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 Response Page - Angela Eilers Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Angela Eilers Interview of

The Questions:

_7.3 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, is the United States moving backwards on educational achievement?

_7.6 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, should priorities for new or changed strategies for education be based on likely return on investment?

David Alden (8) (6)

Chuck Slocum (8) (8)

The top tier of US students do well but, overall, American students are losing ground particularly when noting the future needs of the workforce relative to the changing economy. We simply can not afford to lose about one third of our youngsters who fail to complete even high school. Parents/guardians must be involved in doing the right things from the beginning. We must better understand the impressive ROI for the education success of each child and, as Dr. Eilers notes, the enormous social costs of those who drop out. A combination of life long learning support systems--targeted at those who need it most and beginning with prenatal health care and early learning--is a wise and cost effective public investment.

Dennis Johnson (5) (1)
I am highly skeptical of the projected returns on investments that were given. We have greatly increased investment of public funds in education in past decades, yet little improvement in results has been achieved. Funding is not the problem, motivation is. Education must be returned to the control and choice of parents, not the education establishment and the teacher's unions. Competition must be reintroduced in education, and parents must individually control how their tax money is spent on the education of their children. Today, school is where kids go to have their education interrupted. The motivated ones learn on their own and there seems to be little shortage of talent in most endeavors.

Al Quie (10) (7)

Scott Halstead (10) (10)

We should utilize our financial resources in the most effective manner possible. The current achievement levels are totally unacceptable.

Paul Hauge (8) (8)

Roger Heegaard (8) (9)

Peter Heegaard (8) (10)

Early childhood support is a key to higher graduation rates.

Joann Knuth (7) (10)
Regarding the second question, if the point is that we need to invest wisely in public education so that our students will be successful in their post secondary education, get good to great jobs, be productive and involved citizens of our country and the world, then I respond with a 10. The economic vitality of our state and nation depends on the vitality of our public education system.

Shirley Heaton (8) (10)

As a mentor, here, in Kissimmee with Florida's Take Stock in Children program, I am continually disheartened with our education process (if we can call it that).

As for your questionnaire re Angela Eilers presentation.: 1. Re US moving backwards.... The best response I can give is a "Yes" (about an 8) cuz until our so-called experts are ready to arrange for funding to be put where their mouths are, we'll never get anywhere in the education field and will soon be overtaken by those countries who can.

2. As for changing strategies based on likely investment return.....a strong YES (#10) -- anything that works to get something happening.

Marianne Curry
On the first question, I do not have the data for making a judgment except anecdotal. I suspect that the data for minorities and children from single parent families are the most dramatic. The Chicago model requires heavy involvement by parents, which seems to be the single most important predictor of school performance. I believe that is where we must start to change the dynamics. Mentoring mothers would go a long way toward encouraging children. Our standards for teaching are pretty high in Minnesota and our support of education financially is high compared with other states. How much of the education dollar is spent for food, transportation, ancillary social services?

It seems to me that when the family system breaks down, the costs are shifted to the public in many ways, so let us begin by encouraging these parents and providing support. My daughter who has a PHD has been teaching English in the Middle School level for 18 years. She tells me that many 12-13-14 year olds come to school hungry, have no self-discipline, and have absent parents. These children need nurturing and hugs and someone to listen to their problems. Also many parents are playing the game of staying just ahead of rent collection by moving continually, so that continuity in the classroom is impossible.

I don't think the economic model for service delivery based on return on investment adequately measures some of the intangibles I refer to above. How do we get at the issue of adequacy of parenting and nurturance? Many single parents are themselves in need of re-parenting. I know this intuitively from my years as a social worker in MN. What if we focused on Seniors Mentoring Mothers and Fathers? Surely, if we in MN can start an anti-smoking campaign nationally and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, we can start a movement to change the way in which children are parented. More money isn't the answer. Teachers are working hard. Small classrooms produce mixed results. Let's drill down to the emotional needs of children and their parents before we introduce others programs, so that the children are ready to learn at all ages.

Bob Brown (5) (5)
In fairness to the education establishment I think it might not be said with certainty that we are moving backwards in educational achievement, but it is clear that we are not moving forward as much as some other countries. Some of our problems relate to things such as: the structure of our system (the kind of things Ted Kolderie discusses); the fact that over the years the teacher organizations have become member welfare organizations (i.e., unions) as opposed to their traditional roles as student welfare organizations; the unintended consequences of special education laws coupled with the zealousness of advocacy groups and activist judges to place and keep in regular schools some profoundly handicapped children and some dangerously violent children (the kind of children who were historically not in the schools) that seriously drain the resources of the system; excessive student mobility, particularly in low income, diverse urban areas; and the inadequacies and inappropriateness of much of our teacher preparation.

I would not argue against retrying to get a better return on investment, but I am quite skeptical, possibly even cynical about the theoreticians who come up with these gross generalizations about how much money we would save if only we did (fill in the blank.) I concluded in my years in the Legislature that if we believed everything presented to us and we would have passed every proposal that was going to save so much money or have such a substantial return on investment we could run state government at no cost and probably pay substantial dividends to the citizens. I have yet to see a unit of government do that.

