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 Response Page - Blue - Bacal  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Brad Blue / Jon Bacal Interview of


Brad Blue and Jon Bacal, education entrepreneurs leading efforts to start new, chartered schools, talk about their experiences midway through the process. They describe the strategies that different school models use to motivate students, achieve measurable student success and inspire lifelong learning for all students, no matter their personal challenges. Noting the similarities and differences in their approaches, they explain how they expect to accomplish better learning results than traditional public schools.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Blue and Bacal. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Schools fail to motivate. (6.5 average response) Despite innovations of new school models and the use of new technology, most schools today are not effectively designed to help students believe that they have the potential to succeed.

2. New school design needed. (7.1 average response) New schools are needed where students are engaged, motivated, and fully supported in reaching their highest learning potential.

3. Technology key to better learning. (8.0 average response) arnessing the potential of new digital learning content and tools will be a key factor in achieving high levels of learning among at-risk students.

4. Active learning is best. (9.1 average response) Instead of placing students on strict, narrow, and linear paths with little opportunity for divergent thinking, educators should establish environments in which learners are engaged in non-routine, interactive learning, similar to the dynamic workplaces they will encounter.

5. Encourage self-direction. (9.6 average response) Schools should help kids set their learning goals, take ownership of their learning, discover their own life passion and purpose, and develop a lifelong capacity for deeper learning.

6. Traditional schools best for most. (3.0 average response) Traditional schools are best for most students; new types of schools will be appropriate only for a few.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Schools fail to motivate.







2. New school design needed.







3. Technology key to better learning.







4. Active learning is best.







5. Encourage self-direction.







6. Traditional schools best for most.







Individual Responses:

Casey Peak (5) (2.5) (10) (10) (10) (0)

1. Schools fail to motivate. I would agree and disagree. I believe the current models teach children that when they follow the rules, do what they are told, and anticipate what will be asked of them they will succeed. However, to truly succeed in the competitive market we have today you need to be more personable, have creative solutions, be willing to anticipate changing market needs, and have a do it yourself mentality. Learning to shut up and follow the rules can only make you an adequate mid level worker. I would hardly call that succeeding. In the modern market (itís) all about the applicable skills. General knowledge can only take you so far without the ability to implement it in abstract ways. The current education system is lacking in their ability to teach abstract, creative thought.

2. New school design needed. I donít think "new schools" are needed. I believe the current system needs to be overhauled. I also believe we need more competition so we can provide parents with competitive options.

3. Technology key to better learning. There are many different converging technologies but schools are not equipped to provide, nor utilize these cutting edge technologies. The trouble is it takes money and the schools are happy to depend on government funding rather than seeking the plentiful

6. Traditional schools best for most. The environment has changed so much we can ill afford to keep going as we have. Modern technological utilization could diminish the costs while improving the quality of class work. Dynamic classrooms could become affordable and more common even among impoverished communities. The days of memorization, repetition, and teacher pleasing as a focus are over. We are leaving out top 10% in the dust and dumbing down our system to accommodate the lower 20 percentile of students. When you build a system that bases support on the students who lag the most your whole system becomes a muddied river rather than roaring rapids. Its time we open those channels back up.

Joe Nathan (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5)

1. Schools fail to motivate. Hard for me to make a statement about "most". Traditional schools do a fine job of challenging/encouraging some students. But many students are missed.

2. New school design needed. The fact that about 38% of Minnesota high school graduates entering a Minnesota public college or university have to take remedial courses in reading, writing and math shows that the current ways of teaching are not reaching substantial numbers of students. And there is of course the drop out rate, which is staggering among low income and students of color.

6. Traditional schools best for most. Many students would thrive in a well-designed, well-administered setting that is more attuned to active, hands on learning. But just being "new" does not make a school better. Some new schools, such as Minnesota New Country, Avalon, and St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts and High School for Recording Arts have created outstanding, innovative opportunities for young people.

