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 Response Page - Orfield  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the 
Myron Orfield  Interview of


Charter schools have often promised innovative solutions to the problems that plague the public school system. Myron Orfield argues that charter schools in the Twin Cities' have aggravated racial segregation, while failing to deliver academic improvements for students. Orfield provides several proposals reducing this segregation and enhancing the quality of education received by students in Twin Cities' public schools.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Myron Orfield. Average response 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.

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful. (5.0 average response) Twin Cities’ charter schools are failing to improve academic outcomes, while driving increased school segregation.

2. Charters must obey civil rights laws. (6.9 average response) Charter schools should be required to comply with the same civil rights laws as districted public schools.

3. Close poorly performing charters. (4.8 average response) Any charter school that underperforms its districted public school peers for more than two years should be closed.

4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. (4.6 average response) Minnesota could do a better job of educating students in Twin Cities’ area (particularly in the core cities) at lower cost

by integrating Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools with those of suburban communities.

5. Don't impose new restrictions. (5.6 average response) Charter schools are public schools operating separately from traditional public school districts. They are free to innovate to a degree not possible in traditional district schools and may introduce valuable educational advances. Don't impose new restrictions on them despite some unanticipated negative results.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful.







2. Charters must obey civil rights laws.







3. Close poorly performing charters.







4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools.







5. Don't impose new restrictions.







Individual Responses:

Dave Broden  (7.5)  (10)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (10)

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful. Myron made a case that this is evolving--while not the intent it may be the result in some instances and requires a rigorous evaluation and guideline adjustment to ensure realistic integration.

2. Charters must obey civil rights laws. Only common sense

3. Close poorly performing charters. “Underperforms” is very vague term and while bad schools need to assessed and likely closed, the factors for underperformance must be addressed. Determine the cause and whether improvement can be made prior to jumping to a conclusion.

4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. Myron did make a case to consider this approach --further study is required.

5. Don't impose new restrictions. Innovation must be encouraged and enabled.

Ray Ayotte  (5)  (7.5)  (5)  (5)  (10)

Scott Haltead  (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)

5. Don't impose new restrictions. In my limited experience, students attending charter schools generally have had lower test scores than public schools.  There also has been poor financial management at a number of charter schools. We need to consider other alternatives.

K. Gogins  (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (0)  (2.5)

Karen Seashore  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (5)

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful. This is a two-part question, which is always problematic in survey research.  I don't think that the data on "failure" is very robust, given the weak measures that are being used to assess "success."  Self-segregation because the public schools are not providing parents with the school climate that they want suggests that the problem doesn't lie with charters, but with the public schools.

2. Charters must obey civil rights laws. Charter schools are public schools.  However, they were intended to offer alternatives.  To the degree that they are constrained by any one set of regulations that I agree with (civil rights), we close other doors for experimentation and meeting the needs of groups that feel that they are not well served.

3. Close poorly performing charters. Two years is too short a time line.  Research on school improvement suggests that between 3-5 years is needed for a new organization to hit its stride.  There should, however, be a more robust inspection system that could pinpoint schools (of any kind) that are not providing places that are conducive to growth and productivity for both the students, adults, and community members supporting them.  Inspection works in other countries, and is an important supplement to the one or two numbers that come from (weak) tests of student knowledge in a limited number of areas.

4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. Not sure why this would be sufficiently more robust a strategy for desegregation than open enrollment.  The case is not well made.

5. Don't impose new restrictions. There does need to be more careful oversight.  There also needs to be publicly funded sources of support to help schools achieve their maximum effectiveness with students.

Chris Brazelton  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

5. Don't impose new restrictions. We must be careful not to lose a generation of children to the experiment.  Appropriate measurements and standards must be applied in order to continue to get public funding.

