_7.3 average___ On a scale of (0) strong
disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, should the fundamental organization of schooling change
offering a standardized curriculum to creating a customized curriculum
_3.9 average___ On a scale of (0) strong
disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, is it possible for traditional schools to accomplish such
Wayne Jennings (10) (3)
Graba is right on, from my 50 years as a reform-minded educator.
Schools, particularly secondary schools, can't/won't change. Some
people within a school want change, some don't resulting in gridlock.
Many well-educated people who succeeded with the current model and are
now decision makers can't entertain a different paradigm. Maximum
efforts have been applied to perfecting the current model. It doesn't
work well for too many students.
Janet M. Hively (8) (_)
The word "traditional" biases the question. If a school is focused on
sticking to traditional education, then obviously it is not possible.
If you are using the word "traditional" to describe "public schools",
it is possible -- as illustrated by the proliferation of project-based
"High Schools That Work" led by Gene Bottoms and the Southern Regional
In Minnesota, we were moving toward customized education during the
'90s with the Profile of Learning backed up by School to Work emphasis
on individualized lifework planning and on service-based learning and
work-based learning in addition to school-based learning. Changes in
record keeping that allowed the student to be in charge of
computer-based portfolios were in the works. Dozens of schools around
the state had moved beyond pilots to the new system.
Then what happened. Politics. One challenge came from the parents of
students who were doing well in the traditional system and didn't want
to be messed up in their college application process by an alternative
record keeping system. Conservative critics opposed a flexible system
that put more authority and responsibility in the hands of students
and teachers. The state was defensive and loaded on more red tape
requirements that turned off the teachers who had not been part of the
pilots. And, most of all, Ventura reorganized the Department of
Children, Families and Learning and did away with the Office of
Lifework Development. The Profile of Learning went away.
This experience in Minnesota should be teaching us how to do it better
rather than showing us that positive change can't happen. From my
perspective, the mushrooming of Charter Schools has ultimately
weakened the public schools because it's drained away the energy of
Charles Lutz (10) (3)
Scott Halstead (5) (5)
Customization may be possible, but it will take more resources. It
would be very difficult in large schools. The use of the computer with
interaction allows many changes in the learning process.
Chuck Slocum (10) (5)
I think we need to place organizational and individual incentives on
existing schools to determine the workability of the change ideas
being discussed. There are many education "experts" with ideas on
making our schools more effective in teaching students; most of the
ideas relate to models for heretofore "at risk" students. Mr. Graba
suggests a far more sweeping concept through a student centered
customized curriculum, one worth pursuing.
Al Quie (10) (0)
I came to the belief in what Joe Graba has so clearly explained 40
years ago. When big institutions exist for a long time and
standardize, there are so many people who identify with the
institution rather than the desired outcomes that many people suffer
before enough change comes about. Often cataclysmic events speed up
the process. The most important ingredient, however, is civic
responsibility exercised collaboratively in community.
John Adams (8) (3)
I have been following Joe's work for years, and am familiar with the
arguments and varied experiences of schools across the nation. I don't
think that there is any question that his diagnosis is correct--but
it's not helpful to blame the teacher or the unions. It's the system
itself that has become defective given its task and the culture within
which it is operating. Comment #7 (on higher education) is especially
compelling given the extent of denial on our campuses that the world
has been changing, and that the on-line proprietary schools are not to
be taken seriously.
Robert A. Freeman (5) (4)
Question No. 1: I don't know that this is possible with available
resources - clearly schools (especially high schools) need to change
drastically to provide benefit to students but I am not sure it can be
done all in one go, and it might be better to encourage innovative
alternatives (such as charters, magnets, other models) to flourish and
allow parents and students to make the choice for themselves.
