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 Response Page - Joe Nathan  Interview - Education Issues   

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Joe Nathan Interview of  12-12-08.


The questions:

A. Charter schools might be subject to considerable debate in the 2009
Legislature. Which of the following most closely represents your view as to the
future of charter schools? Please check one:

1._60.5%____ Expand their role

2. _26.3%____ Don't expand or reduce their role

3._13.1%____ Reduce their role

B. One suggestion is that educators should try to replicate innovative schools
that show significant achievement from their low-income and minority students.
What is your view? Please check one:

1._94.7%____ Agree

2._0.0%____ Disagree

3._5.3%____ No opinion

C. Another suggestion is that schools with significant improvement in student achievement should receive more state aid. What is your view? Please check one:

1. _54.1%____ Agree

2. _24.3%____ Disagree

3. _21.6%____ No opinion

John Nowicki (3) (1) (2)

Donald H. Anderson (2) (1) (1)

Some of the core ideas of Nathan could be implemented in the present system of public education without necessitating specialized approaches. It takes a new thinking process to occur on the part of the present educational system.

John Rollwagen (1) (1) (1)
What a terrific session. Joe is a great resource, and I agree with all that he said. I particularly like the idea of providing additional financial support for schools that objectively perform better.

It's surprising and disappointing to me that there is still so much knee-jerk opposition to the concept of choice, and charter schools in particular. We have to keep in mind and emphasize that no one is trying to throw out the current education infrastructure. We're just trying to make it better with creative innovation that ultimately can be spread widely
throughout the existing system to everyone's benefit.

Fred Senn (1) (1) (1)

Shari Prest (3) (1) (2)

Once again, I appreciate the thorough information presented. While I and most skilled and knowledgeable educators consider most of Mr. Nathan's findings to be common knowledge of best practices, I have to take issue with some of Joe Nathan's approach and findings. Mr. Nathan disregards the value of differing analysis and perspective related to charter schools when he says he is "particularly worried about attacks from many persons in the educational establishment who would like to discontinue charter schools, post-secondary options and school choice." Our publics might be particularly worried about attacks from many persons who would like to promote charter schools and school choice. The research would support the latter perspective to a far greater degree than the former.

The high priority, rules and funding exceptions, and partisan promotion given to charter schools, privatization of education and even school choice should be questioned and vetted for partisan bias. The research absolutely does not show greater average success for charter schools and in fact, even after excluding U of M studies, research clearly demonstrates that student outcome comparisons are either similar to or favorable in regular public schools. National studies have been done and when the study findings were argued by conservative, usually partisan perspectives, the studies were reworked to take into consideration the debated conditions. The findings held up that on average similar students, from similar families with similar socio-economic conditions, and with parents with similar levels of education do as well or better in regular public schools. School choice on its own has shown very little impact except some higher parent satisfaction, a number that is skewed in several ways. Most notably the fact that a high percent (I believe 30-50%) of students enrolled through choice leave the chosen situation within a year. The measurement includes parent satisfaction of those students who remain. If charter, private, etc. schools fare so poorly with the additional incentivizing and without the cumbersome mandates, one must ask themselves why these initiatives should be promoted, often at expense to regular public instruction. One must consider carefully what the motivations for such disregard or redesigning of actual data.

I support Mr. Nathan's notions of more carefully attending to and coordinating education from early childhood through post secondary. In fact educational leadership in the state of Minnesota has taken the lead on this and other crucial and timely issues through such initiatives as the Bridge to Higher Learning, Minnesota's Promise, etc.

I also support Mr. Nathan's suggestion that we know how to close the learning gaps. What we have lacked is the financial, public, and governmental commitment. The educational leadership in Minnesota is among the best in the world. They however need the support, resources, and public and governmental commitment to make more personalized and more future oriented education a reality.

Further, we can no longer depend solely on test scores, especially those standardized tests that fail to measure student progress, at the expense of the critical thinking, communication, and problem solving skills that will be more and more necessary in a world transitioning at unparalleled speed.

Wayne Jennings (1) (1) (3)

Tom Abeles (1) (1) (1)

The bottom line is that current models and funding efforts for education in Minnesota are incremental. They do not look at the fundamental structure of the entrenched system. In other words, it is too much trouble to shake the entire system up so we default to options which are like moving deck chairs on the Titanic. At one time MN took some bold, challenging, risks. Some succeeded and some flopped. But, the entire system is like a giant snow ball heading down the hill. Incremental change is like pebbles along the ball's path; they get absorbed and may make some change but the basic change is to increase the size of the ball itself. Yes, the ball has momentum, created by those who have a strong interest in maintaining the status quo where change is like a different version of Microsoft XP, version 7.x instead of a bold new operating system. The open source/open access movement and the world of social networking tell us that such efforts are rewarded in this emerging environment and closed systems die. MN education is in its death phase only it doesn't want to recognize it.

