Ted Kolderie missed the mark in “We will not draw only inside the lines” (Sept. 30). The limited perspective in his message has significant and harmful implications for our students and our state.
Let’s start with some key points of agreement. Yes, we must let teachers teach. Teachers know their students best and must be given the flexibility to develop innovative instructional methods focused on each individual student in their classrooms. Highly qualified and engaged teachers permitted to practice their profession are the best support for Minnesota’s students. We also agree that transformation of the public K-12 system is not going to happen overnight and that success will lie in starting small.
However, we disagree with the contention that school boards and superintendents have resisted change when dealing with important matters like student performance.
School boards and superintendents are focused more than ever on student learning. In the past, school boards were primarily concerned about the three B’s — budget, busing and ball games. Now, the achievement of each student, equity, standard alignment, performance outcomes, accountability measures and much more have taken their rightful place in the matters that Minnesota school boards and superintendents address every day.
Want some proof? Schools throughout Minnesota have adapted and evolved through research-based practices to close gaps and improve educational opportunities. Early childhood scholarships, voluntary all-day kindergarten, personalized learning, expanded career and technical education opportunities, redesigned school buildings, enhanced instructional strategies, partnerships with colleges and local businesses, and other steps have been taken across Minnesota in recent years. More must be done.
But let’s not pretend that schools have been stagnant.
In fact, the Minnesota School Boards Assocation had 44 school districts share their innovative, teacher-led practices at our recent statewide conference. Four of these districts shared their journey to systemically incorporate personalized learning into each classroom.
Kolderie’s implication that schools have not properly diagnosed this complicated issue is misguided. Minnesota’s teachers, administrators and boards have never had more data about student achievement than they do today.
Every day, we understand more about how children learn and how we can teach in ways that speak to their backgrounds, their lived experiences, and their learning abilities. Minnesota’s school boards and superintendents enthusiastically support our teachers as they implement and continuously improve the ways in which our children are taught.
Because more must be done, Minnesota’s school boards and superintendents issue a call to action to enhance and build upon the innovative work that is already being done. Schools working with their city and county governments, public and private partners and civic leaders offer the best chance for success. Together, local agencies and partners can identify the range of issues facing our children, including education, housing, safety, nutrition and more. This focused approach provides the best prospect for helping our children succeed.
It is an essential truth when we say, “it’s all about the kids.” For this reason, we hope that our call to action will resonate and achieve the goals that we share.
Kirk Schneidawind is executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association. Gary Amoroso is executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.