Ted Kolderie

Ted Kolderie

Senior Fellow

Ted Kolderie has worked on system questions and with legislative policy in different areas of public life: urban and metropolitan affairs and public finance through the 1960s and '70s. He began working in the 1970s with questions about the redesign of the operating side of the public sector; with the Public Service Options project. He was involved nationally on these questions with the Rand Corporation, SRI International, the Urban Institute and others.

During the 1980s he ran the Public Services Redesign Project while at the University of Minnesota school of public affairs. By the mid-1980s the work had come to focus on the redesign of K-12 public education; system and schools. Since 2009 he has again been closely involved with the broader questions about the redesign of major public systems; governmental and non-governmental.

A graduate of Carleton College and of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton University, Ted was previously a reporter and editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, executive director of the Citizens League and a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.


Thinking Out the How  (Kolderie, 2018)
By itself neither deploring the problem nor reaffirming the goal makes anything happen. To solve a problem and to reach a goal, to get a system restructured or a new idea passed into law, there has to be a How.

This book is about how one American state successfully reinvented its regional governance . . . revised its public finance . . . reorganized its hospital system . . . is re-forming its public education and reconceiving its system of urban transportation.

It is hopeful about our public sector. But the story it tells is clear: Politics can't do it alone. Government needs a strong civic sector to push elected officials to think about the causes of problems, and to provide them radical but implementable strategies for policy action.

Unhappily, our civic infrastructure today might not be up to the job at the state and local level where that has to happen. This description of its essentials, this analysis of its successes, shows what will be needed to revive that essential civic dimension of public life.

Available on Amazon

How the State Can Deal With the School Board's Inertia (Kolderie, 2018)
In a time of change, from which public education is not exempt, the design of the school district is increasingly a problem. In the centralized public corporation created a century ago the deck is stacked against innovation. Proposals to 'do different' come usually from a small group dissatisfied with the status quo: a group of parents, a group of teachers, a faction on the board, sometimes the superintendent. Doing what they ask is disruptive. Boards find it easier to keep things the same—across the schools, and down through time. So the response to those advocating change, certainly those advocating radical change, is likely to be 'No'.

Efforts continue to persuade boards to change the approach to learning, to try a new form of school organization, to delegate greater authority to teachers. There is enabling legislation and there are pilot projects. People work hard, and are hopeful. But they are asking boards of education to do what boards find not in their practical interest; asking them to try things bound to create controversy or cause conflict in the organization. Always, there are places where new things do get tried; media reports give the impression of a changing system. But it is slow; often does not spread and does not last.

The Split Screen Strategy: How to Turn Education Into a Self-Improving System (Kolderie, 2015)
This is a challenging but a hopeful book. Its author - involved for more than 30 years with education policy and politics at the local, state and national level – insists this country could be getting a lot more than it is from both its students and their teachers. But not with the current, conventional, 'theory of action'. It is a mistake to go on only pushing for performance; assuming public education can be better without school having to be different. It is necessary and it is possible to make 'school' different. No one is going to 'blow the system up and start over'. But this now-inert system can open to new approaches to learning and new forms of school. Innovation, gradually spreading and steadily improving, is systemic change. That is the way successful systems change. This new 'theory of action' will turn education into a self-improving system. The Split-Screen Strategy explains how that can be done with a strategy that creates a 'climate of encouragement for innovation', opening the way for schools and teachers to try things. This different approach asks educators - and our policy leadership - to rethink the notion that change is 'something the boss does' . . . to consider how differently teachers would behave and how they would change school if they had truly professional roles . . . how much better students would learn if school were organized to maximize motivation . . . how much more effective the national government would be if presidents made their proposals not to Congress but to the legislatures in whose law the education system exists. Endlessly deploring the problems and endlessly reaffirming the need to 'do better' does not move anything ahead. We need to get education changing the way successful systems change. The book explains what boards of education can do, what state legislatures and governors can do. It sets out dramatically different roles for the national government - and a surprising role for teacher unions.

Hard Copies & Kindle Version on Amazon

The Split-Screen Strategy is available as a free PDF and as an e-book on Amazon Kindle, and Barnes and Noble Nook. Hard copies are available on Amazon.

It can be viewed as a PDF (here).