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 Response Page - Treptow  Interview -      

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


Justin Treptow, Head of School, Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA), Houston, Minnesota, describes the formation and growth of the Houston school districts online school. A state approved public school entity available to all Minnesota K-12 students, MNVA offers families an online alternative whenever local public or private school offerings do not appear to fit students' needs.  The school is the largest provider of public education delivered via the Internet in Minnesota. It offers a broad curriculum, licensed teachers, opportunities for social interaction and flexible 24-hour per day scheduling. An involved parent or "learning coach" is a key component of the program.

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 Treptow. 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. A worthy enterprise.  (8.0 average response) Online education such as offered by MNVA is a laudable effort to offer students and families more options.

2. Any district can develop. (7.1 average response) The MNVA experience demonstrates that any school district in the state, regardless of size or location, can innovate in online education.

3. Replacement for home school. (6.6 average response) Online education in the MNVA is a practical replacement for home schooling.

4. Parental involvement necessary. (7.1 average response) With online education provided by MNVA parents have no choice but to be intimately involved in the education of their children.

5. Students miss social contact. (5.6 average response) As popular as online education appears to be for some children, they are missing out by not sitting in a classroom with one teacher and 20-30 other children.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. A worthy enterprise.







2. Any district can develop.







3. Replacement for home school.







4. Parental involvement necessary.







5. Students miss social contact.







Individual Responses:

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (0)  (5)  (0)  (5)  (0)

1. A worthy enterprise.  What is laudable here is the open effort to control and manipulate all online education systems that will be allowed in Minnesota. It appears to still follow the Minnesota "Mastery Learning" model and its top-down standards nonsense.

2. Any district can develop. We are right back to a system-centered education rather than a child centered education. This was not designed to be what is best for the child, it was designed to fit and support Minnesota’s existing failed system as another means of undermining the far better preforming "Home Schooling".

3. Replacement for home school. What I do agree on is that this is a union attempt to undermine home schooling again. It is pretty sad that parents with high school educations can so badly out preform your hoards of arrogant Master degreed teachers over so long a period of time.

4. Parental involvement necessary. Sounds like an attempt to prove your unions "Blame it on the parents" propaganda. I have no trust in the integrity of this program from what I have read. While I would support an honest quality online education system that is child based, this is not it and has the same built in fault as public education. Self-serving Union input at far stronger levels than their 1% of the population.

5. Students miss social contact. Another teacher union lie that has been proven such for many years. What they are missing out on is being propagandized by anti-religious teacher union activists. I say that as an agnostic DFLer who has seen such efforts repeatedly. I do not support efforts to undermine what works with the racially and socioeconomically biased education system this program is designed to compliment.

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

Bert LeMunyon  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (5)

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

5. Students miss social contact. It is not a replacement for the classroom and face-to-face experience of sitting in a class.

Chris Brazelton  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

1. A worthy enterprise.  It sounds as though they have taken into consideration the social needs of the students, and understand that this approach is not ideal for all students.

2. Any district can develop. Can, with the right people and programming in place, and with the digital infrastructure/bandwidth issues resolved.

3. Replacement for home school. As always, it depends on the individual circumstances.  The advantage here is getting qualified teachers and access to resources that previously were not available to all families or districts.

4. Parental involvement necessary. Parents, or other learning coaches.

5. Students miss social contact. As with any option, there are advantages and disadvantages, and what works well for some may not work well for others.

Ray Schmitz  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

Jennifer Armstrong  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

1. A worthy enterprise.  Houston was very innovative and forward thinking in looking out of the box to address its declining enrollment. This effort is a "win-win" for the local students—who continue to have viable local schools unlike other communities that have lost their schools—and the online students who have a Minnesota "home grown" option not available elsewhere.

2. Any district can develop. Innovation takes risk, leadership, and support. Not all school districts have the same capacity for these as Houston apparently did.

3. Replacement for home school. It won't replace faith-based curriculum.

4. Parental involvement necessary. Yes, but then "When it becomes clear that a student is faltering, the school counsels his or her family about moving on to other educational options that might be a better fit," (an option not available to traditional public schools--unless they start referring failing students to Houston?). It would be interesting to know how much of this counseling-out stems from inadequate/inappropriate learning coach support v. student characteristics. It would also be interesting to learn how much and in what ways the online learning coach model has influenced the programmatic parent involvement efforts of the traditional Houston schools and what impact, if any, that's had on student achievement. It's also worth pointing out the learning coach model establishes an unpaid, volunteer role to support student learning much like an Individual Education Progrm might call for a full time aide (paid). There is a cost to fulfilling this function, a cost absorbed by the family.

