State-level policymaking will 'change' education

Mailing Date: 
January 21, 2009
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Updates and Insights from Education|Evolving
Vol. 5, No. 1January 21, 2008Jon Schroeder, Editor

Welcome to this latest edition of Education|Evolving's electronic


For a nation eager to 'change', Education|Evolving champions a new path toward K-12 innovation

As of 12 noon Washington time Tuesday, we have a new American President who has made change the centerpiece of his campaign -- and now Presidency. It remains to be seen how that then plays out in improving K-12 schooling. But President Obama's past record as a State Senator, U.S. Senator and candidate for President -- along with his choices for Chief of Staff and Secretary of Education -- are all good signs.

The nation needs positive leadership for change and improvement in K-12 education. Most of the heavy lifting will be done at the State-level. But, Presidents can make a difference in defining the problem and setting a broad course for change and improvement. E|E's co-founder Ted Kolderie has given that opportunity some thought in this letter that urges the new President take his call for change directly to state-level policy leaders.

The sensible approach for the national government, strategically, is to activate the process of STATE policymaking.

Only the states can change the K-12 institution. And, beginning with Minnesota, E|E is urging a major initiative focusing on innovation -- both in how schooling is organized and managed and with new and fundamentally different approaches to learning.

Under E|E's broad initiative, nobody would be forced to do anything. And E|E is not proposing any single strategy for getting more innovation in schools.

But E|E is putting forward proposals for creating the kind of political and organizational 'space' that's needed for radically different models designed to appear, motivate both teachers and students and be sustained.

Education|Evolving will press this basic strategy as NCLB is reauthorized in the Congress. See this recent statement by E|E's managing partner, Curt Johnson. E|E will also be working in a number of states who are in a critical position to take action NOW, while the President and Congress are focusing on pressing issues relating to the economy and U.S. interests abroad. See future editions of this e-newsletter to learn more about E|E's state level New Schools initiatives as they are put forward.

Disrupting Class describes how states can support innovation and change in K-12 schooling, inspiring new thinking for K-12, higher education, and business

One guide for the States to follow is Disrupting Class, authored by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christiansen, with co-authors Curtis Johnson (E|E Managing Partner) and Michael Horn. Disrupting Class argues that it's time to move from monolithic to modular architectures that can be adapted to suit various needs and support distinctive learning styles.

Disrupting Class also urges policy leaders and educators to consider the real customers of the schooling industry -- today's youth who are more different from each other and from previous generations than at any time in history. The nation's still standardized model of learning isn't working for nearly half of them. Customizing learning opportunities will. Today's fast-changing technology platform already shows how effective on-line and computer-centric learning can be -- and how it changes the role of educators in amazing ways.

Disrupting Class is not only shaping E|E's initaitves, but the thinking of educators and the business community as they consider "what's next":

  • Strategy + Business named Disrupting Class among its "Best Books of 2008," in its Winter 2008 issue. Sally Helgesen called it, "a must-read for anyone considering how to develop and profit from human capital."
  • Sramana Mitra, blogger at, wrote "'Edutainment' Needs Entrepreneurs" on December 19, 2008, intrigued by Johnson's assertion that technology makes it possible to attract new people to teaching. With a central-standardized software knowledge base, she says, teachers could "act more as classroom managers rather than subject-matter authorities."
  • Paul Miller of Project Xiphos asked Johnson and Horn to consider the state of higher education through the lens of disruptive innovation in this podcast. Miller concluded, "Apparently radical developments within the sector such as iTunesU and OpenCourseWare may not be as disruptive as they first appear, and large swathes of the sector have no room for complacency."

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Education|Evolving, a joint venture of Hamline University and the Center for Policy Design, is a Minnesota-based project committed to helping K-12 education evolve and meet the challenges, demands, and opportunities of the 21st Century. E|E welcomes your comments or questions regarding the new Web site and any of its other activities and resources. Please direct them to

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