Question No. 2: I believe that is possible but I think schools need
either a strong incentive or penalty for it to occur without the state
mandating it. Experiences with NCLB have shown that penalizing the
school system for not achieving results is very controversial and
unpopular. However, with financial pressures on the state, it is
unlikely that significant new money will be available for trying to
forge new curricula and alternative methods of delivery (and any new
money will certainly be directed to increase teacher salaries, not to
pedagogic experiments). Therefore I do not think that these changes
are going to come about organically within traditional school systems
but are more likely, as Graba indicates, in alternative models such as
charters and online schools - these models by their very nature are
going to attract more innovative educational thinkers. Funding for
such experiments will likely have to come from private sources such as
the Gates Foundation. If these alternative teaching methods are shown
to produce results then the traditional education system will
certainly end up adopting some of them if they have to compete for
Your Question #2 assumes that some degree of agreement with Question
Such experiments with "custom" curriculum in the past ("free" schools
of the 1970's, for example) have yielded schools and students with no
foreign language experience, little/no higher mathematics, inability
to write even a simple paper, and little in the way of higher order
BTW, charters don't have a stellar record on these things so far. An
interesting tidbit: charter school transportation costs have been a
break-the-bank burden for districts and boards for some time now.
Mr. Graba's ideas are shopworn and cliche`d, although this seems to be
what contemporary educational correctness expects, maybe even demands.
Educational gurus have been chanting this same stuff for a very long
time now, without producing much. Only his point #14 even mentions the
education process from the side of the student, that is, that a
student needs motivation and that this cannot be mandated or
For example, students who fail tend to be students who have high
absences and often have substantial disciplinary records. There is
nothing surprising about this. Such students are not likely to be
enrolled in more advanced classes regardless of the structure of the
school, although they compromise the educational environment for those
It would be much more helpful to interview informants who look at the
educational environment more dispassionately.
Glenn S. Dorfman (5) (10)
What needs the most change is not the organization so much as the
quality of the teachers and parental engagement in the process of
learning. Teacher education is a farce from Columbia Teacher's College
to Mankato State. Teachers must be skilled in their respective subject
matter (s) and have a developing pedagogy that can be evaluated for
effectiveness through measurement of student performance. We have been
talking and studying this issue for so long now we have poorly
educated several generations. Maybe we should export our kids to
countries that have better learning results!
The concept of "disruptive innovation" is not Christensen's but rather
Joseph Shumpeter's: From Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (New
York: Harper, 1975) [orig. pub. 1942], pp. 82-85:
Very interesting discussion. Need to know lots more before answering
above questions. Joe Nathan at HHH Institute is also very strong on
charter schools. Don Fraser has been convening a group to look at
achievement gap for nearly two years. Examples I have heard about rely
very heavily on such a strong commitment from teachers that any
teacher with kids at home would find it exceedingly difficult to
participate. It would put his/her own family at risk.
Growth and Justice also considering education. Where is that effort at
Beware of unintended consequences.
The articulation of the change from universal access to universal
achievement about 1990 is very helpful. Succinct and easily
Clarence Shallbetter (4) (3)
Not sure whether the proposed change is similar to the model used for
special education or is significantly different. If it's the same or
similar where will the resources come from to do it? Are there places
where this investment should begin? Should a model be developed along
the lines of the early education model the Civic Caucus recently
discussed? It's also not clear whether this model will enable students
who desire to go into trained jobs out of high school could receive
this training in the way much of it was possible for some when
vocational high schools existed.
David Broden (10) (0)
The customized curriculum is really the only way an education can
evolve--as I look back to the education I had the quality of the
education and the approach was that the teachers looked at each member
of a class and focused on the individual while also providing an
overall framework to commonality. This was customized at its
best--because it kept everyone able to share together and learn the
social skills that come from education but yet each had their own path
and focus projects and opportunities. We must get to have the
curriculum tailored to each student and in that way give each the
opportunity to begin to express their individual interests and shape a
challenge for each and yet have a common thread --that education
system will be much like life in the real world and how each student
will evolve into society--it will make the student feel that what he
is doing in school is relevant and with that be successful. A tailored
approach setting the path for each student must be the focus of all
evolving education if we want to move ahead effectively.