John Cairns  (0)  (0)  (0)  (5)  (0)

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful. Myron completely overlooks and disavows parental

choice. He prefers that choice be eliminated and instead return to the "forced placement" of students based on racial integration alone. I see very little in his work that considers using student outcomes as a premise for managing public schools. His data on performance is questionable at best. His comment that he supports the "concept of charter schools" is gratuitous at best. I have never heard Myron acknowledge one of the major flaws of Brown (or Plessy v Ferguson), which is the absence of any consideration of the quality of the education being a core component of integration. The educational outcomes are impacted by who is sitting next to whom (which seems to be Myron's singular factor in whether or not school systems work), but more so by the failure of the traditional system to change the way education is delivered. Charters are certainly not perfect, but offer much more promise for improved outcomes than the stagnated traditional school districts/schools. Moreover, charters allow public policy makers to discern (if they want to and too few do) the impact of policy decisions on what happens in schools and to student outcomes. What happens to "districts" is apparently worthy of attention --- but school boards and policy makers are every bit as responsible for poor student outcomes and hardly ever are held accountable. There is much to learn from this very simple concept: one can be held accountable only if that person (governor, legislator, school board member, administrator, teacher) has authority to make necessary changes. Most importantly, the teacher has to have authority and then be held accountable.

2. Charters must obey civil rights laws. Parental choice trumps other laws. Myron has never favored this.

3. Close poorly performing charters. Nothing is "automatic" in public schooling. I do agree that charter schools that consistently underperform need to be considered for closing as one option.  Merger is another. New management is another.  The burden now and properly falls on the authorizer, not MDE, to deal with these issues. Even Myron … seemed mildly in favor of complete restructuring (of) traditional district schools when outcomes are persistently weak.

4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. Any strategy that results in students and parents from differing backgrounds and experience should be considered.  Choice needs to be a part of any such strategy.

5. Don't impose new restrictions. MDE is over-regulating now --- but indirectly.  Many of the MDE goals of regulating charter schools have been rejected at the legislature.  But MDE goes forward anyway by requiring authorizers to add to their oversight whatever MDE considers appropriate --- and for that there is only one measure: whatever traditional school districts must do, so must charters. These burdens are never tested to understand whether or not student outcomes are improved --- which has been and continues to be one of the biggest flaws in regulating traditional school districts.

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (5)

David Alley  (0)  (5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (10)

Peter Hennessey  (5)  (5)  (5)  (0)  (7.5)

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful. I have no idea how MN is implementing charter schools.  In San Francisco, the quality varies hugely. One in particular was so over the top with leftist ideology that it made the regular public school look conservative.  Notice who is proposing single race schools -- the school district. Are you telling us that the MN power elite is racist? Segregation by race is idiotic in anybody's book, or at least should be. On every psychometric scale people score on the statistical normal distribution curve, a.k.a. the bell curve. Individuals vary hugely in terms of intelligence, motivation, socioeconomic class, taste, manners, morals, etc. It makes more sense to "segregate" students by actual performance than anything else, so the lower performing students won't hold back the faster learners. But people whose egalitarian pretensions are offended by this idea seem to be finding comfort in racism. Places such as Detroit and Cleveland (and East Los Angeles, Compton, Watts, etc.) are failing not because of segregation motivated by racism but because of the monumental incompetence and stubborn misguided ideological rigidity of their political class, whatever race they happen to be. You can't punish families for fleeing, having fled or wanting to flee from such hell holes, by tossing their kids into regional school district more interested in busing than in educating them, or by forcing subsidized housing on them. Both are misguided notions pushed by an ignorant or racist elite. Both are just two more ways of destroying formerly functional neighborhoods. The political leadership must take into account exactly who -- what kind of people, in terms of their attitude toward law, morality and common decency -- they are trying to add to the mix. Better yet, these leaders must respect the Constitution and let people choose where they do or do not want to live and send their kids to school.

2. Charters must obey civil rights laws. What do you mean? The very notion sounds like malicious, politically motivated slander. Charter schools ARE public schools and therefore by definition must obey all laws.

3. Close poorly performing charters. Underperforms in whose judgment, by what measure? What parent would be stupid enough to send their kids to failing schools, if they have a choice?

4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. In the America that gave me my citizenship, we used to have freedom of association and freedom of movement. If I as a parent choose to move out of a rotten city to a better life in the suburbs, the last thing I want is to throw my kids back into the sewer. Or put them on a bus for an hour or two one way, just so some …politician can brag about "eliminating discrimination."

5. Don't impose new restrictions. The point of charter schools is to free education from the establishment's politicized and unionized bureaucracy. If there are "unanticipated negative results," it is precisely this freedom from unreasoned constraint that will let parents and teachers find the appropriate remedy.

