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 Response Page - Hamann / Knuth Interview  -  Issues in Education    

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
John Hamann / Joann Knuth Interview of 12-05-08.

The questions:

1. _6.0 average____ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, are the needs for pre-kindergarten education so great that even in a time of severe budget constraints the Legislature should shift funds from other appropriations?

2._4.4 average____ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, are teachers already sufficiently customizing classes to meet the needs of individual students?

3._5.8 average____ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, are uniform federal standards for K-12 education needed across the nation?

Don Fraser (10) (_) (_)

Al Quie (10) (0) (10)

Donald H. Anderson (10) (7) (4)

Fred Senn (10) (3) (10)

Scott Halstead (10) (5) (0)

Question 1: Improved early learning may result in less special emphasis later and higher achievement levels.

Question 3: There are nation wide exams for the high achievers. Keep the Federal Government out of the education system to the maximum extent possible.

Blair Tremere (2) (4) (4)

Paul Hauge (7) (5) (3)

Elaine Voss (10) (_) (5)

I really enjoyed the dialogue in this discussion. I have been out of the loop, although I read most of them. My husband has been really ill, resulting in a leg amputation, now home and we now have a rhythm going which allows us to continue with our interest. Thank you for all you do.

Question 3: I think there should be some standards, but I don't know how to structure them. There are so many variables, maybe guidelines with structured expectations, i.e. language, income level - I'm searching for what I think would be acceptable.

Ray Schmitz (1) (2) (1)
I wondered what the actual change in tax burden had been over time since all of these discussions seem to center on the inability to pay the costs of education. The tax foundation says that from 1977 to 2006 median income in MN went from $7,700 to $44,500 and median tax from $900 to $4,400. Another group says that the % left after taxes has been constant for the last 20 years. Assuming these to be valid why can't education survive on a share of taxes that would be constant? Are their needs somehow changing faster than the world, and if so why? Your guests did not address this and probably for good reason. If in fact we suddenly need to put 3 and 4 year olds in school because parents cannot be trusted to prepare them for school, when do the tax payers stop picking up the tab?

Peter Hennessey
I have gone to school on two continents, three countries with three different official languages, as well as in 4 different US States. I also raised two boys, both with some ADD. Yes I sent both kids to pre-school, part time, and paid through the nose to get them proper elementary school education in light of their ADD. My niece was raised by her working single mother, which meant that every morning she was dropped off in some daycare for the entire day. So,...

1. NO, pre-school is NOT that important. If I had to do it over, I would be a better judge of when it is the right time to separate a young child from his mother at that early age. My older son had an especially difficult time getting used to the separation. Young children belong with their MOTHER, at HOME, not in daycare, SHE should decide when it is the right time to get her child into pre-school if the mother is not competent to teach the basics herself, and even then if at all possible she should attend school with the child, at least for a while. But it is NOT A STATE FUNCTION to provide anything like this, it is the job of parents and others in the neighborhood to set it up.

2. NO, teachers are NOT able to make allowances for individual differences. Even if there is a policy in place to encourage it, there is not enough time in the school day. It would be more efficient to teach the mothers the necessary subject matter and skills and let them proceed at their own pace.

3. NO, there is no excuse or reason for federal or state standards. Education is a local matter. In the US it worked best when it still was. We had much better textbooks, teachers, administrators -- and results. We always did have objective national standards -- the SAT, for example. Yes, I felt I was cheated when I took my SAT as an immigrant kid in an upper working class school against natives from upper class neighborhoods with advanced placement classes, because my school district tailored its program to its population, but the current nonsense with No Child Left Behind and all the ways it is being sabotaged leads to worse results than even the old way before it. There is no way to make stupid kids smart, there is no education taking place in schools that have to hide behind metal detectors and armed guards, and there is little hope to instill a love for studying and for books in students from homes that won't read them anyway. There is no sense in taking away vocational training and forcing everybody to prepare for admission to UC Berkeley, as San Francisco is doing; not everybody learns from books and not everybody can, would or should seek a career that requires a college education.