Like most organizations the parochial strength of within simply does
not see the need to make the adjustments. Outside forces must set
challenges, force the changes etc. Somehow the "good" that does exist
within the system must be leveraged to work with the outside forces to
accept the changes and to take the ownership of the change and bring
it inside. Working to find the link of new and changing ideas with the
ownership from within and getting those within to accept and see the
value is a must or the turmoil can be very disruptive. There are way
do to this and that must be the focus.
Dennis Johnson (0) (0)
In most cities, the public education system is beyond repair. Control
over education should be returned to parents, with a credit voucher
given to the parents for each child, to be used in the school of their
choice, or for home schooling if that is their choice. If they waste
that choice, that is then their responsibility.
I hope you send a copy of the Graba talk to every public, charter and
parochial superintendent with an additional copy to every school
board, probably best to a home address of the board chair person.
It is very important to discuss long-term policy with all the current
players. I had a 25-year career in computing, networking and the
Internet, perhaps the leading example where disruptive technology
drastically changed the entire business and personal landscape. While
many original computing companies died or greatly retrenched, not all
lost out... some changed themselves greatly and are now at the top of
the heap, e.g., IBM, HP. If even some of the existing educational
institutions and unions have the perspicacity and courage to change,
they need to have the incentive placed before them. If some of them
do, they can bring their existing resources to bear on a new
direction, perhaps bringing necessary changes faster and affecting
favorably more children.
You may be confident that in/when I have a seat in the Legislature, I
will be very vocal and persistent to challenge and push all
educational leaders to change and to find ways to permit and give
incentive to alternative entities who will move forward rather than
merely defend themselves and their traditional institutional
Bob Brown (8) (1)
While I generally agree with many of Joe's comments, it is too
simplistic to just say schools have to be either standardized or
customized for each child. I know that Joe, Ted, and other critics of
the current system (of which I am one) realize that many students
(best guesses are 50 or 60 per cent) do reasonably well in the current
system. The problem is that both the top students and the
educationally challenged students frequently do not have their
educational needs met. And just because you have a customized program
doesn't mean that each student has a unique learning package. And
programs should be tailored to the various learning styles - for
example, we now know that males and females generally approach the
learning physics differently. To be successful, an educational system
should have a variety of delivery systems - face-to-face, interactive
TV, internet, etc. as different individuals do in different systems.
Finally, I definitely agree the costs of higher education have gotten
out of hand.
Malcolm McLean (9) (2)
This is perhaps the very best report I have > received from all the
excellent reports from CC over the years. I think Joe Graba is very
much into something big. I am not an expert in this but have
volunteered for many years in the first grade of a St. Paul urban
school. In addition, I was president of a small college for 16 years.
I have taken the liberty of passing on Graba's comments to the current
president of Northland College where I served. I noted to her that one
of the few advantages that a small, private college has in the
education field these days is to make decisions and changes promptly
if it needs to. There is a small population cohort that needs to
understand the set of problems ahead and discuss and act on
suggestions for a new approach. The small college does not face the
huge problems of bigness, dug in departments, state authorities, etc.
which large state universities and big private universities as well. I
think that is what is meant by variety in our educational offerings.
My volunteering for many years in what is now called the Paul and
Sheila Wellstone Elementary School (formerly Saturn-Riverside) tells
me clearly that the children - mostly immigrant, many poor (it's a
Title I school)- reflect a enormous range of ability. All the teachers
I have worked with try very hard to serve all the children in our
classes but it is so difficult. This last year, for example, a small
Karen tribal boy from Myanmar (Burma) showed up in November (not
September) with basically no English. He made some progress during the
year but was so far from the skills and talents of several Somali and
Ethiopian kids, for example, that they were really living in difficult
intellectual worlds. He had no English vocabulary; the others were
outstanding students with probably English vocabularies of several
Chris Brazelton (10) (6)
Change is possible, but even change for the better is often resisted.