5. Students miss social contact. I wonder at how much our nostalgic recollection of school holds us back from what may be a more effective and fulfilling use of student time. I do think the state needs to carefully fund extra-curricular activities such that home-school or online-school student participation doesn't reduce the dollars available for traditional students. This wouldn't be as much of a concern in a universe where schools were sufficiently funded in the first place.

Scott Halstead  (10)  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

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

1. A worthy enterprise.  Online must be a component of many options available to the students either as full time or as a complement to in class schools. The only added focus should be to assure that with online there needs to be student-to-student, student-to-teacher and other

related social interfaces to make the education complete and relevant to living in the complex world.

2. Any district can develop. The MNVA does demonstrate the capability for innovation; in online development in any system the key is having the expertise and, perhaps more importantly, the commitment and a distinct purpose rather than just doing it because it is being done elsewhere. All districts or collaboration of two or more should be incentivized to innovate with online and other alternatives

3. Replacement for home school. Definitely on-line offers an alternative or replacement for home schooling. The MNVA approach provides for a rigorous standard, in depth and quality content and a format for social interaction all of which are often missing in home schooling.

4. Parental involvement necessary. The discussion seemed to confirm the link and role of the parents in the MNVA experience. This is certainly a benefit and to confirm (this) would require more actual understanding of the operational details.

5. Students miss social contact. Social interface must be a key component of the education process. Evolving an online approach that provides for the link with other students, peers, community, teachers, etc. to build social awareness and interaction is fundamental to a complete education. Online, with this structure, offers promise and opportunity for the student and the community.

Peter Hennessey  (7.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (2.5)

2. Any district can develop. Any? No. Only those that have a knowledgeable staff predisposed to operating in the manner described in this presentation.

3. Replacement for home school. Absolutely not. The very idea of this suggestion raises the suspicion that the real motivation behind this idea is to delegitimize home schooling. Sure, in many ways the day to day, hour by hour operation may be very much like home schooling, but the curriculum, the textbooks, the lectures, etc. are still dictated by a public school, not selected and approved by the parent. And it is not clear from the presentation notes how much leeway a particular student has in terms of being too slow or too fast relative to the intended pace of the on-line program.

4. Parental involvement necessary. What a leap to an unwarranted conclusion. Maybe most parents participating in the on-line school are more involved than "regular" parents, but there is nothing in the nature of on-line learning that requires parental involvement. With the kids glued to the computer, parents can be just as aloof and uninvolved as always.

5. Students miss social contact. Oh, this is the same old bugaboo that is raised against home schooling, too. Being held back because of some… in class, being bullied or picked on, getting sick from whatever is going around because some parents are irresponsible and don't keep their sick child at home, the constant interruptions from the unruly kids, yea, all that is indispensable experience that only 20-30 classmates can provide. The fact is, all learning is individual, requires independent, private thinking; any social interaction such as discussing what you just read, watched or learned can be arranged by an involved parent, or by an involved teacher some knowledge about on-line, live meetings with multiple participants. This is done in the adult world all the time. Yes, kids need friends, acquaintances and adult authority figures, and it is getting harder to make and keep friends as neighborhoods are getting more and more devoid of families, but no one is friends with all 30 kids in class, and adults other than teachers can also be authority figures. It just takes more effort, if this is important to the child. The other fact is that today's kids live their social lives on-line. It's madness, sheer madness; texting all their waking hours, feeling no need to actually meet in person, or to seek out friends closer to home. The problem, if this is a problem, is far greater than on-line schooling or home schooling.

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

Tim McDonald  (10)  (6)  (8)  (3)  (5)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (7)  (8)  (8)  (9)  (7)

Terry Stone  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)

Wow. What a success story. 

Chuck Lutz  (10)  (10)  (10)  (6)  (8)

Carolyn Ring  (7)  (8)  (3)  (8)  (8)

This is probably just the beginning of drastic changes in education as technology continues to improve and innovate.

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (8)  (9)  (8)  (6)  (8)

Shirley Heaton  (5)  (5)  (5)  (5)  (10)

Being one who is very slow to adapt to change I can't help but recognize that 20-25years from now such form of education will be as common as sliced bread. However, I trust that the pace for improving our educational process will be deliberate enough that there will not be too many bugs to clean out to ensure success.


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

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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