When I hear people clamoring for pre-school for all and college for all, I have to ask: in view of the miserable job the schools are doing now, what is the purpose of pushing for more of same, enforced by federal standards? Could it be just plain 1984 / Brave New World -style indoctrination? If diversity is such a supreme value, why the push for group-think? What is the value in everybody of all colors thinking exactly the same? is THAT "diversity"?

Robert Klungness (8) (8) (6)

Marianne Curry (0) (5) (10)

Throwing money at a problem is not necessarily the best solution as Joe Nathan has observed. Before we ask public schools to expand their social services to daycare, why don't we challenge the parents of young children to work with them on their abc's and counting and good manners. Let's not leave parents out of this equation. If parents are not prepared to instill good habits in their children, then let's remediate the parents first. School readiness, it seems to me, constitutes a set of social skills. The public cannot provide parenting and a full range of social/health services to every child unless we are willing to establish boarding schools for that purpose. If parents want their children to succeed, it seems to me they should be more central to the discussion about early childhood education. No excuses. Single moms, working moms and dads can break the cycle as so many have with their dedication and high expectations. If we expect little of parents, then that's what we get.

Vici Oshiro (5) (7) (6)
This is an interesting piece of a much needed broad examination of our national education system and structure. Yes, we need more emphasis on pre-K; we need a gut-level understanding that "It takes a village" and not consign all the responsibility to schools; many teachers are performing very well in adapting their teaching to the needs of their particular students; it would help if the society at large understood and valued the teaching profession more. We need broad federal standards within which we have state standards within which we have district and individual school standards. But these should be broad enough to give teachers enough flexibility to accomplish their mission. Standards need not define the curriculum and how it is presented.

Stop measuring this year's 4th graders against last year's 4th graders. Test the same kids at beginning and end of year.

Baltimore research found that at risk kids learned during school year, but lost more than others over the summer. We don't need longer school day and year, but we do need more opportunities for constructive, supervised activity during hours before and after school and during the summer. Summer camp available for everyone - especially at risk kids. We do some of this now. We need much more. Such activities can include literacy and math components and still be different from school. This differs a bit from NASSP recommendations, but the differences are slight and some combination might be best.

Maybe we need more money. Maybe we need to relieve schools of some of their responsibilities. We do need a fundamental discussion which covers what we want to accomplish, how we can best do that, how much it will cost and how we raise the needed funds.

This discussion and associated links are a contribution to that. How can we weave the threads into a fabric? Will the incoming Secretary of Education be able to do that?

Hans Sandbo (9) (3) (4)
Question 1: Funding and program for pre-kindergarten and post kindergarten are very important. It is not good to spend on poor programs, but also very important that we do fund good programs. Shift the funds but make sure pre-kindergarten programs are doing the job needed.

Question 2: Difficult to know this. The needs of individual students starts with the students, then the guardians (most often parents), then the "village" (which most definitely includes the teachers and funding). Rewarding students for achievement, then guardians for their encouragement, supervision and applying some discipline, and then providing educational professionals with the tools to meet individual students requirements (but it does not start with the teachers, school system etc.)

Question 3: I would refer to them as uniform federal guidelines. Yes they are a good idea.

Robert J. Brown (7) (2) (5)
Question 1: There was a legislative proposal several years ago to eliminate grade 12 as redundant and use that money to pay for all day kindergarten and pre-k education. Some creative solution such as this one may be necessary if we are to deal with fiscal realities.

Question 2: Some are, but most are not. Pressure must be put on the teacher training institutions to better prepare teachers for individualizing instruction.

Question 3: It is good to have some national data (such as the NAEP tests) to see how the different states and districts compare, but an arbitrary federal standard is almost certain to be low because of pressure from the poorer performing states. Better to have a standard based on added value so schools will be judged by what they contribute to a child's education rather than whether they are lucky enough to have bright kids from privileged backgrounds and resources.