Charles Lutz (8) (6)

John Adams (5) (8)
1. This is not the way to frame the question. My sense is (1) that the range of skill levels and demonstrated academic competence of 18-year olds has increased in the past 25 years; (2) the top 10 percent of students are better prepared than ever, while the bottom 20 percent is disengaged and dropping out, and even if they receive a high school diploma, it has little meaning as a certification of knowledge and skills; and (3) the median preparation level of high school graduates regarding what they need to know (compared with the international competition) has sagged badly in the past 25 years.

2. There has to be serious attention to the payoffs associated with each strategy suggested.

This presentation is long on measurement and diagnosis, but does not contain a presentation and analysis and of a politically viable strategy to enter into the educational system and make a difference. I agree with Kolderie that the present system cannot do the job that needs to be done, even if the amount of money supplied to it were to double.

Tom Teigen
Once again, an outstanding conversation. (Also enjoy - when I have a chance - reading posted comments.)

I would like to propose a guest for your October 10 meeting: Jim Bartholomew, the Minnesota Business Partnership's education policy director.

Education reform was the initial issue that prompted formation of the Partnership in 1977. The Partnership commissioned the Berman Weiler Report in 1984. Those recommendations were consistent with the Citizens League's positions and contributed significantly to Minnesota-based reforms, including open enrollment, PSEO and, eventually, charter schools.

During the 1990s, the Partnership - and Jim - was actively engaged in Minnesota's decade-plus effort to create a standards and accountability system. Jim continues to be in the trenches on standards and assessments. He's working with a group of educators in Minneapolis on a true site-based control model, he's on the Board of Teaching, and much more. The Partnership is also beginning a study with the Itasca Project and McKinsey to define "world-class" education (outcomes and systemic characteristics) then create a set of recommendations for closing the "global achievement gap."

Given your focus on education this fall, I think he'd be a good person to talk with. (Also might have a slightly different perspective than the one Ted K. presented earlier on the level of engagement among Twin Cities business leaders.)

Glenn Dorfman (5) (10)
In honor of our dear friend and mentor, John Brandl: It seems to me that the root question that school reformers of all colors have failed to answer is the goal of school reform. I caste my lot with Jacques Barzun who said: "The sole justification of teaching, of school itself, is that the student comes out of it able to do something he could not do before." Schools exist, principally, to remove ignorance, to grow self-esteem from mastery over words and numbers and ideas. Young minds need to be treated with respect and excellence not equated with elitism. Finally, tradition and innovation should only be judged by the results they achieve.

Vici Oshiro (0) (6)
1. Much improvement over the long haul. More kids going to and finishing school. Some short term setbacks.

2. Don't allow ROI to become the magic bullet. This is an excellent measure within the context of a broader view.

No women again. And this is NOT a hint. I'm not the person you want. Find someone younger and more in tune with your modus operandi.

Janet M. Hively (7)(9)
"Return on investment", from my point of view, is equated with productivity --- work that benefits the individual, family, and community. It's important, however, that we take into account the full range of productive activities that have economic value to the community. That includes parenting, care giving, and volunteering as well as employment.

I think that Minnesota was on track mid 1990s... Moving ahead on pre school. School to Work programs that included project-based service learning and workplace learning as well as classroom learning. The Profile of Learning encouraging ALL students to take charge of their learning and keep track of it. Encouragement of Lifework Planning from the elementary grades on. A combination of conservative legislators who felt that they knew better than kids and families how and what to teach, plus achieving parents of students who were very successfully moving ahead in traditional schools, plus Ventura's naiveté dumped the leadership for these efforts. By 2000, the good times were over. What a waste of efforts begun in the mid-80s.

Wayne Jennings (4) (6)
I wasn't impressed with Eilers' comments. While she made good points about the importance of early childhood programs, I think she's off on the new requirements for math for all students--that's going to be a train wreck. She said nothing about citizenship education, little about prep for productive work (other than college), nothing about producing lifelong learners and developing critical thinkers. I suspect that's because she knows little about educational options other than reinforcing the present system. Doing more of the same harder isn't going to produce substantial better results. We need to ask more often what is education for.

Donald H. Anderson (7) (5)
"No child left behind" is an example of why we are moving backwards. One size doesn't fit all children -strategies for education should also consider the parents and their involvement or lack of involvement in the raising of their children.

James L. Weaver (10) (10)

Robert A. Freeman (7) (8)

1. I think it is probably more correct to say that even though we are still moving forwards, other countries are moving forwards faster than the U.S.

2. Yes - if the investments are undisputed, and those numbers should not be used as a blank check to increase funding for education without some awareness that there will be diminishing returns. I liked her focus that teachers be paid more with increases being linked to their performance, and would argue that should be true for all new investments in education. If it is not working we shouldn't fund it.

