Updates and Insights: Vol. 3, No. 1

Mailing Date: 
January 4, 2007
Vol. 3, No. 1January 4, 2007Jon Schroeder, Editor

Welcome to this latest edition of Education|Evolving’s electronic newsletter -- UPDATES AND INSIGHTS.


Education|Evolving recently hosted a national conversation on "The Changing Definition of ‘School’ and ‘Schooling’" at Hamline University. This meeting brought together about 70 educators, education policy leaders and others for a frank conversation on the challenges and opportunities we’re observing nationally in the organization and delivery of public education.

In E|E’s own post-mortem on this conversation, we’ve become even more convinced that radically different kinds of schools and schooling are not only necessary, but inevitable, if we are to meet the opportunities and expectations for student learning in the 21st Century. Today’s students have radically different expectations as consumers in just about every other aspect of their lives. Schooling needs to catch up--especially for the significant percentage of students who have either "dropped-out" or "checked-out" of the traditional models of both teaching and learning.


Also inevitable is the need for different ways of thinking about the current ground rules for public education -- if such new approaches to student learning are to be feasible, credible, recognized for their value and politically viable. Those of us who believe strongly in both the need for change and the inherent values of public education have an obligation to help lead this re-thinking. In particular, we must better clarify and explain what we believe "different" means -- with respect to key ground rules that now help define public education -- including standards, assessments and teacher qualifications.

One of E|E’s co-founders, Ted Kolderie, began to deliver on that need in a brief follow-up note he sent to one of the Hamline meeting’s attendees. With the recipient’s permission, we’ve included this slightly adapted version of that communication for your reflection, as well. As always, your thoughts and reactions are welcomed -- so that this essential conversation can continue. Here’s what Ted had to say...

Thanks again for coming and for your good and frank comments at Education Evolving's recent national meeting on the changing definition of both "school" and "schooling." I'm sure the discussion about different schools did puzzle and disconcert some folks, and -- since we do not want to be misunderstood -- we will be doing a few things to clarify what we believe 'different' means with respect to standards, assessments and teacher-qualification.

Obviously we do understand what NCLB requires; understand that schools and students have to take and pass the tests. We do think kids should learn, and learn well. We agree this requires standards, and assessments to tell us whether standards are being met. No disagreement there.

Our concern is our sense that there is really no strategy for the kids Joe Graba talks about: those who never have learned well in conventional school. The appealing ideas about good teaching and good curriculum; about "high-level academic content, challengingly presented", probably will work for the kids who are motivated and doing OK; who are in school and stay in school.

But it is not clear that what works for them -- which seems essentially to be 'doing conventional school better' -- will be effective with that sizeable minority. We hear people hoping that this-or-that will work; predicting and hypothesizing that it will. But we sense also a fair amount of advocacy for traditional educational philosophy, dismissive rejections of 'different' schools as 'constructivist', and a certain amount of "Well, regular school worked for me". This does not produce a program that will ensure that all kids learn well.

So there is a real and serious need to keep thinking and talking about what will in fact work. Our experience is that good decisions, good policy, come out of, and only out of, full discussion. We know that it is not always popular to challenge the basic premises of accepted strategy, especially in the public sector. The political process is accustomed to putting forward a single answer, selling that answer then "seeing it through" against whatever criticism appears.

Education/Evolving believes it is imperative to push on the question of what really will work for the kids now left behind. Hope is not a strategy. We will probably continue to highlight the absence of an 'assured' strategy for those not learning well today, and to argue that success with their learning probably will require schools quite different from the conventional. We'd like others to see this as a public service, as well. I know you do as did the others who took the time to come to Hamline; your comments were candid and constructive. We'll hope to have more of this open exchange and to work with you as the discussion moves forward.


Senior Associate


One of the better-received parts of the recent meeting at Hamline was the dialogue participants had with a diverse group of students and graduates from several quite different learning opportunities now available in Minnesota. That dialogue -- preceded by an introduction to the HOPE research being tested here to define and measure non-traditional indicators of student success -- has now been posted on the E|E web site.

Take a look at this dialogue. Download it -- or forward the link to friends and colleagues. To be successful, efforts to improve student learning must include much greater awareness of what young people themselves are saying. This is a pretty good start. Here’s the link to the on-line version, it is the first article on the page:
You can also get to the PDF directly by clicking here:

EE Associate Kim Farris-Berg’s latest report, "Dropping in", is now also in final editing stages and will be distributed -- both on-line and in print -- early in 2007. This report offers important insights from students and other young people on why they stay in school or drop-out or ‘check-out’ -- even if still physically occupying space in their schools. For earlier work by Kim and others to solicit and listen-to "student voices," go to this section of E|E’s web site:


Finally, E|E is pleased to announce that, effective January 1, Deirdre Kramer is joining Education| Evolving’s team as a Senior Associate. Deirdre has been Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Hamline University since June of 2000 and previously served eight years as the Grad School’s Associate and Interim Dean. She was also appointed by Governor Tim Pawlenty to the Minnesota Board of Teaching, serving from 2003 to the end of 2006. Although Deirdre will remain employed by and on the faculty at Hamline, she will be on leave to assume her new responsibilities with Education|Evolving through May 31, 2007. This represents a significant contribution by Hamline to Education|Evolving, which is a joint venture of the St. Paul-based university and the non-profit Center for Policy Studies.

Deirdre brings more than 35 years of experience to her new assignments with Education|Evolving -- as a teacher and teacher educator whose career is grounded in second language learning. This will be important in the next stage of Education/Evolving's work on the design of an 'open sector' in American public education. Choice implies choic/es; providing choic/es requires creating new schools; new schools need to be different schools, in their approach to learning, to teaching and to assessment; increasing motivation both for students and for teachers. We feel fortunate that Deirdre’s considerable talents will now be available to us to help pursue that path in our work both here in Minnesota and nationally.


Education|Evolving welcomes your comments or questions on strategies for both tapping and acting on the potential for more effectively engaging students and for creating and sustaining high quality, but radically different new schools.

Please direct your comments or questions to info@educationevolving.org. Also, check out E/E’s unique web site at www.educationevolving.org. Past editions of "Updates and Insights" can be accessed at: https://www.educationevolving.org/email_archive.asp.

If you do not wish to receive these occasional "Updates and Insights" from Education/Evolving, please e-mail info@educationevolving.org. Put "remove from list" in the subject line, and your full name and e-mail address in the body of the e-mail.

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