Wayne Jennings (9) (2) (3)
We need systemic reform, not patchwork or simply more money to make an outdated system work. It isn't likely or perhaps even appropriate for the present system to remake itself. The system's good people are doing the best they can with a 19th century model. We know far more about learning now that points to other models of schooling.

The problem with national standards is that they are usually too academic and not life centered. Academics write the standards because it's the only concept they know. They tend to continue the traditional course. Of course, we want students to learn as much as possible and be competent at life's tasks but national standards are a blunderbuss way of achieving that and dangerously inhumane and risky for maintaining creativity, problem solving skills, curiosity, self-efficacy and self-determination skills.

Most of the remedies for improving schools work from the premise of improving the traditional model. It's like trying to make a word processor by improving a typewriter. The traditional system is all the present teaching and administrative staff have experienced so relying on them to create a new model about learning won't work. There's no question about Hamann and Knuth's sincerity and competence in the traditional system. They have strived with all their might to make it better and feel justifiably pride in their accomplishments. That isn't sufficient however for responsible citizenship in a fast changing democracy; a work world that expects multi-tasking; and a society of lifelong learners. We must apply different paradigms about learning just as has happened in recent history with gender and racial equity, management principles, information technology and other areas of human endeavor.

Hence the need for alternatives. Let creative educators and others make better systems. Open the paradigms of what an appropriate education looks like. Offer a choice to staff, parents and students of competing programs. That's the lessons learned from Clayton Christensen's Innovators Dilemma (and disruptive books) and Richard Foster's Creative Destruction. In addition, we have almost 100 years of educational research and 70 years of psychological and sociological research that signify a better paradigm about schooling.

Alan Miller (9) (5) (2)

Larry Baker (8) (3) (8)

Glenn Dorfman (5) (0) (10)

Charles Lutz (6) (6) (9)

State Sen. Sandra Rummel (8) (5) (_)

Question 1: Of all the strategies proposed to raise student achievement and ultimate success, early childhood education ranks at the top. Children's brains in the early years are "spongeable" - they learn at astronomical rates given the opportunity. Early childhood education has a great return on investment, especially if it is linked with parent education on how to support children's learning.

Question 2: It depends. A neighbor of mine teaches in as suburban 3rd grade. She has 5 students who are gifted and talented, 2 who are autistic, 5 who are English language learners (3 different languages), 2 who have learning disabilities, 1 student with severe medical impairments, and 11 students who are at grade level. She is one person trying to meet the needs of all these kids. Our classrooms today are far less homogenous than they were 20 years ago, and at the same time, our expectation of what students need to learn is far more demanding than 20 years ago. Today's kindergarten is yesterday's first grade; today's 8th grade is yesterday's 9th grade.

Question 3: In an article I read recently, it seems unlikely that we will get to uniform federal standards in the near future. Part of the reason has to do with states' rights issues. Part of is it the vast diversity across our country. We are unlike European countries that are smaller and that have more centralized governments. In addition, some argue that innovation emerges from our capacity to support different approaches to problems. They also argue that we currently have the NAEP test that serves as a systems check and that is enough. (Did you know that in Singapore, the highest scoring nation, about 40% of students would NOT score proficient on our NAEP? What does that tell you about our cut scores?)

Bill Kuisle (2) (5) (8)

David Broden (7) (3) (7)

Question 1: There is a definite need to begin to establish some form of pre-kindergarten education. A time of budget constraint should not be the excuse to not address "change" and "opportunities". If anything this is a time to begin to introduce education concept that will reduce downstream costs etc. Whether such a program is funded by the state by redirecting funds, or funded locally by each district at the district discretion, may be a very solid and meaningful debate. There may also be some opportunities for funding partnerships among local, state, and federal or with business or foundations. I would also not make this an immediate statewide mandate but a desired objective to be implemented over five years or more in some way. For a program to start a district could submit a plan to well selected group of people who would select districts across the state (large, small districts, and districts with and without significant diversity) for state support as prototypes etc. Start with 10 to 20 programs perhaps and growth with time. The key is to use this time of budget and priority change as an opportunity to address not only near term funding issues but downstream costs and if this helps downstream then it is time to move ahead on a selected basis.