I agree that we should measure whether we have succeeded by whether the total number of students graduating increases, but am concerned that if the only focus is on this figure as a measure of success that it will provide a systemic incentive to make it easier to graduate high school / college in order to maintain levels of funding. It should be coupled with an increase in the rigor of the subject matter students are being taught in K-12 and post-secondary.

Brian Thiel (10) (10)
Every decision made by a legislative body must give highest priority to cost/benefit. Even if the facts are inconclusive or conflicting and the need for decision is imminent, always the best available data in detail must be on the table.

Any other type of basis for making policy is merely wishful thinking or wishy-washy thinking, of which there has been too much. When an economy is in a growth spurt such thinking seems to exert no undue burdens. But in all other situations, it is destructive to avoid the hard headed reality of cost:benefit ratios.

And there is another necessary component to every cost:benefit presentation... it must provide the actual data as well as the study design and assumptions upon which the conclusions are based. I have much experience in my life trying to sell something using empiric studies to professionals who themselves write such papers, and every one of them insists on seeing the actual data and all the study design constructs before they place any credence in the findings.

I am very interested in the presentation by Ms Eilers! But before I would set my legislative agenda if I am elected, I will study the underlying facts and study constructs. I hope Ms. Eilers has made or will make those things available.

One big question I have is, "what time frame is used to arrive at the various cost:benefit ratios?" Everyone knows that the longer it takes to bring a return, the less beneficial that return is. So, cost:benefit ratios without a time line can become disinformation. I never dared to make a proposal in industry without a calculation of IRR. Are we doing that in government?

Another way to consider the group of studies is to ask, "are there certain combinations of proposals that produce the best outcome possibilities given various levels of funding?" It is hardly likely that this year there is enough funding available to every project that has, for example, a cost/benefit ratio > 4:1 without serious cost to a struggling economy. So, among the higher cost/benefit ratios with the smallest incremental costs, what combination seems most beneficial with limited resource use?

I believe this presentation is very useful... especially if it leads to more dialog before setting legislative agendas. Enough wishy-washy idealism has led to over-spending from the MN pocketbook for some things. Let's have more intelligent and pertinent discussions of factual realities this coming year.

Egregious and bogus economic predictions were made at the MN legislature last year. Even with a professional economist seated in the chamber, there was no confirmation of hefty economic promises made by her colleagues. Strange silence....!

Chris Brazelton (6) (8)
It appears that we are stagnant and the need for competitiveness in the world is increasing. Wise investments would include those that are most likely to be successful, and return on investment is certainly one good way to measure success.

The nice thing about education is that we can find successful program models and replicate them in other schools. We don't have to turn the entire ship all at once, but do need to get the parents, teachers and administrators on board with changes in plans so that we have the buy in needed to make any changes work.

Edward Dirkswager (_) (10)
The target has changed. The US now realizes that all children must be educated and it is failing at doing so. Whether the US is failing to educate the types of persons that it has historically educated is open to question.

The answer is an obvious 10. Obvious if you think that increment tinkering will yield much result. The answer is not strategic investment. The answer is systemic change.

David Broden (10) (6)
1. Moving backwards is a relative term--we in many respects are moving forward but we are also continuously raising the bar by which we measure educational achievement--the raising of the bar is perhaps one of the overlooked criteria as we look for ways to think about increasing achievement. The need for education and education in different ways is growing--the importance to the overall quality of life and providing the workforce for the future is always evolving. The national debate on educational achievement is a very healthy focus--but it is also creating some disruption in an organized process of improvements--we are seeing various parochial groups get protective of the change. We need to build in opportunity for risk taking and moving forward etc.

2. The priorities should be set first on what will get the best effect for education--cost and cost benefits analysis is great but should not be the first level constraint or in most cases the best ideas do not really or often get the discussion to really give them a chance--the cost is often higher--at least at the start. We need to focus on the best metrics for improvement and then as a second level assessment bring in cost--certainly what we do must be affordable--but we need to think of what we mean by "affordable"--these are investment decisions not real time spending decisions.

Gary Clements
On the measurements by which we are deciding that students and or schools are failing... I have seen students ask "Does this count?" when some of these tests are given...meaning "Am I going to be graded on it, or will it keep me from graduating?"... and then when they know it does NOT count for those things, they answer haphazardly and with low effort....especially those less able students. I don't believe the results are as accurate as they could and should be. Two, I don't believe the reward system for getting a diploma, or achieving good grades is what it should be. I believe motivation is indeed a problem, and perhaps some real rewards (potential employment doesn't seem to be it)...should apply, such as a driver's license.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (6) (6)
I think that priorities for new or changed strategies for education should be based on the outcome of the students.

Carolyn Ring (6) (3)

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10)

But need to consider the substantial differences in the cost of implementing the alternatives.

Tom Swain (9) (9)

David Hutcheson (8) (5)

It seems to me that there are a lot of open questions about how the estimates of return on investment are arrived at. Most of them are intuitively appealing, but they do have a fairly strong flavor of numbers picked out of the air.



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;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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