fellow of the Center for Policy Studies, associate with the research
group Education|Evolving, and consultant to Civic Caucus, contends
that the public K-12 school system as currently structured is no
longer financially viable and as a result becomes increasingly
inefficient each year. He proposes structuring incentives for both
lowering the cost and increasing the effectiveness of schools and
argues that public policy should be designed to foster this dynamic.
For the complete
interview summary see:
Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement,
to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed
ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten
responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an
accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.
control an obstacle.
controlled school districts are major obstacles to change in education
because of excessive dedicated funding and other bureaucratic
The culture of
control and regulation in public education leads to rising costs
without improved performance because incentives for productivity are
As long as
districts are controlled centrally, teachers will have neither the
reason nor the opportunity to innovate because they do not compete for
students, nor do they have an incentive to save money since they do
not see or influence the budget.
district schools to compete.
should strengthen a law that was passed in 2009 but has yet to be
used, that enables school districts to establish teacher-led,
site-governed district schools, intended to be as independent as
chartered schools, with authority over budget, staffing, curriculum
5. Change board
should enable school boards to flip their management model from boards
that both run and oversee schools, to boards that oversee schools that
control an obstacle.
district schools to compete.
A. Lundeen (2.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5)
1. Central control
an obstacle. I do not think that bureaucracies are "automatically"
bad. Now that I am older (61), say what you want about my change of
heart, I see value in experience!
Gay (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5)
lacking. The teacher's union has had an unprecedented hand in driving
this in the Minnesota State Legislature.
innovation hindered. They do have some say on the budget, by whom they
support for their School Boards. However, this protects the status quo
and destroys incentives to innovate.
4. Free district
schools to compete. Convert all districts to site-managed. Make the
district sell their services to each school.
5. Change board
function. The site-managed model should allow for a board for each
Angevine (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5)
(Bill) Hamm (0) (0) (0) (0) (0)
1. Central control
an obstacle. While I strongly agree with this statement, your speakers
continue to support and cling to the basic top-down socialist
structure and stand against return to real local citizen control. For
me to vote in agreement is for me to also support that socialist
lacking. Again this statement is cleverly written to support the
socialist control mechanism and stand against the return to the real
local citizen control that once made us an education leader. For me to
show any support for this statement will be interpreted as support for
socialist, top-down system control.
innovation hindered. Again while this sounds like it supports return
to local control and real competition, what it really does is to only
add elements of competition into a socialist structure that is now
void of any competition. These speakers are not supporting real return
to a competitive, locally- (and) citizen-controlled education system;
they are only speaking of a sham that will never return us to the
greatness we once held.
4. Free district
schools to compete. The legislature needs to get … out of education
control and fully turn that control back to the local level. This …
still shows a total lack of trust by education elitists in the people
they supposedly serve.
5. Change board
function. Your guest again totally ignores the history of public
education in Minnesota prior to the failed socialist education reform
movement. Tweaking garbage still leaves us with garbage.
Oliver (7.5) (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5)
Anderson (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (5)
5. Change board
function. How would schools in distressed areas be able to effectively
oversee schools that run themselves?
Jackie Underferth (8) (5) (8) (9) (8)
Prest (0) (0) (0) (0) (0)
should do his homework. His emphasis on charter schools as leaders
and innovators is ludicrous and inaccurate. Check the research on
charter school "productivity." How much time has Mr. McDonald
actually spent engaged in the activity and work of school districts?
Has he been involved in the development and implementation of
innovative and effective instruction and programming in public
schools? Mr. McDonald displays an ignorance of the budgeting
procedures of school districts and the inclusive and transparent
processes that districts employ. This is not surprising as Education
Evolving is a champion of the charter "movement" and despite the
rather mediocre performance of charters as a whole continues to see
charters as the answer to the challenges in education.
The questions 1-5 displayed above demonstrate considerable bias in
Prest (0) (na) (0) (0) (0)
1. Central control
an obstacle. I have worked with many educational organizations and
school districts for many years. In some capacity I have had a
connection with virtually every major educational organization across
the state. Central control is not the obstacle to change and in some
cases is the only conduit for change. I have many examples if
interested. Mandates for bureaucracy from the state and federal
government are obstacles. Parent/community fear of change also
frequently retards a district’s capacity for change. The legislature
and Department of Education make the change process often miserable
and increasingly inflexible.
2. Incentives lacking. I can’t answer this one because there is
certainly a detrimental culture of control and regulation but rarely
one that comes from the central system of school districts. In 22
years of working with or consulting with school districts across the
state, there have only been 3-4 instances where district
centralization has been suspect. Years ago site-based decision making
was incentivized and site councils required. What I took away from
that experiment was that most teachers actually want to teach and not
administrate. Parents want their kids to have similar experiences and
opportunities regardless of which school within a district that
parent’s children attend. Define “productivity”. Does that mean
standardized test scores, which are a painfully incomplete measure?
