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A back page Education Week commentary from September 2014 in which Ted Kolderie asks: why don't we get education changing the way successful systems change?

To get innovation in K-12 we need to free those closest to the action—the teachers—to innovate and meet the needs of their students. Ted Kolderie draws lessons from World War 2 to make this argument, in a August 2014 commentary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The key question of education innovation is whether schools and teachers will be free to adapt to the needs, aptitudes, interests, and motivations of their students. Ted Kolderie in Education Week, November 2011.

Let education change as other systems change. That is: For new models of school to appear and to run alongside the traditional. Ted Kolderie lays out the concept of a 'split screen' in this 2010 strategy paper.

The country has the governmental relationships upside down, with the states setting the targets for results and Washington leaning on the states, districts and schools to make it happen. President Obama should put the roles right, so that the national government is "pushing buttons that are connected to live wires".

The assignment to K-12 has changed from "access" to "achievement." Unfortunately, our schools were built to provide students the opportunity to learn, not to ensure that they did. If we insist that our schools do this different job we will have to create new school models that make that possible.

Notes from remarks by Paul Grogan, head in 20008 of the Boston Foundation, on the challenges of inner-city public education, and how foundations can leverage change. Early, Grogan worked for two mayors of Boston. He ran the national office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in New York.

The charge to K-12 has shifted from "access" to "achievement." To meet this challenge, education should be open to new entrants, new authorizers of schools, and new learning programs. This paper argues for teacher-led and other innovations to better serve student needs.

System-level reforms like standards, accountability, choice and chartering make it more necessary for schools to succeed with learning. But these reforms do not by themselves affect achievement. Kids learn from what they read, see, hear and do. So success in the effort at improvement requires capitalizing now on the system-level changes with a major effort to create new forms of school.

It's time to bury the term 'charter schools' and to talk separately about chartering—the state strategy of new-school-creation—and the schools created via chartering. Chartering is succeeding even though not all the schools-chartered are succeeding. Article appeared in the December 2005 issue of UrbanEd.

This first chapter of Ted Kolderie's book Creating the Capacity for Change expands the 'theory of action' for state policy leadership. It explains why governors' and legislatures' efforts to open a new-schools sector is imperative for public education, to enable it to do the job it has now been given to do.

We overestimate the ability of leadership to change organizations in more than incremental ways, Joe Graba told a national meeting of foundations in April 2004. The internal culture heavily constrains change. Most change comes through the creation of new organizations.

Some national organizations that find good schools a way to further their own mission are now moving to create—and support—new schools in the charter sector. The National Council of La Raza is one example. This can be done in some states through sponsoring (authorizing). Elsewhere it can take the form of partnerships.

Opponents of change commonly try to set a test of perfection. They try to persuade everyone that no change can be permitted unless it solves all present problems and creates no new problems. Opponents don’t even have to prove the proposed change harmful. It's enough just to spread fear and doubt, asking endlessly: What if?

Clayton Christensen explains how hard it is for existing organizations to change in more than incremental ways, and why significant change requires the creation of new organizations. His research has huge implications for a K-12 strategy that relies on the notion that it will be possible to improve the schools we have.

In response to the Washington Post’s question about problems in DC this small memo asked: If the local school district is not performing why don’t DC residents ask Congress to “get somebody else who will?” In 1993 the suggestion was flatly dismissed. Three years later Congress created a second 'board of education' for DC.

Institutions other than public education have found it useful not to let the mission depend on just a single organization. Historically the Catholic Church has been one of these. There is the hierarchy, but there are also the orders.

K-12 education exists in state law. It cannot be reached directly by Congressional or the President. Typically, in such policy areas, the national government tries to 'do things' by tying requirements to its grants-in-aid. This approach has failed in the past, as in the 1960s when the national government tried to take control of urban development.

In this 1991 retrospective, Albert Shanker looks back over 40 years in the profession. He is realistic about the union's conventional strategy of higher salaries and smaller class size. He looks toward others strategies: differentiated staffing, the individualization of learning through technology, project-based learning, and performance-based assessment.

The current national strategy assumes the problem is a 'performance' problem, and looked to a new framework of accountability to get the current system and schools to do-better. But it might be that the problem is a 'design' problem and that both the institution and the traditional concept of 'school' need fundamental change.

Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor, speaks on "Disruptive Innovation" in education.