Bert Press (3) (1) (2)

David Broden (1) (1) (1)

Question A: If the role of charter schools are to expand and I agree that they have unique value added there must be better understanding by the general public of what charter schools are and how they are different from the public school system. One key problem with charter schools is that many people do not understand what they are, how they are operated, what the standards are, who manages, etc.--although I see benefits. Moving ahead with expansion should only happen if the communication and discussion of the purpose and benefit are better communicated and accepted--and here the key word must be accepted by the public not just the charter school advocates.

Question B: Innovation must be the focal point for education of the future. The word "innovation" must be applied to better link the student with all aspects of education--each course--life as a citizen--and preparation for jobs. Only with innovation will the individual student become connected not only to that student interest and capability but to help to student grasp the value of education to the individual so that that individual can
build a path forward.

Question C: I agree with reward for success. However, rewards should not be the only basis for more state aid. The rewards for achievement should be to further enhancements matched to the type of achievement. These increases should not however take away from the need to channel more funds to the schools who miss the standard and need help. The real debate needs to be what is the type and level of funding or other state aid depending on achievement or lack of achievement--both need attention and both need reward--now discuss what the form and value is to each.

Robert A. Freeman (1) (1) (1)

Clarence Shallbetter (1) (1) (3)

Paul Hauge (2) (1) (1)

Fred Zimmerman (1) (1) (1)

State Sen. Sandy Rummel (3) (3) (3)

Question 1: Refine their role - where is the innovation they promised??? How do you
bring to scale the few schools that have succeeded?

Question 2: My hope is that we open innovation to the main stream public education

Question 3: If they are raising student achievement with what they are currently
doing, amidst comparable populations, and in current budgets, let's learn what they are doing and make those strategies available to others.

Austin Chapman (1) (1) (1)

Bill Jungbauer (1) (3) (3)

Bill Hamm (1) (_) (_)

Question 1: Expand their role - It is pathetic to see how long term the attacks upon choice in education by teachers unions have been and how baseless they have been. This is an issue I was happy to hear Joe speak on many years ago and am glad to see him still plugging away at.

Question 2: While I agree in principle, the fundamental difference between Public Schools and Charter School philosophies prevents effective transfer of many principles. Public Schools are now the training centers for the corporate world which makes them product oriented. Charter Schools tend to be overwhelmingly child oriented. Socialism can never compete on equal ground with capitalism, Socialism will always fail or fail to fully implement (especially discipline).

Question 3: Tend to disagree, perhaps a quality pay incentive to replace tenure but absolutely don't give more money as a handout. I do not object to additional moneys for education experimentation or and number of other legitimate reasons. The successful need a good pat on the back they are living within their means, not a pot full of money to distract and divide them. While I strongly support PSOE many of these students are still running into the same need for remedial education that our High School grads are. This is still one of the dirtiest little education secrets out there and I have yet to see any solid evidence it's changing. I no longer hold Joe's support of open enrolment mostly because I see it predominantly being used as a way to gain a student better access to sports not a better education. This counters the stated goals of this program of promoting academic competition between schools and if it fails to do that it truly does nothing.

Yes, I am willing to help Joe again, please include a contact number in your response if you have it.

State Rep. Jim Abeler (2) (1) (2)

Al Quie (1) (1) (3)

Don Swoboda (1) (1) (1)

Sandra Peterson (3) (1) (2)

Question A: I would increase the accountability and oversight for these schools. I like the idea of site managed schools, but would prefer to see them within the school district as an independent charter. That would provide better oversight.

Question B: However, I have not seen very many innovative programs that we would want to replicate. Many of the charters are becoming more segregated by race, religion and ethnicity. I support change that can give us good information about best practices and are held accountable to high standards. Charter schools will need closer monitoring and scrutiny in the future.

Jan Hively (2) (1) (1)
Question 1: There should be a level playing field for parents to make choices based on school climate and program. In North Minneapolis, for example, many parents chose charter schools primarily because they could offer free bus transportation to all students as compared to the public schools which deny bus transportation to students living less than a mile from school.

Outcomes should be defined and performance evaluated against outcomes across private, charter and public schools.

Question 3: But it's important to measure pre-post achievement rather than achievement
against an arbitrary measure of achievement.

Tim McDonald (1) (1) (1)

Chris Brazelton (2) (1) (1)

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to hear from someone so experienced regarding the issues facing education. This was quite informative and I do come away feeling optimistic. I hope that many influential people are listening.

Question 1: Actually, none of the above closely represents my view. I believe we need to continue to allow charter schools to be the small labs to test new ideas, then take those that work and replicate those in other communities with similar issues. The challenge is often that it is the talented individual teachers and administrators that make an experiment work and they are not so easily replicated.

Question 3: This would certainly create the incentive for schools to use the most effective methods to achieve their goals, as long as it does not punish those schools with a higher number of mentally handicapped students.

Robert Klungness (2) (1) (1)

Chuck Slocum (1) (1) (3)

Having been there in the earliest meetings in the mid 1980's when Lew Lehr, Dave Koch and other key business leaders first crafted these strategies with Governor Perpich, I am amazed that the Berman-Weillor report commissioned and updated by the Minnesota Business Partnership is not mentioned. The MBP lobbied for years to bring accountable reforms to the K-12 system.