Any change will require buy in from all stakeholders. Gathering them
for the discussion is a daunting challenge.
Schools in the Waldorf system understand that different children learn
via different methods, and therefore uses a more broad approach with
sight, sound and touch. Even that system does not take into account
the different speeds at which children learn.
We also lose children when we don't take into account that all
children are not going to be good at math or science, yet more and
more are driven by costs and demands to teach to the core subjects and
cut arts, sports and other programming.
These children who fall through the cracks (chasms) in our educational
system sometimes end up in our correctional system. We spend the money
on them eventually! Obviously, the answer is not just funding. It
means such an overhaul of our educational system while still operating
a system. In some regards, it's like trying to rebuild a ship while
steaming along at sea.
Bill Hamm (0) (0)
Should students have a personally customized curriculum? There is
nothing new about this very old "Outcome Based" education proposal or
the effort to repackage it and attempt to get it through again. The
answer is a "0", it was a stupid idea before and it is a stupid idea
again because it only makes education more cumbersome and ends up
teaching even less.
Your second question doesn't really lend itself to your grading format
and it should not happen so zero is again my answer.
Your organization has a serious lack of understanding of what is wrong
with education and how we went from an education leader 30 years ago
to an education loser today.
Ray Schmitz (6.5) (5)
My basic uncertainty comes from the interrelationship of the modern
school to the modern family. The school is an extension of the family
in that it is a necessary day care center for much of the day when the
parents are working. Look at the issues on a snow day or the panic
when a change in the school year is proposed. Parents have no other
leisure activity other than school activities and transportation.
Suddenly there is tailored education with flexible schedules, multiple
focuses and all the other bells and whistles. Is that consistent?
Sounds like a problem to me.
As to the ability to change, I heard a speech a few yrs ago, the
author is gone from my memory, but his point was that with the
multiple school boards in this county one of them should have found
the magic solution in the same way multiple monkeys on multiple
typewriters etc. I am really concerned that this structure, along with
the growth of the other layers at the state and federal level if not
capable of accomplishing anything. The only solution they have is to
fire the superintendent, in the same way the football team responds to
the losing season. I suspect that the superintendents of today have
started updating their CV's before they get the pictures hung in their
offices, a couple quick years of high plans and lofty promises and off
to the next bigger district before anyone has time to really look at
what has not happened.
Ed Dirkswager (10+) (10)
Tim McDonald (10) (2)
Graba's conclusions are very interesting and I am a big supporter. One
of my best math years was 6th grade when we moved at our own
individual pace. We grabbed our folders, did our math, had teacher and
parent support for new concepts, and proceeded though the levels at
our own speed. Very motivating and I learned a ton. I'm curious about
point 14. I agree with Graba that reading needs to be intrinsically
motivated, but what does he propose to make this happen?
Wish I could have been there for his interview. My Stanford thesis in
1984 was about computer-assisted instruction---a novel and
much-disputed notion at the time.
Bright Dornblaser (5) (6)
Not clear with teachers becoming advisors where students acquire the
knowledge society deems minimum ally essential Projects provide K. of
course but a publicly transparent evaluation system is needed to learn
whether essentials are learned.
It is possible for schools to accomplish change from within. DC is an
example. No doubt others. Disruptive pedagogical changes no doubt are
useful to demonstrate. But, what does it do to prepare quality
teachers, to pay them to teach the disadvantaged, to prepare and use
innovative school managers? Useful concepts presented, but
Tracy Leahy (8.5) (6)
State Rep. Carolyn Laine (10) (8)
This discussion brings me full circle back to what I envisioned as an
education student in college, why I spent 10 years on a school board,
what I longed for in my own 5 children, and why I choose my particular
Ph.D. graduate school. I still hold out hope that the people
themselves within our public school system would resonate with the
authenticity and vitality possible under change of this nature. I need
to discuss with these folks how I might be of help.
Tom Swain (8) (2)
Larry and Ann Schluter (6) (6)