An Interview with Jim Zellmer: End of Year Reflections

Dec 18, 2012 by

breakthroughMichael F. Shaughnessy  –

1)      Jim, for our readers, can you briefly describe what you do, your exact title and what you are trying to accomplish?

I am a child of God, spouse, parent and small business entrepreneur.  Many years ago, when our children were in elementary school, I encountered local public school district Administrators who seemed to operate via the “we know best” approach to governance.   A number of professor friends typically threw water on such assertions.   They introduced me to several parents and education activists (including teachers), all of whom contributed to

2)      Reflecting back on this past year- what have you accomplished?

This is always a good question. played a very small role in:

1. An effort to dramatically improve Wisconsin’s reading curriculum:

2. An effort to raise Wisconsin’s academic and economic bar:

3. continuing to be a place where education related information can be shared, regardless of ideology:

3)  Now, tough question, reflecting back on the Obama Presidency- what has he accomplished for education , in your opinion?

I appreciate the Administration’s efforts to inject the concepts of competition, transparency and achievement into the K-12 organism.   This is not a small project.

4)      Over the next four years- where should his focus be? Or should he let Arne Duncan just “ do his thing “?

Two things:

a. Economic development, which of course is related to education achievement.

b. K-12 Diversity.

I have an Andrew Rotherham quote on the home page: “Public education in the United States is…being de-regulated, and that never happens without a fight. What it really boils down to is producer interest versus consumer interest. In the sweep of American history it may take a while, but the consumers ultimately win.”

I hope that the Administration actively discusses and promotes a variety of education models.

5)      As I reflect back, on this  past year, I think about the teacher’s strike. Your thoughts on that event?

Change is always a challenge.  Teachers are of course a substantial player in the K-12 world.   I found it interesting that the Minneapolis Teachers Union now has the ability to authorize charters.  I like that and hope that more unions take a look at the new opportunities that lie ahead.

6)      Common Core- How well prepared is the average teacher? And who will be responsible for it’s implementation?

I defer to others far more knowledgeable than me on the Common Core.    I’m not sure that increased centralization is the answer.

7)      One book that you have read this past year- and it’s impact?

The Opium War by Julia Lovell

Lovell’s work reminds me of our present times….  “Doomed to repeat history”…

8)      Any real technological changes for the betterment of education?

Pervasive computer networks offer incredible resources for teachers and students.  The opportunity for educators is enormous.   Students must learn to convert data to information and become thinking critics, particularly when machines such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are monetizing them.

9)      What have I neglected to ask ?

Thanks for thinking of me.


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