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 Response Page - Thompson  Interview -      

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


Mark Thompson asserts three major problems in American education are (1) mediocre U.S. academic rankings against other countries, (2) the lack of consistent, rigorous educational standards state-to-state and nationwide, and (3) U.S. students graduating from high school without the skills and knowledge they need to be successful. He stresses that nationally uniform, rigorous Common Core State Standards and new, next-generation student assessments will ensure that students learn the academic and 21st century skills they need to be successful in postsecondary education and the workforce.

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 Mark Thompson. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Non-uniformity a serious problem. (56 average response) The fact that standards for student learning are inconsistent and vary in rigor from state to state contributes to the problem of poor academic results in the United States.

2. Common standard is needed. (5.0 average response) Instead of relying on individual states to set academic standards and measure results, the U.S. should have a common national K-12 education standard against which all students are measured using a consistent methodology. This will ensure that students will graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.

3. Federally funded effort will succeed. (5.2average response) The federally funded effort involving 46 state governors, their education commissioners and educational testing professionals will produce a credible and widely acceptable common core education standard and performance measurement system.

4. Minnesota can do better. (5.8 average response) Minnesota, which has chosen not to participate in the new partnership, can do a better job on its own.

5. National standards, but local methodology. (5.2 average response) If common core standards are adopted, they should be devised so that what is taught would be determined nationally, while how it is taught would continue to be determined at the state and local level.

6. Significant funding required. (6.1average response) Implementing common core standards and measurement in local schools throughout the nation will not be possible unless significant tax dollars are invested in computer hardware and software.

7. National standards not needed. (4.9 average response) A uniform national effort on academic standards and performance measurement is not needed. Individual states should continue to control education standards and performance measurement.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Non-uniformity a serious problem.







2. Common standard is needed.







3. Federally funded effort will succeed.







4. Minnesota can do better.







5. National standards, but local methodology.







6. Significant funding required.







7. National standards not needed.







Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (5) (2.5) (2.5) (7.5)

1. Non-uniformity a serious problem. We need to address the lack of desire on the part of many students to strive for the best education, especially white males.

2. Common standard is needed. I don't think it will ensure anything, but will expose students to the same skills and knowledge.

Dave Broden (5) (5) (5) (10) (5) (7.5) (5)

1. Non-uniformity a serious problem. Simple response: which is more important-- the quality and style of education or measurement and standards? Chicken and egg. I go for quality, competency, and style.

2. Common standard is needed. Again see above--measurement takes away innovation and may in fact lower quality in the better states and schools.

3. Federally funded effort will succeed. Same as the two answers above.

4. Minnesota can do better. Minnesota seeks to have quality and above average education. Some standards and measurement are valid and appropriate but put the money and focus on content, approach, quality, and style and it will win over more and more measurement. Metrics are good but very difficult to generalize across many locations. When done, what will the data mean and how does data make education better?

5. National standards, but local methodology. Some national course standard may be appropriate while we must recognize that regional differences are present in many disciplines. To do core standards at the national level is perhaps a bit of overreach that is not needed for all states or regions.

6. Significant funding required. This brings up the question, do core standards and measurement improve education or do better teachers and new teaching methods improve education? Then decide where to spend the funds.

7. National standards not needed. I am open-minded but lean to minimize federal involvement unless the state is shown to not be reasonable.

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (10) (7.5) (5) (10) (7.5) (0)

Chris Brazelton (10) (10) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (0)

2. Common standard is needed. While we have fought for local control, many students do not stay within one school district or state throughout the K-12 experience in this highly mobile society. We also don't want to encourage families to move and overburden successful school districts. The goal is for all school districts to be successful.

3. Federally funded effort will succeed. It sure has a great chance to work with such a dedicated group of proponents and partners.

4. Minnesota can do better. Higher standards are wonderful. However, going it alone and inventing our own system statewide may cause us to miss out on some innovations that are affordable based on economy of scale.