Question 2: This is a hard question to assess. We have heard from some who say it is happening and others that it is on specific case basis, and from others that it is not really a focus. The need to shift to customizing needs to be a clearly stated objective of the Education Community--and should be supported with some sort of guidelines not mandates that return the dialogue to costs and lack of funding. There seems to be much that can be done in this area without added funds. The discussion of this subject needs to reach to level of dialogue that comes with the topic "No child left behind"--with something that focus the theme on "Enabling the Individual Child/Student to Realize Potential etc."--this theme needs to be developed. It will be necessary for buy-in to the concept by students, teachers, administrators, school boards, state departments etc. Clearly more needs to be done in both the objectives and the benefits as well a implementing the program.

Question 3: Uniform standards that set the floor and continuously increase the level of learning will strengthen the nation, this is one of many ways to address manpower training which has been shown to have real economic return. Further it does build citizenship responsibility as well. On the other had if the standards result in some areas lowering their goals or the focus becomes on measurement vs. education the standard is misdirected and should not be applied. Any use of standards must be education based only. The uniformity of the standard is needed in this highly mobile and communicating society or we will establish isolated regions or pockets that are counter productive. Perhaps some interactive approach to standards with the students and teachers in each area participating in establishing the goals rather than simply a top down mandated standard will result in some better achievement against the standard as each school and student has some sense of ownership. This like could be done and have a benefit beyond just standards but also addressing responsibility etc.

Chris Brazelton (7) (3) (10)
In the business world, we seek to recognize good investments. However, when it comes to government spending, we are quick to ignore sound investments with high returns, despite claiming that we want to run government like we run a sound business. Perhaps we are destined to become more cynical, especially in light of all the corruption being discovered in the investment community.

Will our future budgets ever stabilize if we continually ignore that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? In addition to a stagnant economy, we are also paying the price now for investments we failed to make years ago when we had the cyclical surplus to do so.

Question 2: I have visited classrooms in Waldorf schools and find their approach incorporating all major types of learning methods (audio, visual, tactile) into each lesson far more effective than trying to customize lessons to individual students. While some accommodations are needed for certain students, by using a more broad approach it increases the impact among more students.

Question 3: When Minnesota schools are competing for resources against schools in other states based on performance tests, those tests need to be standardized. Based on the example give on the pilot test in which Minnesota students fared so much more poorly than Wisconsin students, rewarding Wisconsin and punishing Minnesota based on those test results is inappropriate and counterproductive to the stated goals.

Bill Hamm (0) (_) (0)
Question 1: Absolutely not, the whole pre-kindergarten education thing has become very touchy feely. It really becomes a way to leverage parents out of the education process rather than including them in the process as occurred a couple of generations ago. This effort basically says that poor people are too stupid to participate in their own children's education. Other than the socialization aspect of this thrust (which can be accomplished other ways) everything else can be put back to the parent to teach the children as their primary educator. This whole early childhood education is about applied psychology and undermining family structure not about better preparing children for school and the key is its central control.

Question 2: I can not answer this question in its present form because it requires me to first accept that teachers have a right or need to customize education to meet individual children's needs, which I do not. All we have to do is look back to the 1950's. We used one teaching style that worked on 90%+ of all children. Instead of the complex process of teaching a half dozen learning styles to all teachers, the 6%+ of students who needed special education were singled out for that education, so much for the lie of customization.

