ACT test--To
illustrate that Minnesota schools are doing well, Oscarson said that
Minnesota students for the fourth year in a row had the highest average
ACT score (22.6) in the nation. The test assesses high school students'
general educational development in English, math, reading and science, and
their ability to complete college-level work.
3. School choice options discussed--Oscarson
and Storti outlined options for students to attend schools outside their
normal attendance area.
a. Open enrollment
statewide--Minnesota Statute 124D.03 allows all
public school students the opportunity to apply to attend school outside
of the school district where they live. More than 30,000
students did just that last year. Students must apply to the school
district of their choice by January 15 in order to have the best chance of
being admitted the following fall. Families generally provide their own
school transportation. No tuition is charged.
b. West metro--The
Choice is Yours is a school choice program for families qualifying for
free or reduced-priced lunches who live in the City of Minneapolis.
Families apply by January 15 for the following fall in order to have the
best chance of being admitted to their school of choice. Through The
Choice is Yours, families who enroll receive priority placement at the
schools they choose, including magnet schools in the city as well
as suburban schools. Families in north
may choose schools in the Minneapolis Public School District or in the
following suburban districts:
Hopkins, Robbinsdale, St. Anthony-New Brighton,
St. Louis Park
or Wayzata. Families in south
Minneapolis can choose
schools in the Minneapolis Public School District or in the Eden Prairie,
Edina, Hopkins, Richfield or St. Louis Park school districts. The state of
Minnesota provides transportation to the suburban schools. The
Public School District provides transportation to city schools (according
to school district policies on attendance zones and walking limits).
c. East metro--The
East Metro Integration District is comprised of ten school districts that
work collaboratively to implement the Minnesota Desegregation Rule. EMID
activities are guided by a Multi-District Desegregation Plan developed and
submitted by the Multi-District Collaboration Council to the Minnesota
Department of Children, Families and Learning in June of 2001. The
Minnesota Desegregation Rule mandates a partnership between
Roseville, South Washington County, South Saint Paul, West Saint Paul, and
the North Saint Paul/Maplewood schools. Four additional districts,
Mahtomedi, White Bear Lake, Inver Grove Heights and Stillwater, are
involved as voluntary members.
d. Charter schools--Charter
schools are tuition free independent public schools that are open to, and
welcome all students no matter ability or need, and are governed and
operated jointly by licensed teachers, parents and community members. The
Minnesota charter school law, passed in 1991, was first in the nation.
According to the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, the state had
143 schools with a total enrollment of 28,000 in the 2007-08 school year.
4. Impact of federal mandates--A
Civic Caucus member inquired about federal mandates in the No Child Left
Behind (NCLB) law and in special education. While focusing on
accountability, the law has a punitive aspect for students who already are
behind, Oscarson said. Oscarson suggested a growth model rather than the
present MCA model. Millions of dollars are being spent on high stakes
testing in NCLB, and the testing isn't all that useful, Storti said.
matter of special education, at the time special education was mandatded
in the 1970s, the federal government promised 40 percent of the financing,
Oscarson said, but the last time he looked the actual federal share was
about 16-17 percent. State and local financing make up the balance.
5. Need for national standards--Currently,
under NCLB, each of the 50 states establishes its own agreement with the
federal government based on each state's standards. Minnesota's standards
are higher than that of many other states, Storti said. He suggested that
the federal government could establish national standards for sciences,
math and literacy. States could supplement those standards as desired.
If you check out other countries such as Australia and the Scandinavian
countries, you'll see nationalized curriculums. In advocating national
standards, Storti said he was speaking for himself and not stating an
official position of MESPA, his principals' association.
Caucus member inquired about the appropriate role for the federal
government, given the major role that states play in education. While
states have constitutional responsibility for education, Storti and
Oscarson said that the federal government must be involved in setting
standards because of the importance of education in a global
6. Need for fewer, larger, administrative units—In
response to a question about what school districts might do to economize
without doing harm to education, Storti said—his opinion, not that of
MESPA—that Minnesota could do with fewer school districts. The state has
331 districts, of which 100 have fewer than 800 pupils. But each district
has its own superintendent and its own human resources staff along with
other central administration. You can keep the same number of individual
schools while combining administrative units, he said. The principal is
the most critical individual in the school administration.
for more resources at the early grades—Again
speaking for himself only, Storti said that more resources need to be
placed in the early grades. You can’t deny the importance of good
education for 11th and 12th graders, he said, but
there’s no question that investment in early childhood education is key.
A Civic Caucus member wondered whether it’s a social worker or a teacher
that is more important in helping families and pre-school children.
Standards are needed for all teachers, public and private, in early
childhood, whether in schools or elsewhere, he said.
7. Need for a year-round school system—Speaking
for themselves, Oscarson and Storti advocated that schools be organized
year-round. Students would attend perhaps 10-15 more days than they do
now, but there’d be new ways of using resources more efficiently if you
were working with a 12-month framework, they said. Storti said education
results are better as well. Evidence elsewhere demonstrates that students
enrolled in English as a second language programs do better in a
8. More funding at the center of MESPA
legislative program—The official legislative program of MESPA
calls for adequate, sustainable, funding of schools throughout the state,
Storti said. In response to a question Storti said that to close the gap
between current funding and what is needed to do an adequate job would
require about $2 billion more per year in Minnesota.
9. No support for a constitutional amendment—A
Civic Caucus member noted that outdoors, water and the arts advocates are
seeking preferential funding guarantees via a constitutional amendment on
the ballot this fall. Storti and Oscarson said they would not advocate a
similar route for education. The Governor and Legislature are
responsible for education, Storti said.
10. Encouraging innovation—A Civic
Caucus member wondered whether school districts will automatically do a
better job of innovation in helping students learn, if there are fewer,
but larger, administrative units, and if there is more funding.
11. Challenging responsibilities for teachers—Teachers
today have much more challenging responsibilities than the past, Oscarson
said. He cited that much o f the day they are involved in what you might
call counseling, conflict resolution, and social services. Oscarson is
optimistic about attracting competent teachers in the future. He cited
the large number of highly respected post-secondary institutions in
Minnesota that are producing innovations in education
briefly discussed whether teachers unions are supporting or opposing
efforts to change.
12. Addressing additional questions—A
Civic Caucus member raised several additional questions that weren’t
thoroughly addressed today. It was agreed that we’d include these
questions in the first draft of our summary, and give Storti and Oscarson
an opportunity to comment on these questions before we distribute the
summary more broadly.
Does the focus on standards take away the opportunity for
need to focus on the needs of individual students and to apply innovation
at the individual student level as well as directed to the overall student
b. What has happened over the years in the
changing role of the teacher? The
teacher role has moved the full spectrum from connecting with the student
and parents to only focused on teaching and is moving back--at least as so
c. What is the importance of the community in
In this case community relates to both the ability of the student to
develop strong social skills as well as linking the student, parent, and
teacher to the broader community.
d. In terms of a better job of teaching science
and math, are schools fully aware of the initiatives in the private sector
to make helpers available in these fields?
13. Thanks—On behalf of the Civic
Caucus, Verne expressed sincere thanks to Storti and Oscarson for meeting
with us today, particularly because of their suggestions and support for