Bob Mairs  (7.5)  (5)  (5)  (2.5)  (7.5)

2. Charters must obey civil rights laws. Can you force schools to admit on the basis of race, ethnicity and in what proportion?

3. Close poorly performing charters. What if students come in at a broad educational disadvantage? How about comparative performance for a class progressing in the school vs. district averages.?

4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. Sounds like scatter-shot approach, uprooting students and dealing them out for racial ethnic mix for its own sake. And what about transportation, after school programs, etc.?

5. Don't impose new restrictions. Performance counts

Anonymous   (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)

Anonymous   (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)

Vici Oshiro  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)

5. Don't impose new restrictions. No independent knowledge; believe Orfield.  Don't live in Minneapolis or St. Paul.  Believe solution lies in working more with public school staff and increasing resources as necessary.  Some of the money we save by using robots in some industries needs to go to those parts of our society/economy where human contact is essential.

Anonymous   (0)  (2.5)  (0)  (0)  (10)

3. Close poorly performing charters. Only if the same is true of traditional schools that underperform as well.

Wayne Jennings  (2)  (10)  (5)  (5)  (5)

Question 5 contains three different questions that I would answer differently. Orfield has been and continues to give statements not grounded in fact and to comment with simple answers to complex issues. For example, about closing charter schools based on test scores, he neglects a host of other factors. I don’t think his ideas are well thought out.

Robert J. Brown  (0)  (na)  (5)  (na)  (10)

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful. Charter schools are creating choice for poor parents, which in many cases are creating predominantly minority schools that the parents see as meeting the needs of their children.

2. Charters must obey civil rights laws. It is unclear what he means by this - what specific civil rights laws is he referring to?

3. Close poorly performing charters. A new school may take more than 2 years to compensate for the poor education the kids have received in their previous schools. But underperforming schools should be closed whether they are charter schools or district schools - the same standard should be applied to all publicly funded schools.

4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. There are many options available to kids to get better education of they and their families desire it - open enrollment, magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, home schooling, and distance learning schools. Where the system may be failing is not working hard enough to see that all parents have the option to make informed choices about what would be the best school for their children.

5. Don't impose new restrictions. (Chartered schools) are free to innovate to a degree not possible in traditional district schools and may introduce valuable educational advances. Don't impose new restrictions on them despite some unanticipated negative results. Unlike district schools, charter schools can and should be closed for poor performance academically or financially.

Tom Spitznagle  (3)  (5)  (1)  (3)  (9)

Schools of any kind should have as a primary mission the educational achievement of their students in a manner that satisfies their customers (i.e. – parents and their children).  Customers should be free to select a learning environment that meets their interests, educational or otherwise.  If the government forces all schools to expend limited resources on other priorities then there will be fewer resources available for education.  Despite the vast amount of resources that we devote to public school education, it is reported that we are falling way behind in international measures of educational achievement.  Something is obviously not working.

Tim McDonald  (5)  (0)  (0)  (5)  (5)

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful. The term "segregation" needs to be further defined -- between de jure segregation -- segregation caused directly by another -- and de facto, or segregation that arises as a result of student and family choice. They have different origins and would need different types of responses. The term "segregation" in isolation, and as used in this talk, implies the former -- forced segregation. I challenge Mr. Orfield to bring greater clarity to his use of this term. It would help clarify the debate that follows.

2. Charters must obey civil rights laws. Laws designed to govern one type of system should not be applied to a different type of system uncritically. Would we say "small businesses or sole proprietors should comply with the same laws as corporations with more than 1,000 employees"? Constitutional rights should be protected in both.
3. Close poorly performing charters. If a system driven by student choices is operating effectively, than a chronically failing school would have difficulty attracting students because they would be fully aware of how bad the school is and that there are better alternatives readily available. I would view it differently: The fact that bad schools stay open means that the choice-based system is not yet operating effectively. For example in this instance there is little to no quality, useable information on schools -- so the choice-based system won't operate effectively. Orfield's argument breaks down at his assumption that the districted and chartered sectors can and should be governed by the same processes. The solution posed here (to close a school that's poorly performing) seeks to apply the method of thinking about regulating one system (district bureau) to a different system (open, choice-based). Chartered schools should close because of a lack of students choosing to go there. That's the question -- how to make that happen.
4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. This is probably a red herring.
5. Don't impose new restrictions. (Chartered schools) are free to innovate to a degree not possible in traditional district schools and may introduce valuable educational advances. Don't impose new restrictions on them despite some unanticipated negative results. The challenge with the chartered sector appears to be less about adding new restrictions or removing more restrictions than getting a savvy regulatory process set up -- a process that can regulate a system tuned to innovation. It strikes me as reasonable that we'd have an innovation sector run along side a "traditional" or "conventional" sector. It also seems reasonable that the method for regulating them would be quite different. The question of how they are regulated then is probably more critical right now than how much they are regulated.