Question 3: In case none of you have ever read your Federal constitution it clearly states that all powers not bestowed upon the Federal government belong to the state. Look very closely and you will find that Education is not mentioned anywhere as a Federal responsibility. One of the reasons first put out for moving to the education reform effort was due to the tremendous educational discrepancies between Southern and Northern schools and the refusal of Southern states to adequately support black and poor white schools. We in Minnesota had developed one of the two best education models in the country based on strong internal competition, (a system far better that the garbage being forced on us now). Yet our legislators were convinced via creative writing to scrap it in favor of stealing away local control and input. We need to reinstate the education system that made us a leader in the 50's and 60's with adequate modifications needed to again make Minnesota an education leader.

Few people realize or understand how fundamentally our education system has changed, it was probably best stated by one of the education reform movementís promoters Mrs. Shirley McCuin when she said, "What we are about is the total restructuring of society!". I have lived to see that happen and am not pleased, most especially by the now common use of the education system as a tool for teaching political correctness.

Terry Stone (0) (5) (5)

Jim Keller (0) (8) (0)

If we use federal standards we fall in the trap of teaching to mediocrity. As we move toward all day required pre-k we continue toward children that are entirely developed outside of the home. Finally, it has been argued for years that it costs more to educate a 10th grader than a first grader - are they suggesting that the costs are the same regardless
of grade level?

Lyall Schwarzkopf (9) (7) (4)

Carolyn Ring (10) (8) (4)

Tom Swain (5) (5) (7)

Shirley Heaton (10) (0) (10)

My answers below are based upon my personal experiences with the schools in Kissimmee, FL as result of my volunteering in the state's Take Stock in Children wherein I mentor a high school student (whom I've been working with since she was in Middle school) until she enters college.

While the presentation is most impressive, let's face it. Until something is done about stocking the classrooms with qualified teachers and helping the kids to deal with peer pressure, nothing of any value will be accomplished.

Tim Nadine (0) (5) (0)
Question 1: Public education needs to master teaching the students they currently have. Education must start taking personal responsibility for educating the existing students with provided funds and not pointing fingers at every other environmental influence as the cause of education problems. Education has no business taking on additional younger students. Put your house in order.

Question 2: This issue is more like pandering to students; we create students not able to conform in a work environment, as schools are not teaching adjustment skills of learning and working under authority.

Question 3: NO, NO, NO national only local control and testing. The United States constitution prohibits national education or standards. States rights and Rule of Law prevail over opinion of educators.

David Pundt (0) (5) (10)
I ran for a state house seat this fall and if I had a nickel for every time my opponent or one of his cohorts talked about a constitutional funding source for education, I'd have nearly as much as the outdoors and arts people believe they've secured. Those who want more expensive education are running out of options and they'd love a constitutional lock on the taxpayers' purse forever.

Question 1: As long as I've been sucking air, I've heard the claim that money spent now will return 3, 5, 7, 15 or any other number times money spent in future benefits. So far, I've never seen a credible report or even an attempt at one to demonstrate the successful 'investment' after its been realized. I'm starting to believe the 'return on investment' argument is a bit of a scam. The only way to reduce cost and improve service will be to completely introduce private enterprise into Minnesota's education and that won't happen until teacher's unions give up their political clout.

Question 2: Don't really know because I haven't done any research. My suspicion is that teachers generally have not customized education delivery to a meaningful level because 30%+ of entering freshman have needed remedial classes for the last ten years and there doesn't seem to be any change.

Question 3: I'm not crazy about the feds being involved in education from a constitutional point of view but federal rules seem to be working, seem to be getting states to compare their results to each other, and might be getting to a point of having some sort of equity in educational outcome across the nation. One of the problems with putting pressure on under-performing schools; there doesn't seem to be political will to offer alternatives except to toss more money at an institution that is spending too much and producing too little.

Bill Frenzel (0) (5) (8)

Bright Dornblaser (10) (5) (10)

Ray Ayotte (5) (6) (8)



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
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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