Does “productivity” mean the number of kids each teacher turns out?
Does it mean the percent of kids that graduate? For a kindergarten
teacher (that) will take 13 years to document. Does it mean how
teachers are able to engage parents or enrich a student’s summer
learning? Does it take into account transience? What is
“productivity?” A great business term, (but) unfortunately education
is not an industry where raw materials meet quality control standards
and a company manages the “product” from beginning to end.
This is an old, trite and indefensibly simple statement about a
complex process and even more complex “product”.
3. Teacher innovation hindered. Teachers’ “reason” must be the love
of teaching and learning. While they expect (to be) and should be more
adequately compensated and valued, it has nothing to do with competing
for students. What would that “competition” look like? According to
naysayers our schools should be far better than they describe them
because “competition” has been with us for the last 20 years. Some
school districts do have incentives to save money at the program,
school, and district level. Check around to find out how common this
is. In most districts teachers do influence the budget. I don’t think
I have ever worked with a district with no way for communities or
teachers to influence the budget, although I have not worked with a
district where they control the budget either. I facilitate groups
within organizations to innovate. My skills are usually engaged by
central administrators or school boards as a means to encourage input
and build consensus around a shared and compelling vision and the
innovations that will make that vision a reality.
I have not witnessed any evidence of the presumptuous statement at the
beginning of number 3.
4. Free district schools to compete. We need far less state
intervention in how to meet expectations and continual improvement and
more informed consensus around what the actual vision and goals are
and what resources are required to accomplish them. This vision and
these goals cannot be political, shifting with committee chairs, or
subject to lobbying done by private dollars to manipulate public
resources. Generally the legislature is driven by a very few
individuals with a personal or political agenda. As one former
long-time Burnsville legislator told me, “I just watch how my party
votes and I vote that way. We can’t possible be informed on all the
issues we make decisions on.” Our educational leaders are informed,
experienced and educated on just those decisions.
Have we learned nothing from the failings of charter schools? When
accounting for socio-economic differences of student populations,
charter schools and private schools overall perform at or below the
level of the regular public schools with the same student make-up.
Additionally, a plethora of legal and fiscal shortcomings have been
realized in the charter system. The state has actually identified a
need for greater oversight and more established sponsorship. Exactly
what is the research base for this suggestion? The countries that are
often elevated for their test scores are more uniform and have greater
parental support and more consistent calendars.
5. Change board function. First, boards do not, nor should they, run
schools. That is not part of their job description or elected role.
Their most important task is to hire the best individual(s) with
appropriate background and preparation to do so.
Second, Why? Would there be no standards? Who would do the actual
“overseeing?” Would we switch from a volunteer/elected model of
community school board members to a volunteer administration or do we
pay for another tier of administration? Instead of economy of scale on
procurements, programs, benefits, etc. would we break down the
structures into mini-districts with insignificant leverage? Who
exactly will take on these overwhelming tasks? Would school calendars
vary so that three children from the same family could have three
different calendars? Would each site contract individually for
transportation and food services? Would they all have different
expectations for outcomes? How would these individual schools ensure
articulation from one level or school to another? How would
risk-taking and innovation be managed or evaluated. Who would say “the
buck stops here?”
Schools do not run themselves but rather the “running” of them is a
time-consuming and intense undertaking.
6. Comment: While I agree the current model is unsustainable
financially because there is insufficient commitment to public
education and flagging parental and community responsibility for kids,
this is a very disappointing and regrettably trendy and naïve entry.
It is convenient for those who are committed to lowering taxes
(although they are at the lowest level as a portion of income than
they have been at since the fifties) to be able to rationalize their
desire to hold on to more of their money for themselves by saying we
can improve educational opportunities by paying less and “innovating”
more. I realize the desire to keep more personal money (especially for
those who have a lot of it) is a reality, so I do encourage innovation
and greater efficiency. Many schools and school districts are trying
new models like more on-line learning, greater consolidation of
services, district-to-district collaboratives, zero-hour classes,
year-round school schedules, greater access to and dependence on
technology, site-based management of resources, sharing of
administrators, multiple districts sharing extra-curricular programs
and resources, consolidation of entities, etc. But change is difficult
for families and communities and staffs, and until we fix our sites as
a society on the correct target—more well educated and better prepared
students-- we will not be able to hit it.
The United States was recently rated 40th among 40 countries in
innovation. That is not because of district-centralized education but
may be because we are a society of people increasingly driven by
short-term indulgence at the expense of long-term investment.