Chuck Lutz  (7)  (9)  (7)  (9)  (3)

John Adams  (4)  (5)  (2)  (4)  (8)

I worked with Myron for several years.  I do not share (or approve of) his obsession over segregation based on race or ethnicity, which seems to me to be a misplaced emphasis on skin color rather than on the individual kids and their individual needs. I agree Martin Luther King's admonition that we should pay attention to the individual person rather than to the color of their skin.  His ideology leads him to use evidence selectively.  I wish he would focus on how to improve the family lives of kids in challenging domestic circumstances.  Too many kids who underperform in school come from deficient/destructive/disorganized households.  That's where the trouble begins.  And this trouble is not confined to kids classified as "minority".

U of M researchers find (a) link between instability at home and low levels of academic achievement. In a longitudinal study conducted through a partnership of the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Public Schools, researchers found that students who experienced homelessness or high mobility had chronically low levels of reading and math achievement compared to their peers – gaps that either stayed the same or worsened as students approached high school.

U.S. News & World Report

Star Tribune

Pioneer Press


Minnesota Daily

Health Canal

John Milton  (10)  (10)  (10)  (9)  (3)

I consider the charter school movement just this side of "home-schooling" in mental imbalance. It detracts from what should be our goal: investing more money in our K-12 public schools, so that we can prepare our future generations for the global competition that we are currently losing. John Watson Milton, former State Senator

Al Quie  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (9)

As a strong supporter of all types of integration in the 1960's, here is my present thinking. Use subsidized housing to bring about integration. Be transparent about student progress so parents will make the choice. Do not require new innovation in Charter schools, only student academic progress. Integration problems in the south are not the same as here in the north. Hauling non-white students to the suburbs has not solved our student achievement gap problems all these years. Top down control has not solved achievement gap problems ---- parents and competent teachers working together have reached great success. Let’s do what has worked in the north, not go back to a failed idea that has been tried for 45 years as educational results have declined.

Tim Hall  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

I graduated from Wayzata. There were no books on how to give a speech, write a paper, how to study for a test. The instructions to learn Spanish in the book were written in Spanish. We could send every student from North Minneapolis to Wayzata, and it wouldn't make a difference. It is the parents teaching the children. We need computers in the first grade to give every child an equal chance at learning. I am for diversity, but the biggest thing is to give every child an equal chance at learning with computers. No computers, no state funding unless the school’s religion is against them such as the Amish. I am not even sure where they stand on computers. I have seen Amish things for sale on line.

Rosetta stone also teaches English

Khan academy teaches math

eyeq teaches speed reading

Roger A. Wacek  (0)  (5)  (0)  (5)  (10)

Kevin Edberg  (9)  (10)  (8)  (7)  (3)

The interview touched on "regulation", and those comments are accurate.  The great Achilles heel in charter schools is the absence of responsive and responsible governance:  too much insider dealing, lack of financial oversight, etc.  I'm not opposed to the concept of charter schools, but I am opposed to how charter schools are governed, and how the state exercises (e.g. fails to exercise) oversight.

R. C. Angevine (5) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5)

5. Don't impose new restrictions. While I generally agree with the statement I also believe that there should be a "level playing field" and that charters should have to obey the same set of laws that apply to public schools.

Bert LeMunyon (5) (10) (2.5) (5) (10)

1. Charters' outcomes unsuccessful, harmful. If the home environment is not conducive to learning, it matters not whether the kids go to public or charter schools.

3. Close poorly performing charters. Only if the reverse is also required i.e., close underperforming public schools as well.

4. Integrate Twin City and suburban schools. This is detrimental to parent participation when the school is many miles from the students' home.

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, Charles Clay,  Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and  Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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