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 Response Page - Richard Oscarson / Fred Storti Interview -  Education   

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Richard Oscarson / Fred Storti Interview of 10/03/08.

The Questions:

1. _5.4 average___
On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, do uniform standards for education conflict with customized approaches for individual students?

2. _6.0 average___
On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, should the state have fewer, larger, school district administrative units overseeing the public schools?

3. _7.4 average___
On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, should the state begin investing relatively more on children in pre-school and elementary grades versus high school?

Ann Berget (2) (5) (2)

A more interesting topic for these same commentators might be "Why do children fail?"
They know a lot about it and I'd be willing to bet that "administrative structure" is not a leading reason.

Question 1: There could be some conflict, but IMO, too much emphasis is placed on individualization and not enough emphasis is placed on student effort. Also, no mention is made of assessment of incoming (K-level) students to learn what their level of preparedness is when they arrive at the schoolhouse door. Not all deficiencies are caused by or can be cured by the teacher.

Question 2: Too much attention is paid to this aspect of public education. It is the proverbial "deck chairs on the Titanic" solution.

Question 3: This "solution" can lead to the exodus of high-achieving students at grade "break-points", i.e. middle school, high school. They are also entitled to a full share of instructional attention. It can also have the effect of weakening the attachment of middle class households to their communities if they think that their "successful" children are shortchanged. They can and do move to obtain opportunities for their kids.

Patti Hague (8) (5) (7)

Glenn S. Dorfman (0) (5) (10)

Question 1: Of course not. If the standard (outcome/objective) is that every student learn to manipulate fractions and understand their function in daily life, the way (the pedagogy that we use) to teach different students to achieve the goal is a totally different matter.

Question 2: Only if they are cheaper and more efficient than the current system.

Question 3: And at the same time, foster parental involvement in
the cognitive development of children in the same way that sports is fostered (actually, if this costs more money, we could take the money from sports programs and apply it to the cognitive/social/emotional development of our collective future. That is, we could put our money where our priorities are.....

Clarence Shallbetter (8) (7) (8)

Vici Oshiro (1) (3) (10)

Bright Dornblaser (8) (!0) (10)

Carolyn Ring (8) (10) (10)

Fewer school districts should cut down on administrative costs, while giving the opportunity for an increase in curriculum choices, especially at the secondary level.

Robert Klungness (5) (4) (6)

Connie Morrison (3) (5) (0)

Question 2: Perhaps in some cases. _

Question 3: Throwing money at a problem has never seemed to solve classroom need problems. It depends how money is spent. Perhaps investing in a Master Teacher program for High School while reducing classroom ratios in the lower grades would be a worthy goal.

Wayne Jennings (8) (4) (8)
Question 1 Question not clear. I'm agreeing with uniform standards do conflict.

David Broden (8) (6) (7)
Question 1: The focus of education seems to be on measurement and metrics rather than the purpose and intent of learning. Standards are good to step benchmarks or guidelines but when they become dominate like it appears they have and replace the focus on learning with simple special tests and there is considerable cost and time associated with the standards vs. addressing what is important the value of education is diminished not strengthened. Standards should be considered to set the playing field but not to be constantly measured and then put a number of the individual or a group rather than simply spending more time and dollars on the education of the individual.

Question 2: This has been an argument for over 50 years and really has perhaps done more harm than good. Yes there is good reason for some management consolidation--but the same can be done by sharing some of the management staff and keeping local control. Innovation in the management of schools is just as important as how we use innovation in the teaching classroom. I concur that some districts need greater teaching resources-which can be shared across districts or across schools--larger districts or management teams is not the only way to bring expanded classroom capability to an school. Some innovative techniques should be explored to share resources of staff (teachers and management). Only when these alternatives fail should be we ready to say make the district larger. Getting specialty education to the small rural districts can be done today with web based classes--shared teachers etc--just because a district has a few students or is a bit remote should not remove the ability for that district to have access to that resource. Please recall that up to the late 50's Minnesota had about 5 high schools for farmer children to attend a special program from October to March--Morris--Crookston--Luverne --Wascea--and I think Worthington--this model worked well for that day--now we can do the same with internet etc. while maintaining local management if we do it smartly.

Question 3: The correct answer to this one is that we need the increased individual attention at the pre-school and elementary so that problems at the high school level are minimized. We should not diminish high school funding but rather improve or bias the the others.

Robert J. Brown (0) (2) (8)
Question 1: It is important to distinguish between standard and methods of achieving them. In our global economy we must have relatively high uniform standards for our students so they can succeed in their occupations and in their roles as citizens, but you can accomplish those standards in a variety of ways. This is analogous to someone saying that you must get from point A to point B in your car, but you can decide how you would get there - the fastest route, the safest route, the most scenic route, etc. Too many educators get locked into ideologies that preclude allowing for different approaches to achieve our educational ends.

Question 2: Over the years the state has used both the carrot and the stick to reduce the number of school districts. This has led to reduction in number of district from over 8000 (yes, that is eight thousand) in 1947 to the 300+ that we have today. We also have voluntary intermediate units that provide some service that individual small district cannot efficiently provide for themselves. Reducing the number of districts was always sold as providing more efficient and more effective education which led people to believe that cost would go down because of economies of scale. I have yet to see a consolidation where the costs went down, they always went up. Some of the increases were for more services, but others appeared to be just for more bureaucracy. Also, as districts get larger the individual citizen feels they donít have the relationship with the schools that they had in smaller units. One approach that would help, regardless of the size of the district, is to truly decentralize, allowing the decisions at the building level on how to spend the educational dollars. The most important thing is for the individuals (teachers, parents, other citizens of the community) to have a unit small enough and responsive enough that people feel they are respected and have a fair say in the local educational system. The charter school movement has grown far beyond what I anticipated in large part because of the desire of parents to have their kids in a system where both parent and child feel they are recognized as individuals and not just as numbers in large bureaucratic machine.

