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Education How: The Education Evolving Blog

E|E Response to Proposed Federal Charter Grant Regulations

By Ted Kolderie

There is now a live question what priorities the U.S. Department of Education should use in its program of grants to the states for the start-up of new schools in the states' chartered sector of public education.

The Department put out a proposal for comment. Education Evolving's response was not to the specifics in the draft; was general with respect to the policy questions involved.

Essentially we urged that the national government respect and conform to the state's decisions about what it wants its chartered sector, their schools, to be.

That would be consistent, we noted, with the decision by the Department and the Congress in creating the first program of support for new schools in 1994 . . . when the decision was to accept state policy decisions about what entities would be eligible to start a school and what entities would be eligible to authorize a school.

See the text of the E|E response here.

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Individualization, failure, and fun: A student's experience

By Curtis Johnson

Most commentary about learning methods comes from adults, and most of those are professional educators. What's missing is what the students think. So, to see how learning can be both effective and fun, check this short video of a TedX talk by a 10-year old, Cordell Steiner, telling what it was like being in Ananth Pai's 3rd-grade class in the White Bear Lake (MN) school district.

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Why innovation is critical

By Ted Kolderie

Just too late . . . just after my book arrived from the printer's . . . I came across Paul Kennedy's Engineers of Victory. I would love to have been able to include what he wrote about the critical role of innovation in winning World War II: It is so on-point with what I was trying to say about the need for innovation in education. I did pick up the story in a Commentary I wrote for Education Week, that appeared September 24. Here's an earlier, somewhat different, version of that commentary, or see the first few paragraphs below.

Education might learn something, too, from Walter Isaacson's just-released history of 'the digital revolution'. The Innovators offers a fascinating look at the revolution in our system for handling information; everything from computing to communications. Think about how his description of this successful system changing contrasts with what passes for change in our 'learning system'.

As always, I'd be interested in your comments; reactions.


* * *

To reach any goal, the key question is always: How?

How? was the question during World War II. Roosevelt and Churchill had their grand strategy — to supply Britain from factories in North America, to bomb Germany night and day, to open a second front in western Europe. But early 1943 was a dark time. Ships were being sunk, bombers shot down at unsustainable rates. Winning would depend on figuring out how to get ships safely past the U-boats, how to provide fighter cover for the bombers over Germany, how to land an army on a hostile defended shore.

How? is the question, too, for education policy. It’s fine to say we’ll close achievement gaps, make graduates college-ready, raise standards, enforce accountability and draw top candidates into teaching. But stating objectives does not make things happen. There has to be a How. And education policy is still searching for its 'how'.


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Kolderie in EdWeek: Reframing the Vergara Debate

By Lars Johnson

Ted Kolderie has a guest post this week in an Education Week blog: A Little 'Lateral Thinking' Will Answer the Teacher Quality/Accountability Question. He proposes a way out of chronic issues with teachers, unions, and accountability that have been boiling recently, in the wake of the Vergara case.

Kolderie stresses that the solution lies in re-defining the problem and re-thinking the traditional boss/worker arrangement—where teachers are employees managed by administrators. He suggests we shift to a new arrangement where teachers are given the authority to call the shots about learning. Under these new conditions, Kolderie argues that teachers would internalize accountability for the success of their students and schools.

Read more and find out how Kolderie proposes we could get this policy change in motion...

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Today: Teacher-Powered Schools Initiative Launches

By Lars Johnson

This afternoon, at 2pm CT, Education Evolving will launch our new Teacher-Powered Schools Initiative at the Education Writers Association’s 67th National Seminar’s “Teachers Take Charge” panel discussion.

Today’s launch coincides with the release of our new national survey data that that reveal overwhelming public support and teacher interest in a professional partnership model of teacher leadership, or “teacher-powered schools.”

This new initiative is laser-focused on improving student learning and making teaching a better job for teachers. Teacher-powered schools aim to transform K-12 education in the U.S.—not from the top-down, but from the ground up—by cultivating a collaborative school governance structure where teachers, principals, parents, and community leaders are empowered to work together toward a shared vision of what students and schools could achieve.

As an advocate for teachers, I hope you will join us. Here are five ways you can learn more, get involved, and spread the word:

  1. Visit View critical resources for teachers, district administrators, charter authorizers, and policymakers on ways to create a teacher-powered school and get involved.
  2. Read our latest research report: Check out new national survey data that illustrates the widespread public and teacher interest in the concept.
  3. Share this blog post: Share information about teacher-powered schools with those who are interested in issues of teacher leadership and school-based decision making.
  4. Follow and share on Facebook and Twitter: Share the news about the initiative with your social networks! Find us on Twitter at @teacherpowered.
  5. Sign-up for email updates: Simply visit and click the button in the top right corner to receive occasional e-news updates on teacher-powered schools.