5. National standards, but local methodology. Local control allows for innovation and experiments that could lead to improvement.

7. National standards not needed. One has only to look at the wide disparity in test scores and proficiencies to see that our current system is not working.

Aaron Grimm (0) (0) (0) (5) (0) (5) (10)

1. Non-uniformity a serious problem. I would argue the opposite. The supposed rigorous (standards), all hyperbole, have narrowed curriculum to a point that both teachers and students are disgusted. Pearson wants national standards to grow their bottom line, not to help kids of need.

2. Common standard is needed. The skills that the current national curriculum is promoting will not help America develop new jobs or innovations in the workplace. They are designed for a factory type/corporate mentality and involve little, if any critical thinking.

4. Minnesota can do better. Minnesota is working to provide more longitudinal growth models, which is a step in the right direction. Curriculum is still too narrow and provides little motivation for the learner to be excited about learning.

Ralph Brauer (2.5) (0) (0) (10) (2.5) (2.5) (10)

1. Non-uniformity a serious problem. This makes no logical sense. These are two separate facts, sets of data. The respondent brings no evidence that the two have any correlation, let alone any evidence of causation. I wake up the morning. The sun comes up in the morning. Is the sun the direct cause of my awakening?

2. Common standard is needed. In a rapidly changing world this locks us into a curriculum that needs to be flexible, not rigid. It is a standard rule of system behavior that the more you restrict a system's diversity, the more you restrict its ability to respond to change.

3. Federally funded effort will succeed. Two thirds of this group are political animals and the other are for-profit vendors. Do we really want politicians and companies who stand to gain by what is decided shaping the future of our country? There is not a teacher or a school administrator or an education researcher in this list. This is very scary.

4. Minnesota can do better. Yes, we can because we have a strong history of involving educators, parents and students in deciding our educational future. We also have a strong tradition of local control in which each community decides what is right for its students, not the governor of Colorado.

5. National standards, but local methodology. What is taught should never be determined nationally any more than what is preached in our churches or published in our newspapers. The locally controlled public education system is one of the backbones of this country. The role of the federal government is to maintain a level playing field--that is to insure no student is short changed by the color of their skin, their native language, their income or where they live. Data show schools with the least resources also tend to have the lowest performance. We need to equalize those resources not turn our education system over to the likes of Pearson.

6. Significant funding required. Surprise, surprise. What does Pearson sell? Computer-based measurement tools--for a profit--and an excessive one at that. I have nothing against the profit motive, but health care and education should not be for sale. Pearson is currently one of the biggest problems in American education. I am surprised this conversation did not touch on the role of for-profit vendors in public education, especially in shaping policies that might give them a monopoly. The other dimension of this is that mandates to use certain vendor products have increased the cost of education substantially. If you wonder why your school taxes are increasing Pearson is a good place to start. Finally, the research on computer-assisted instruction and assessment is mixed, as you might expect. But the larger problem is that it creates an uneven playing field. What the research does show is that students who have access to a home computer and time to use it will do better in a computer-based system and on computer-based assessments than those who do not.

7. National standards not needed. Yes, but not even the states should control all of this. Several years ago Pearson tried to push through the Minnesota legislature a bill that would have required computer-based testing. It had the support of the Department. It would have cost my district ten million dollars to implement. Luckily the legislature killed the bill.

Peter Hennessey (0) (0) (0) (10) (0) (0) (7.5)

1. Non-uniformity a serious problem. You don't achieve results by testing, but by doing. The failure of US education results from "teaching" the wrong things and not teaching the right things.

2. Common standard is needed. Academic achievement and test scores vary greatly by race, class, culture, parental attitudes and individual motivation and individual goals. You can't judge students in vocational programs by the same standards as students in academic programs.

3. Federally funded effort will succeed. Absolutely the last thing you need is more federal involvement. Education and achievement were much better before the feds got involved in the late 60's.