As a society we need to ask ourselves why the current system is
financially unsustainable and if we identify ethical reasons we should
Harrigan (8) (10) (10) (7) (10)
George Pillsbury (5) (5) (5) (8) (10)
Zimmerman (9) (10) (8) (9) (8)
We have several
teachers in our family; most are at the university level, but two are
high school teachers. I agree with most of the underlying philosophies
in the material Tim McDonald submitted. I am worried about one thing,
however. Before we change the way we govern schools, it is in the
community's best interest to discharge the many teachers we have in
the system who are neither conscientious, well educated, nor
innovative. The biggest complaint my teacher friends and relatives
have is not generally with administrations and the constraints they
levy, but teachers who are not very conscientious about what they do.
This should be corrected before the autonomy is granted or the
autonomy may accrue to the wrong group. We should remember that there
are powerful undercurrents resisting change -- perhaps most
extensively among our fellow teachers.
Quie (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Fraser (6) (5) (7) (7) (6)
The new emphasis
on how teachers are trained and supported could lead to substantially
improved student outcomes - the change in controlling the school may
not make as large a difference, but some experimentation could throw
more light on this question.
Brauer (5) (5) (5) (8) (na)
As someone who has
spent the last fifteen years applying system dynamics modeling to
education and other systems, I find this one of the more intriguing
conversations with much to think about. However, it also illustrates
the state of system dynamics as opposed to systems thinking in
Minnesota. “Systems thinking” is a catch-all term that has a variety
of definitions and methodologies. System dynamics, which is used by
most major corporations for planning, insists that systemic
assumptions must be mathematically modeled. Jay Forrester and Peter
Senge, among others, maintain it is impossible to understand the
behavior of large systems without computer modeling. I put a question
mark on the last (survey item), because I don't understand what he
means. Perhaps I am mistaken, but boards already have this authority
now vis-à-vis their oversight of local charter schools. What is
missing from this discussion is the elephant in the room: the growing
resource inequity in Minnesota districts. Until this is dealt with,
ideas like the above will be mere Band-Aids and in fact draw attention
away for the need for school funding reform. What Jonathan Kozol
called educational apartheid is alive and well in Minnesota.
Jennings (10) (9) (10) (10) (7)
from McDonald. Much needed. He’s right about finance. I don’t think
there’s enough money in the world to fix schools as there are.
Principals and teachers are controlled by central offices and
therefore strictly limited in what they can do. Old paradigms of
classrooms, lessons, graded levels, academic achievement, teaching,
standards need rethinking. They and their adherents severely limit
Cox (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
We’ve watched our
school systems grow larger and become decentralized, while at the same
time performing poorer and poorer. It is time to completely redesign
our school delivery system.
Bishop (4) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Robert J. Brown (10) (10) (10) (5) (10)
Rollwagen (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
I couldn't agree
more with Tim McDonald's presentation, conclusions and
recommendations. I rate all five points at 15 (which I suppose is not
too surprising given my association with charter schools).
I was also pleased to see Tim's reference to some movement in the
legislature in this direction in the form of "Education Boards"
monitoring locally run schools. I sincerely hope that gets some
Lutz (9) (7) (8) (9) (9)
Schwarzkopf (8) (8) (8) (7) (9)
In 1992 while
working for the Metro Council I was proposing that we consolidate all
metro school districts into one and that the main office's job was to
keep records, do mass purchasing and negotiate with teachers. Each
school building would be run as a separate organization with the
principal, teachers, and parents in charge of the education within
that building. Students could go to any school within the Metro area
and the public school money followed the student. This was known as a
crazy idea at the time. McDonald's presentation sounds similar to
that old idea.
Bright Dornblaser (10) (8) (4) (10) (8)
Spitznagle (8) (9) (6) (8) (7)
Stone (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
While Mr. McDonald
is polite enough not to spit it right out, the reality is that
Education Minnesota owns DFL education policy. Until this affinity and
financial alliance dissolves or self-destructs, incentives for the
choices needed to foster and serve Minnesota exceptionalism cannot be
Nowicki (2) (4) (0) (0) (5)
4. Free district
schools to compete. Why fix a law that apparently is not wanted?
Question: Has Tim ever taught in a public school classroom?
and Nancy Halstead (10) (9) (8) (10) (9)
Many schools and
districts are far too large. Keep the schools in the neighborhood so
parents and the community are involved. Use the schools as entire
community resources. Have seniors assist in the education and support
of youth (while) seniors use the school receiving a meal, exercise and
community activities and services. Get the community involved with
their neighborhood school facilities and equipment.