Scott Halstead (7.5) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (5)

2. New school design needed. Many of our schools are too large. Students get lost easily and don't get an opportunity/responsibility to participate

R. C. Angevine (7.5) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (2.5)

David Broden (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10) (0)

1. Schools fail to motivate. This may in fact be the case; but to come from a position and state a question that schools are bad in a way that implies most are bad is not helpful. The same question posed in a positive way will get an entirely different answer. Try: "Use of new technology in schools offers teaching and learning to evolve methods that support the students potential to succeed." Question is not good.

2. New school design needed. Again is it new schools or new methods and changes to the process?

3. Technology key to better learning. Technology can be a significant help but the student with the coach interaction must be effective. There is a risk of overlooking interaction as technology is applied. Technology in itself never solves anything.

4. Active learning is best. Communication of ideas and thought must be core to an effective learning process. Challenging and encouraging diversity of thought must be central to an effective learning process.

5. Encourage self-direction. This is definitely a key but the school must be careful not to be the shaper of the student path. Rather the school must be the guide/helper/encourager providing ideas and alternatives to allow the student to select and tailor the vision for the future. I see a risk of some schools/teachers trying to place their view in the student rather than the student forming a view.

6. Traditional schools best for most. Change is opportunity. The world continues to change and (the) rate of change is increasing. Schools have been slow to adapt. All education must change with the changes in the world and evolving technology. The education system must operate to do this.

Nathan Johnson (2.5) (5) (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5)

Paul and Ruth Hauge (6) (6) (8) (8) (8) (6)

Al Quie (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Tim Hall (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Things have become so out of control (that) minority students in Minnesota have come in last place for education in our country. The reason for this is our public school system is set up to run as a college. Teachers talk for 6 hours then send homework. This is a problem because many (studentsí) parents don't have a college degree, or English isn't their first language. Parents of these children have no idea if they are doing the work right or not. We need new beginnings in Minnesota for education. Our schools need to be run as an apprenticeship with their mentors in the school working on projects in the classroom. With the right software this is now possible. It isn't the amount of time students spend in school that is wrong, but the quality of that time. Also, students without disadvantages would no longer be held back in the classroom. They would be able to work as far ahead as they would like to.

Right now the teachers union is already running advertisements saying how great they are doing. This is completely false. The message has to get out that change is needed in our schools, and more money isn't going to do it. In fact the way to fix education is to spend less money. Our state needs to hire an outside company as it did with MNDOT to handle the administration needs for the school districts. A company like this does not exist that I am aware of so people of enterprise who could put a company together to do this would not only make money, but save the state a lot of money.

In Minnesota only 32% our students are ready to go to college by the time they graduate, if they graduate at all. Over 50% of minority students don't graduate. The administrators in our schools have failed our students. They need to be replaced with a private company to handle our administration needs for our schools much like MNDOT does with our roads. This is necessary because no matter how much money we give the schools our administrators will continue to give themselves raises instead of buying the tools our children need for learning. If this (were) a sports team with this losing record no one would think twice about replacing the general manager and the coach. Education is not a game and our students don't have another season. There is new hope in education for our district and country.

Wayne Jennings (8) (10) (8) (10) (10) (1)

These two exciting designs I hope will overcome implementation barriers that have hobbled other innovators: over regulation from the state, flexible licensing of staff, finding staff that "gets it," time and resources for training staff (20+ days a year), leadership, supportive board, patience and courage in departing from conventional practice.

John Nowicki (0) (0) (5) (5) (na) (na)

Do these two do it for personal profit? Are all students welcome? How do the students get to Fort Snelling?

(Jon Bacal of Venture Academies replies:

"1) No.  I have not received any income related to Venture Academies.  At some future date I may apply and be hired by Venture's Board of Directors to provide start-up assistance and leadership.  

2) Yes.  Venture welcomes all Minnesota students at the grade levels served.  We do have a geographic focus on Minneapolis and vicinity.  Under Minnesota statutes 124D.10, we will conduct a lottery if we have more applicants than spaces, with the only preference allowed being sibling preference.  We will make clear that we will particularly welcome English language learners and children with disabilities.  In our experience, many of these families do not feel welcomed in many existing schools."

Brad Blue of the Upper Mississippi Academy adds: "Students will have options: buses, light rail, bike paths.  Depends on weather, age of the students, etc.")

Janice Harmon (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Invest in teachers; inspire our students.


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay,  Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and  Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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