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 Response Page - Curt Johnson Interview - Teacher-governed Schools    

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Curt Johnson Interview of 04-10-09.

The questions:

_6.8 average_____ 1.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether encouraging more teacher-governed schools is an appropriate way to try to introduce more innovation in education?

_7.0 average_____ 2.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether teacher-governed schools should be allowed within existing school districts, if approved by the school board and the teachers union?

_6.2 average_____ 3.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, would more highly talented individuals enter teaching if more teacher-governed schools were possible?

_6.7 average____ 4.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, should colleges of education do more to explicitly prepare future teachers for the possibility of teachers running their own schools?

John Cairns (10) (10) (10) (10)

Question 4:  As well as more innovative and different ways of teaching.

Dennis Johnson (0) (0) (0) (0)

How about parent-run schools instead? Schools are now run by the teacher's unions - see what that has brought us.

Bob White (10) (10) (10) (10)

Great discussion.  Curt knows his stuff.

Don Fraser (10) (10) (9) (10)

Al Quie (10) (10) (_) (10)

Glenn Dorfman (5) (5) (10) (5)

Question 3:  Though it would depend upon the quality of the other teachers.

Question 4:  We should abolish Colleges of Education and require all teachers to gain an academic liberal arts degree from an accredited university. Pedagogy could be developed through a more sophisticated and meaningful "teacher mentor program." In my view, the fundamental problem in k-12 is the overall poor quality of the teachers. They have the lowest college entrance exam scores, on average, and the coursework inside colleges of education is mediocre at best. I understand that the Carnegie and Bush Foundations are working on this matter.

Turning schools over to relatively unskilled people will do nothing save for waste more public money. When the market place wants competence it goes to the best, most prestigious Colleges and Universities and picks among the highest performing students in the skill areas required. More competent people will go into education when the environment in thee schools becomes more like Google, and the 3M of 20 years ago. Mediocrity breeds contempt and boredom.

Jackie Underferth (5) (8) (0) (7)

Wayne Jennings (9) (9) (8) (8)

Vici Oshiro (5) (5) (5) (5)

For me, this session raises more question than it answers beginning with "What are barriers now?",  "How are these schools to be accountable?, and "If teachers are working so hard, are we limiting ability of staff to both teach and care for their own families?"

Bill Hamm (8) (0) (7) (5)

Question 1:   My only reason for not giving a 10 is that it depends on how. Under control of the Socialist model we have now no, under local independent control yes.

Question 2. Nothing would jeopardize the whole effort quicker than either central control model or teacher unions undermining anything that challenges either of them.

Question 3. Quite possibly, but be careful how you define better qualified. In the 1890's we started out with only a High School Education required to teach school. You were given a two volume teachers guide that covered K-12 and you went to work Then came the one year and two year degrees, after WWII we stepped up to a 4 yr degree. Then in the mid 60's we got the Teachers Union and teachers rights became increasingly more important than the quality of education the children were getting. While this explanation is a bit simplistic it does capture the gist of it. Arguably the best teachers we had were in the late 50's early 60's when the vocabulary levels of students were at their highest. 

Question 4. They are having a hard enough time just bringing their entry level students up to an adequate level to enter college.

While I found Curt's points of view interesting and some I even agreed with, I would still term him an education insider still clinging to the top down model.

Shari Prest (3) (6) (3) (1)

I am extremely skeptical of any initiative proposed by E/E that ultimately benefits E/E. Most of these initiatives once in law are permanent even if they fail to perform as intended. i.e. charter schools, desegregation districts, etc. There are many routes to privatization of education and this appears to be one more. Many assumptions, and references in Mr. Johnson's comments seem to me to be oversimplified or misleading. There is little or no likelihood that this vision can be accomplished without additional investment (detracting from the investment in the schools that are available to all students). Mr. Johnson states there is no real opposition...very presumptuous.

I agree schools need to be freed up and supported to do some responsible risk-taking. They need to be allowed to explore new options and emphasis. Yet everything the government does seems to drive them in the other direction.

Question 1:  Teachers are not educated to govern/manage schools. They have pursued instructional careers. When site based decision making was lauded many sites suffered from a resistance on the part of teachers to play management roles. Teachers have chosen their careers for a reason...because they love to be involved in that aha moment each time a student experiences it. Teachers have very specific training as do administrators. To devalue the distinctions of those skill/training sets is to devalue education itself. I am always amazed that the legislature entertains a variety of ways to remove restrictions and mandates from these alternative school systems but not from school districts themselves. 

Question 2:  Allowed yes, but local school boards should not lose control of the decision as to whether or not the schools are effective enough to continue. The schools should not automatically be given charter status if schools boards remove support. School boards are elected by the people and should be given local decision making authority. 

Question 3:  Perhaps some but again, teachers do not tend to be driven by management prerogatives or responsibilities. I do think teachers would be more likely to enter or stay in teaching if they were less restricted by the state and federal government. 

Question 4:  Teachers can choose this course in graduate work in administration if they so choose. 

Donald H. Anderson (7) (8) (5) (5)

Charles Lutz (8) (8) (8) (9)

Dave Durenberger (10) (5) (10) (10)

Rick Bishop (8) (8) (8) (10)

Donna Anderson (9) (9) (10) (10)

Bill Frenzel (7) (8) (4) (5)

Jan Hively (10) (10) (8) (6)

Fred Senn (10) (10) (10) (10)

Bert Press (0) (0) (0) (5)

Ellen T. Brown (5) (5) (4) (0)

It's not clear to me just what the reasoning is for these teacher-run schools rather than simply more charter schools, unless it is that "teachers would continue to be employees of the district, operate under state tenure laws and would continue to be members of the teachers union." So they are protected in the event of failure of the school, given that they have tenure, and continue their collective bargaining and other union rights. Hmmm, doesn't sound like a truly competitive model and I'm not sure how one can both manage a school and have bargaining representation through a union. I guess I need to know more.