Thanks for your support as we launch this new initiative and inspire educators nationwide about the possibilities of the profession through Teacher-Powered Schools.

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Wedl, Garcia op-ed on “New definitions of student achievement” runs in the St. Paul Pioneer Press

By Robert J. Wedl

In our 21st-century global economy, shouldn’t we consider knowledge of world language and skills with digital tools when we define academic achievement? What about persistence and determination? Business communities demand problem-solving and collaboration skills; why are we not including them in our definition?

Take a look at this commentary that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on March 11, by Education Evolving’s Senior Associate, Robert Wedl, and Hector Garcia, Executive Director of the MN Latino Chicano Affairs Council. They assert that we must revamp our definition of “achievement” to include knowledge and skills not being measured by our current standardized tests.

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Event: teacher-led schools hands on conference

By Robert J. Wedl

Save the date: March 20-21, 2014

Join Innovative Quality Schools in Saint Paul for an exciting conference designed for professional teachers.

Conference purposes include:

  • To inform…we will explain the teacher-led schools model
  • To demonstrate …professional teachers using the teacher-led model will discuss how this model is empowering them and their students as well
  • To assist…learn about help available to those interested in this model

This conference is “hands on” with numerous sessions with teachers who are leading their schools. Some of these professionals are in their first year and others have been using this practice for up to 15 years. All presenters are in the public schools sector of education... some district and others chartered. There will be time for direct discussions with teachers of teacher-led schools.

To learn more or to register, please see the conference website.

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Event: introduction to personalized learning

By Lars Johnson

On Sunday, January 26th, Education Evolving's Curt Johnson will keynote an interactive event designed to introduce children and families to personalized learning.

Students will have a chance to experiment with adaptive educational games, much like those used by Mr. Pai in our A Split Screen Strategy video from last year.

From the event's webpage: Does your student fit the mold? Join other parents and educators to explore the possibility for all students to learn to their full potential, not struggle through their education.

The event will be held at AFSA High School (address below), from 2 to 4pm. More information is available on the event's Facebook page.

AFSA High School
100 Vadnais Blvd.
Vadnais Heights, MN 55127

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Insight from Eric Premack on education policy and chartering in California

By Ted Kolderie

» Download full Premack visit notes

Almost unheard of, in all the talk about the more conspicuous issues in K-12 education today, is California's decision to stop trying to control and regulate its school districts so tightly.

For 40 years or more California has tried to run public education out of Sacramento. The state selects the textbooks; approves the districts construction plans; tells the districts what to do and how to do it. The education code, the education statutes, fill about seven volumes; run to about 5,600 pages.

Now Gov. Jerry Brown and the (Democratic) Legislature have decided this does not work -- and so are on their way to devolving financial flexibility and greater autonomy back to California's roughly 1,000 districts.

This dramatically new approach was described in discussions here November 21-23 with Eric Premack. A Minneapolis native, graduate of Washburn High School, Eric has been working in California education policy, close to the policy-making, for about 20 years. He formed and runs the Charter School Development Center which has as members about 40 percent of the schools in the nation's largest state charter sector.

His visit to Minnesota was organized by Education|Evolving; one in a series intended to broaden the discussion about education policy in Minnesota.

Eric also talked about the conflict between California and the U.S. Department of Education: As the state of California withdraws from excessive regulation, Washington appears to be moving in.

» Download full Premack visit notes

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Minnesota charter authorizer issues call for innovative school proposals

By Lars Johnson

Innovative Quality Schools, a Minnesota charter school authorizer, has again this year issued a Request for Proposals to start new chartered schools in Minnesota.

Highest priority will be given to proposals which (a) propose new and innovative models of school and schooling; or (b) draw from a demonstrated research base. IQS recognizes the need to both try new things, and to replicate what's been shown to work.

IQS provides an interesting example of a new breed of "proactive authorizer" -- actively seeking out proposals for high quality schools.

Letters of intent should be submitted by January 31, 2014. Application deadline is March 1, 2014. Read more about the RFP.

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About This Blog

Much of the education policy discussion consists of continually deploring the problems and reaffirming the goals.

But, the important question is: “How do we get it done?” On this blog we ask and answer that question.

Read more in our intro blog post.