Students Respond to E|E Assertions

Mailing Date: 
September 16, 2008
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Updates and Insights from Education|Evolving
Vol. 4, No. 4September 16, 2008Jon Schroeder, Editor

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

At Education|Evolving, we've been asserting for some time now that education policy leaders and influencers ought to spend more time listening to -- and acting on -- the opinions and experiences of students and other young people.

Peruse the Student Voices section of our Web site, and you'll discover how students have obtained customized learning experiences by choosing schools and school/ing methods that meet their diverse needs. When they did this, their motivation increased. Their next stop: graduation -- even among those who readily acknowledge they might otherwise have quit school.

It's no stretch that motivation is related to K-12 policy, but only recently has it become essential.

The country has radically changed the assignment to its schools. A system earlier told to expand access to learning is now told it must ensure that students learn. If achievement is imperative then effort is important, and if effort is important then motivation is important. Unhappily, conventional high school with its obsolete ‘batch-processing' model of courses and classes is designed almost to suppress motivation -- for students and for teachers.

E|E's most recent paper, "The Other Half of the Strategy: Following Up on System Reform by Innovating with School and Schooling," makes this case in greater detail. In this paper, E|E's co-founder Ted Kolderie asserts:

The system reforms taking place—including institutional innovations like chartering laws and open enrollment—make improvement increasingly necessary; make change increasingly possible. But they are only half the strategy. To meet its goals this country must next undertake a serious effort to develop new forms of school and schooling. It is time to redirect K-12 policy toward innovation.

But, what do young people think of E|E's assertions?

That, at least, has been E|E's assertion. But, taking our own advice -- and based on their student learning experiences -- what do young people actually think?

Although an admittedly small sample, Education|Evolving asked five young people from around the country to review and comment on the assertions in "The Other Half." All five of these young people had previously attended district and chartered schools known for their innovative learning programs. And all five are now in college.

Did this sampling of students see real innovations in their high schools? If their experiences were unusual, what difference did it make as they went on to college? Here's an overview of their replies:

Christine Amarila
Sophomore International Studies Major at University of California San Diego
"New advances in technology, pop culture and the global community as a whole are making kids learn how to make better decisions in a quick-paced environment... The ones who know how to adapt the quickest gain an edge."
Stacy Flores
Sophomore Secondary Education Major at Vanderbilt University
"One of the reasons I believe I not only successfully graduated but am now in a prestigious university is because of the underlying goal of each teacher at YES to constantly motivate the students."
Mikis Kostouros
Senior Communication Studies Major at Gustavus Adolphus College
Previously attended: Clara Barton Open School, a K-8 public magnet school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Then, Minneapolis South High School's Open Program in Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota.
"Teachers probably understand children better than anyone, yet in standard schools we don't allow them enough time to get to know a student and adjust to the student's needs."
Jarrett Payne
Senior Marketing Major at Temple University
Previously attended: Charter High School for Architecture + Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
"It is hard to capture the attention and interest of the youth of today, especially with what has become the standard method of teaching. Today's students need so much more motivation to learn. Getting students involved with hands on experience in their field is very pivotal."
Nichole Shreeve
Freshman Recreational Leadership Major at Brigham Young University Idaho
Previously attended: PACE (Personal Alternative Choices in Education) Correspondence School, Craig City School District, Alaska. Then, Tri-Valley High School in the Denali Borough School District, Alaska
"When we started the school year we knew what we had to accomplish before we could move out of that level. We as students found this type of teaching and learning style to be motivating. When students are allowed to learn at their own pace they feel empowered and find a love of learning."

Common themes in student responses included "motivation"

All five students had a lot more to say. "Motivation" frequently shows up as a factor related to their learning, and evolved from the following experiences:

  • An innovative atmosphere created "space," opportunity to take a different path;
  • They built more self-confidence;
  • Self-direction bred a "can-do" attitude;
  • Their perspectives widened even as they started with their own interests and talents;
  • Working at their own pace didn't render them "slow," but boosted their confidence;
  • They learned to build supportive relationships; and
  • Knowing how to adapt to new technologies influenced their college success.

Our analysis is no substitute for the students' candid reviews. Consistent with E|E's philosophy, we encourage you to read what these bright young people had to say in their own words:

Click here for all student responses


Education|Evolving, a joint venture of Hamline University and the Center for Policy Studies, 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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