Minneapolis superintendent’s re-assessment: “I no longer feel that we can reach every child in the traditional way.”

July 2, 2010 •

Perhaps the best of the interviews with outgoing Minneapolis Superintendent Bill Green was the one by Beth Hawkins, which appeared in the online newspaper MinnPost. Beth’s story headlined Green’s comment about the need to vary the approach to learning—by school or even by student.

MP: Is there any tightly held belief you have had to let go of because of your superintendency?

BG: I have never been a fan of charter schools, and I now see that this is a very serious alternative that we have to pursue. The district has been legislatively enabled to sponsor its own charter schools. I think that’s important, and I’m willing to look at them.

This is really the bigger issue for me, and I’ve never said this before: I no longer feel that we can reach every child in the traditional way, the way that we’ve been pursuing it. Minneapolis Public Schools is a place where a lot of kids can do great things, to use a phrase. But the traditional system we have doesn’t really seem to accommodate the educational needs of all our kids in a school district where the majority are of poverty and of color and a growing number are coming from other countries and learning the language and just on the threshold of acculturation. It’s a system that has to be a little bit more imaginative.

It is not a small thing for district leadership these days to question the search for a ‘one right way.’ Several questions push themselves forward. Will he pass this conviction on to his successor, who has been his deputy? Will she share it? Does the district need to be only “a little bit” more imaginative—or a lot more imaginative? How and by whom will the new and more varied approaches be designed? By teachers in the school, perhaps?

Education|Evolving is convinced the traditional expectation—that the student adapts to the school—needs to give way now to a new assumption that it is the job of school to adapt to the student(s). This would imply enlarging the role of the teachers—who are, after all, the only ones who know the students personally; as individuals.

Image: Bill Green, via Minnesota Public Radio