Question 3: Our school aid formulas were set up in 1947 based on past spending practices Ė that led to a secondary student counting for 1.5 times as much as an elementary student. The Legislature gradually reduced that ratio over the years, but each change was fought by districts that would see relatively less money (even though they didnít deserve the amount they were getting.)
At a minimum there should be at least as much money spent on an elementary child as a secondary student and we should probably spend more on the younger kids to prevent the need for remediation as the child gets older.
Peter Heegaard (3) (7) (9)
Alan Miller (8) (5) (10)
Dan Loritz (2) (8) (9)
Al Quie (10) (0) (10)
Chris Brazelton (2) (5) (8)

Question 1: I believe we can have fairly uniform standards for what we expect students to be able do without necessarily having a one-size-fits-all approach for getting there.

Question 2: I like the idea for achieving economies in reducing administrative costs in salaries, however there would be significant challenges in loss of local control.

Question 3: If children are not inspired and motivated at an early age, no amount of resources at the "drop out" ages will matter.

State Sen. Sandy Rummel (8) (7) (6)
Question 1:We need to get over the idea that kids are widgets and that education is a horse race. When we finally decide that raising children to be productive participants in the social and economic life of our society is the responsibility of all of us, and that it goes well beyond book learning to include the physical, mental and emotional health of children and their families, we will be well on our way to a high functioning, prosperous

Question 2: Geography matters.

Question 3: We need both. Pre-school and early childhood investment promises large returns, but unless that investment continues throughout schooling, the returns are likely to diminish. A recent report "Dropouts, Diplomas, and Dollars" ( suggests that if we graduated 5% more males from high school the return to Minnesota would be $77 million EVERY YEAR. Think what we would save if we graduated all our students! We could put those dollars back into the classroom.

Donald H. Anderson (8) (7) (5)
Not being an educator and but observing it through a daughter who is a teacher and grandchildren in school, my observation is education is doing a difficult job in today's society without the resources totally needed - perhaps there is to much federal interference in setting standards that are not in tune with the needs of the local society makeup. One shoe doesn't fit all.

Jan Hively (4) (5) (7)
Question 1: Standards are good... The question is how you measure performance. For example, the Profile of Learning collected varied data, much of it compiled by the students themselves, whereas "Leave No Child Behind" depends on high stakes written tests. Huge difference!

Question 2: It doesn't matter. It depends on what the educational philosophy and policies are. We need leaders who will insist on teaching that fits the research on how, when and where students learn.

Question 3: The two principals basically described facts. Not much there in relation to policies for educational change. Except the 12-month school.

Connie Cameron (7) (9) (8)

Question 1: ďUniform standardsĒ is an ambiguous term. If you consider the word uniform in the context of clothing, itís clear that one size does not fit all. Itís also the case that the uniform is redesigned for unique body shapes. Education must have high standards for every individual Ė student, teacher, administrator, parent.

As a teacher and parent, I believe itís time for educators and parents to teach students how to set high standards for themselves. Imagine the tone that would be set by an expectation that the first day of each quarter or trimester was focused on students wrestling with standards, sampling new concepts to whet their appetite, setting the bar higher than their last success.

Question 2: The larger administrative district model can better offer courses taught by the best trained teachers. It is unfair to children to have marginally qualified personnel. A larger district model makes mentoring and peer coaching more likely to occur. The more diverse the student body, the more important that the administrative district has long arms to embrace all students.

Question 3: As a high school teacher, I firmly believe that almost every academic problem I have faced with students could have been addressed very early. I have come to believe that every learner of every age is most profoundly deterred or advanced by how they see themselves as learners. Imagine encouraging three and four year olds to be confident in their learning talent, giving them an opportunity to be good at something at an early age, and boosting that talent with exposure to fresh information and appropriately challenging thresholds.

This failure to believe in oneself can be turned around. Itís much easier if the person can recall a time as a young child when they were happy and confident.

Tim McDonald (10) (5) (5)
Question 2: Depends, I think, on the purpose: if these over-archical organizations are assuming managerial/administrative tasks to free up localities, that is helpful. But it should be toward the end of larger degrees of site-control.

Question 3: Secondary school it seems is facing a design problem more-so than a funding one. Early childhood deserves a pilot program, at least.

Robert A. Freeman (3) (8) (7)
Question 1: I would be supportive of federal standards as long as they allow sufficient leeway for schools to tailor them to their own regions/cultures. E.g. history and geography might differ but math and English are the same across the country.

Question 2: Absolutely - if education is under funded it makes sense to reduce costs with some economies of scale.

Question 3: Yes but this should be means-tested, the research shows this has the most impact for the most needy children. Also the point about whether this should be done by social workers or teachers is a good one - I believe that the programs showing the best results look a lot more like social workers working with the parent(s) than teachers working with children. High schools need a complete overhaul as they are failing to prepare students for the marketplace.

Charles Lutz (5) (9) (8)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (6) (9) (7)
When I was with the Metro Council I proposed that we eliminate all school districts in the Metro Area and have only one district which was would handle some of the administrative duties that school districts do today. Each school within the Metro Area would operate similar to a chartered school. The Principal, teachers, and parents would run the school and we don't need schools boards any longer. Each school would be able to hire its own teachers, but all grades for the students would be kept in the one school administration office. Well it was an idea that went nowhere.



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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