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Discussion: Back to School Hopes

September 02, 2014 By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow

What are your hopes and dreams for school this year?

Starting today, all Minnesota students will be back in school across the state. As you look forward to this year and further into the future, what do you envision and wish for your children, your students, and/or the schools in your community?

Minnesota 2020 Education Fellow Michael Diedrich (fresh off the statewide press tour for “Valuing the Whole Child: Education Beyond Test Scores”) will be available from 8-9:30 am to facilitate this discussion, and will continue to respond throughout the day. We welcome your questions and comments.


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  • Michael Diedrich says:

    September 2, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Good morning, everyone!

    This is Michael, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you all are hoping to see this school year! I’ll be active here from 8 to 9:30, and will check back in over the course of the day as the conversation develops.

  • Deb Balzer says:

    September 2, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Good morning Michael,

    One concern I’ve heard from a couple of parents is their apprehension about full-time kindergarten. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • Michael Diedrich says:

      September 2, 2014 at 8:16 am

      I think the key to each student’s experience of all-day kindergarten will be how the teacher is able to keep the day engaging and appropriately paced. In some districts and schools, unfortunately, kindergarten teachers have faced significant pressure to include large blocks of math and reading instruction, at the expense of other activities like free play that are just as (if not more) important for young, developing minds. Those districts and schools that trust their kindergarten teachers to know how to structure their days like the professionals they are will likely see their kindergarten students do just fine in the all-day environment.

      I also know that some families will benefit from all-day-K, since they won’t need to either take as much time off of work or pay as much for child care when their children are spending more time in school. For many families working very hard just to get by, this can be a significant benefit.

  • Michael Diedrich says:

    September 2, 2014 at 8:38 am

    One of my hopes for this school year, connected to our recent report, is that districts and schools will continue to reinvest in enriching courses like world language, computer science, and the arts, as well as in support services like nurses, guidance counselors, and social workers, to keep rebuilding our schools after the one-two punch of Pawlenty-era education funding and the Great Recession. We heard many great examples from our recent tour of how those classes and services make a big difference in students’ lives and their level of engagement with school, and I hope that we’ll eventually be able to guarantee all students access to a well-rounded education that truly supports the whole child.

  • Deb Balzer says:

    September 2, 2014 at 8:58 am


    Thanks for taking time to share a few thoughts with us this morning.  It was fun seeing all the smiling faces this morning at the bus stop.  My hope is that children enjoy the process of learning as much as I did as a kid and that all children have access to a great education.

  • Lee Egerstrom says:

    September 2, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Michael - Following up on your comments regarding enrichment courses and the arts, I got to tell you a small town weekly newspaper recently had a back to school article about the elementary school’s growing enrollment even though the communities in the school district aren’t growing. The school system has a well-established music program with award-winning marching bands and choirs. Here’s the shocker: 30 percent of the elementary enrollment involves students that reside in neighboring school districts that transfer through the state’s open enrollment policies. Are you seeing evidence that parents and students let their feet to the talking when enrichment classes and programs are offered?