Cheryal Lee Hills (1) (1) (1)

Robert J. Brown (1) (1) (_)

Question 1: When charter schools began I thought there would need to be just a few in order to create some competition for district schools in order to get them to change their behavior. While this has happened in some cases, I now believe that there needs to be an expansion of charter schools because some districts are totally our of touch with the reality of today and are unwilling to make necessary changes either because of a lack of leadership or a fear of the power of teachers unions. It must be always remembered that the purpose of schools is to serve the needs of the students first, not the needs of the staff first.

Question 3: If there is good data to show which schools are doing best for students (and that data is available to parents) then a complete open enrollment model would allow the people to vote with their feet and go to the schools that are succeeding. If the money follows the students (essentially a voucher system) then the good schools would be rewarded without creating any bureaucratic aid formula that inevitably would be manipulated to the benefit of the politically powerful.

John Cairns
Question 1: None of these really fit. I think there needs to be some quality assessment that is widely if not universally accepted. Sponsors probably have a major role here. MDE does not have the competency or experience to do this --- and probably should not.

As very few if any traditional districts have replicated charter school efforts that work, it is hard to see why the interest in forming new charter schools will not continue. The change in approach by Minneapolis needs to be monitored --- particularly the leasing of North High school to Dunwoody academy. Minneapolis seems to now understand that lease aid for charter schools can inure to the Minneapolis Public Schools benefit.

Question 2: I don't know how to incentivize this as replication is not a function of legal barriers --- it is one of will power and local school board policy.

Question 3: With very rare exceptions, no charter school has operating deficits; and all can fund their programs as they exist. This is not true for traditional districts like Minneapolis which declared a $28 million "deficit" even after the $60 million per year referendum passed. I think the biggest difference in spending for charters is that they budget only cash they have in hand or are reasonably expected to get in the current fiscal year. In contrast, forward commitments in the teacher and other employee contracts are made "on the come" betting that the Legislature will add necessary funds at some future date. In effect, I think traditional districts are "spending" money they do not yet have.

Shirley Heaton (2) (1) (2)
Question 1: Their success needs creditation to prove it is not just a 'flash-in-the-pan' thing.

Question 2: But be certain to check into the training and experience capabilities of the teaching staff.

Question 3: Again it is necessary to determine the true cause of the success in order not to be caught throwing good money after bad.

Ed Dirkswager (1)(1) (2)

Charles Lutz (1) (1) (1)

Larry Haws (2) (1) (3)

Scott Halstead (2) (1) (3)

Carolyn Ring (1) (1) (2)

Question 1: Only after well documented analysis of existing charter schools and "what works and what doesn't.

Question 3: There should be specific criteria for more state aid, including achievement, but not limited to it.

Bright Dornblaser (1) (1) (1)
Ann Berget

I'm afraid I find this summary scattered and unfocused. I am frustrated at the persistent, but narrow, focus on Joe Nathan and his views. While there are some notable exceptions (i.e., Harvest Prep), I have not seen much persuasive evidence that charters are particularly effective. It is not true that if mainstream public schools are not working, then charters must be the answer. It could be that the real problems with contemporary education have not been correctly identified.

Larry and Ann Schluter (_) (1) (1)
Charter schools have been operating without much oversight and as a result have had many problems with their management. Also, if we are not allowing our local districts to have large minority populations, why do we allow some charter schools to have large and in some cases religious populations? If we are making many exceptions in teaching practices in the charter schools and if they are that good, we should be making some of these same exceptions in our mainline schools.

Marianne Curry (2) (1) (2)

Question 1: This should be a year for evaluation and accountability, not in-fighting.

Question 2: However, I believe that sharing the positive models across all districts is the way to go. We need to appeal to an inherent motivation to create better results. School pride, et al. I don't think monetary rewards are necessary.

Question 3: This assertion would set up an unnecessary "we/they" dichotomy politically and could disadvantage some students at the expense of others.

Generally, the Nathan interview challenges a prevalent assumption that integrated schools produce superior results. Notwithstanding the sensitivity of racial issues, if 62% of students of color who transfer to suburban schools drop out within a year and showed no measurable progress in math over white students, then we must question the wisdom of paying all those additional transportation costs and social costs to students who ride the bus for two hours a day. The fact is that students who remain in their neighborhoods with enlightened school cultures respond well with higher test scores and less culture shock.

Gregg Iverson
Make all school private and run by Catholic Church.

Tom Swain (1) (1) (1)
Lyall Schwarzkopf (1) (1) (1)
I have a grandchild in a Mpls. charter school because the public school was not challenging to him.  In the charter 
school he can advance as he is able.  He is one of the 10% white children in the school and he is doing well.  But we 
need to use the techniques that are working well in other schools to help all students.  The teacher's union needs to 
begin to think about the student as well as the teacher.  Seniority is a real problem.

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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