4. Minnesota can do better. Everybody can do better if only they'd leave the feds and the fans of uniform federally enforced standards out of it.

5. National standards, but local methodology. One of the major problems is that the feds mandate or try to mandate the curriculum. Let the local parents and teachers decide what to teach, how to teach, and how to assess achievement. Knowing where "our" kids stand in relation to "their" kids is nice, but cannot dictate what is appropriate for a specific community or specific individual students.

6. Significant funding required. None of this has anything to do with funding. The early baby boomer generation, and all the previous generations, did just fine without all this hocus-pocus.

7. National standards not needed. We are not one nation, one people. We are a mix of practically every peoples on the planet. We have vastly different generic, cultural and individual predispositions. A national test at best will show how an individual stacks up against a mythical national "norm," and that's all. Many other factors go into the decision to do something about it. One size does not fit all.

Don Anderson (7.5) (5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (7.5)

Dave Clinefelter (7.5) (7.5) (10) (5) (7.5) (5) (2.5)

Greer Lockhart (10) (5) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (5) (0)

Anonymous (2.5) (0) (5) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (7.5)

John Nowicki (9) (10) (8) (0) (9) (10) (0)

The comparison of schools in the US vs., say, Europe is not valid. Germany, as an example has various levels of high schools. It is not like here where all students attend the same school. High School is also 9-13. Emphasis is on academics and little on co-circulars . Teachers are held in much higher esteem. Mr. Thompson left out an important factor on achieving a higher playing field. The government at any level must fully fund any directive. Minnesota is a poster child for the opposite in most types of legislation.

Roy Thompson (6) (4) (6) (7) (4) (4) (8)

Not all post secondary education should be college oriented. Many are better suited to and needed in the trade and service industry with different education background and the stimulus to achieve that background.

Bill Hilty (0) (0) (0) (10) (0) (9) (10)

Chuck Lutz (9) (9) (8) (5) (9) (8) (1)

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

Al Quie (10) (10) (10) (0) (10) (10) (0)

Carolyn Ring (5) (5) (5) (6) (4) (8) (7)

Federal funds do not come "free" with no cost to the states. Federal funds still come from taxpayers. Who writes the curriculum? Who approves of the textbooks?

Bright Dornblaser (10) (5) (5) (4) (5) (10) (4)

Tom Spitznagle (8) (8) (6) (2) (5) (6) (3)

The evolution of digitally based, individually paced learning methods can have a significant positive impact. The "best-in-class" MOOC courses sound very promising.

Will the teachers unions embrace these new approaches given their inevitable impacts on teachersí roles and responsibilities or will they potentially obstruct progress by continuing to emphasize the traditional union priority of protecting teachersí jobs and pay (at the expense of students and parents).

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

The teachings of evolution became a national standard in our schools. It was suppose to advance science. Instead because of it the United States is falling behind in science. Now people are looking for chaos in the universe instead of looking for the rules. Without rules science does not exist and we are looking 180 degrees in the wrong direction. I am always skeptical when creating something too big to fail. Teaching is a lot like science. A lot of trial and error. Also what works one day might not work the next. I wouldn't want our schools to get caught in a paradigm. In Minnesota we added early education and our schools became worse. Pre school is just more of the same. No amount of money will fix our school system.

Wayne Jennings (3) (4) (3) (5) (9) (7) (8)

Iím encouraged to hear of 21st century skills but in the end it usually turns out to be the same 20th century learning thatís measured. Iím all for measuring outcomes if we measure how well schools achieve citizenship skills and knowledge, career skills, lifelong learning actions and achievement of human potential. Iím not for using traditional course measures as a substitute measure.

R. C. Angevine  (2.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)

1. Non-uniformity a serious problem. I would suggest that it more contributes to the problems of comparing results.

4. Minnesota can do better. I would rather see Minnesota working with the other states and, if necessary, add to the common standard.

5. National standards, but local methodology. I would hope, however, that states would take advantage of successful methods wherever they originate.


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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