In a recent post on Singularity HUB entitled, “Why We Need Moonshot Thinking in High School Education”1, Alison E. Berman writes:

“With about 20% of teens dropping out of high school and 5.6 million Americans between the ages of 16-24 (that’s 1 in 7) disconnected from both school and work, it isn’t too wild to say that we have an engagement crisis in the US.

This lack of engagement comes at a high cost to the economy and to taxpayers, who spend $93 billion dollars annually on disconnected youth (those not in school or working) and $1.6 trillion over their lifetime.

But that spending isn’t preparing the population to thrive in today’s workforce.

In fact, 40% of U.S. companies cannot find qualified candidates to fill their jobs, and employers spend more on skills training annually than universities and government combined.

… Put simply, moonshot thinking is when you approach a huge challenge (like disengaged high school students) with a radical solutions-oriented mindset. In this mindset, the focus is on creating solutions that can make 10x improvements to the problem rather than 10% improvements.

Moonshot thinking motivates teams to think big by framing problems as solvable and encouraging ‘anything is possible’ dialogues around how to solve the challenge.”

In December 2013, MASA began a conversation called “Minnevate!” During 2013-14, we hosted regional discussions designed to explore and bridge the space between our visions for the future of Minnesota’s schools and the realities of today. We gathered dialogue data using the World Café hosting model and coded and reported that data in our first (2013-14) report. (Find a link to the report at

MASA members are our state’s education experts and it is appropriate that they convene the conversations about the future of Minnesota education. MASA has always intended that Minnevate! exist as a place for conversation, ideas, and commentary – NOT an “initiative” that would result in a report that would be read by few, that would get dusty on a shelf, that would be devoid of meaning. We often say that Minnevate! isn’t a “thing;” it’s not a committee you have to be on, or a finite product—or a conversation that belongs to a select few, no more than public education belongs to a select few. Minnevate! exists as a place to figure out where we are now, where we want to go, and how to get there. Minnevate! is our place for Moonshot Thinking. It’s that simple, and of course that complex.

The MASA leadership continues to be committed to Minnevate! The current MASA Strategic Plan features the strategy: “Through Minnevate!, we will foster relationships with all stakeholders to create and advocate a common public education agenda in Minnesota,” and specifically the action step: “Develop a common understanding of purposes of education and solicit feedback.”

This fall, we will once again be visiting our MASA Regions to add an additional data layer to the Minnevate! conversation. For the upcoming meetings, our theme will be, “Understanding the ‘public’ in public education: Community voices about the value of schools,” with the intent of examining citizen perspectives on the value of schools to communities, important student outcomes, and priorities for the future. Our lead facilitator will be Aaron Ruhland, Director of Learning and Accountability for the Orono Schools. Aaron has contributed to Minnevate! over the past two years as an MASA member and will also use the data from this set of focus groups to support his doctoral dissertation.

We have asked superintendents throughout the state to identify potential participants who have a broad knowledge and perspective of school purpose and goals with the hope of convening focus groups with a participant majority of community members. Participants who are district leaders and staff, as well as school board members, will be welcomed with open arms, but we want to be very intentional about harvesting the voices of the wider community. We have suggested that members from school districts’ curriculum advisory councils who possess broad knowledge and perspective about school purpose and goals would be good candidates for this conversation.

We will once again collect the conversation data (participants’ comments will be confidential), code it, and report it as additional data for the Minnevate! conversation.

Thank you to our MASA members and our wider community for your support of and participation in what we believe is a significant opportunity to bridge the gap between our current reality and a collective vision for the future of education in Minnesota.


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