Question 3:  I think the biggest contributor to the decline in the quality of public education is the women's movement, which gave women career opportunities outside of teaching and nursing and secretarial. Yes, one way that private sector jobs are more attractive is they may offer more independence, so teacher governed schools might make a small difference at the margin. But I think it is the overall package, probably starting with salary and respect, that will have to be more competitive with private sector opportunities before these "highly talented individuals" will enter teaching in any significant number.

Question 4:  Seems to me the ed schools are not preparing teachers all that well for just teaching without adding on additional requirements.

Dan Loritz (10) (10) (10) (10)

Carolyn Ring (5) (7) (5) (8)

Question 1:  Whose in Charge? Competition among teachers for primary roles would have to be worked out for accountability.

Question 2: On an experimental basis with excellent criteria for measurement of success.

Question 3: As in any profession you will always have some very good and others not so good.  We have 2 daughters who are teachers and 2 granddaughters who are teachers, all of whom could make much more money in other jobs, but are dedicated to educating children.  They all feel it is the most important profession there is, as you are preparing children for life.  I think especially of my granddaughter who has a physics degree and an education degree.  She could make at least 2-3 times as much money in business and has been offered such.  She is dedicated to teaching high school students in a St. Paul city public school and encouraging them enthusiastically and innovatively to be interested in science. I know so many other teachers that fall in to the same category.  It is discouraging to them to have constant writings and media opinions that we need better teachers.  Many are already there, if given the supplies (which often they buy), parental involvement, smaller classes  and encouragement they need.  Maybe teacher governed schools is the answer, but I am not sure.

Robert J. Brown (8) (10) (8) (10)

Question 1:  There have been too few examples to be sure, but it is worth a try. The first effort I know of in Minnesota to try teacher governed schools was in Hill

City and it was abandoned in a few years because it seemed to be even more bureaucratic and slow to get decisions than I the traditional structure. I think the Henderson model works well, but, as with many innovations, there are questions about the ability to scale up.

Question 3:  I donít know if you would get more talented people, but you would get a different type of person than those who want the current system. Also, a lot would depend on the teacher training programs to make candidates aware of the new model.

Question 4:  Schools of education should prepare student for all possible types of schools.

Terry Stone (5) (5) (5) (5)

Question 1:  Iím not sold.  I have a problem finding the constitutional or moral authority that requires permission from a teacherís union to start a new school. The plan mentions that teachers would ďwork harder than they ever imagined, but do so with greater satisfaction.Ē It was my understanding that avoiding this sort of exploitation was the rationale behind unions. One also needs to question whether or not satisfaction may encounter diminishing returns over the years on the teacherís trip up Maslowís hierarchy of human needs.

Question 2:  One might also want to check with the taxpayers and parents. 

Question 3:  It really depends upon whether or not the robust enthusiasm for satisfaction over money is sustainable in a collective bargaining environment. At this stage, Iím guessing that this variable is unknowable. 

Question 4:  Johnson made it clear that Education|Evolving flitters like a bee; pollinating folks with new exciting ideas so they can be tried and the utility of the ideas, if any, can be determined (with other peopleís money) and shared nationally.

If I were a college education curriculum planner, I would think twice before sending my students into the real world equipped with the education idea du jour.  Of course, Iím getting old and cynical; I could be wrong.


David Broden (9) (10) (7) (8)

Question 1:   The thought and information regarding teacher governed schools is very thoughtful and intriguing--it does clearly offer separation from some of the "you must do" topics. The idea of how financial accountability relates to the school and class room is unclear under this approach. I am sure the Curt and others have addressed this but I have not seen how this will change or be impacted. I am also concerned that teacher governed may remain teacher union or group driven so how do we balance this for community and parent input etc. The basic idea is clearly a change or option that should move ahead with thought of some of the details I have mentioned etc.

Question 2:  Approved by the school board yes--approved also by the teachers  union --not necessarily--the role of the unions vs. the community vs. the teachers seems to be the core of the issue to be resolved. Local option for the teacher governed approach is very appealing but with union approval required thsi may not mean local option so where are we in the process?

Question 3:  I would like to believe that this would occur and many talented individuals would choose a teaching career. To ensure a link to salary increases and opportunities must be clear. A career focused on just a long term job vs. growth and advancement must be part of the plan etc.  

Question 4:  The idea of requiring teachers to understand the business of running a school seems to be a no brainer.  This should be done without the teacher run options.  Clearly some of the issues today are simply let's spend to improve without considering the financial implications etc. This however must be balanced with the need to have in depth curriculum courses in the students/teachers college education so that the current and evolving class room skills are understood and growth. If we add the business management scope to the college years do we need a 5 year plan for teacher education and readiness?

Gary Prest (0) (5) (0) (0)

As a retired teacher, principal, superintendent...I have observed the challenges teachers have with the time demands of teaching, preparing, communicating with parents, evaluating students, staying up-to-date with best practices, peer coaching, etc, etc...when is it that teachers will have the time to develop budgets, administer the same, deal with
operational issues that arise daily, evaluations, phone calls, support staff supervision, personnel issues, setting and enforcing a myriad of policies...I have not heard teachers saying we (I) want to run the school.

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10) (10) (10)

David Dillon (8) (10) (7) (8)

Gene Franchett (0) (0) (0) (0) 



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,  Bill Frenzel,  Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Dan Loritz, Marina Lyon,  Joe Mansky, 
Tim McDonald, 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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