Wayne Jennings Vita

1996 Langton Lake Drive
St. Paul, Minnesota 55113
Phone (651) 644-2805 Cell: 651-233-3252
Email: wayne@designlearn.net

• Won and directed one of the eleven award teams to redesign American education in a nationwide competition. The design, Community Learning Centers, has been implemented in several schools.

• Started or helped start many schools: St. Paul Open School, Chiron Middle School, Saturn School of Tomorrow, St. Paul Area Learning Center, Children’s Theatre School, Mall of America High School, Minnesota New Country School, EXPO Magnet Middle School, and six charter schools (Family Learning Center, Minnesota Technology High School (Now Jennings Community School), High School for Recording Arts, Museum School, Learning Adventures Middle School, Concordia Creative Arts Academy.

• Established and directed The St. Paul Open School (1971), a K-12 research, demonstration school of the St. Paul Public Schools. It attracted 10,000 visitors and was described in articles or books. The school won the Pacesetter Award from the U. S. Office of Education as being educationally effective, cost-effective, and worthy of replication and is in its 47th year, now called Open World Learning. It pioneered personal learning plans, advisor-advisee programs, student as a resource, competency-based learning, and other progressive practices.

• As principal helped reverse the negative image and established twelve magnet programs as part of a desegregation plan at Central High School, an inner-city school for 1,800 students.

• Established and directed the Staff Development Department of the St. Paul Public Schools which provided training programs for 130 administrators and 2600 teachers.

• Published the ASCD newsletter, the Brain Compatible Learning Networker for 18 years. Author of recent books: School Transformation, 2018; Inciting Learning: A Guide to Brain-Compatible Instruction, with Joan Caulfield, 2002: Bridging the Learning/Assessment Gap: Showcase Learning, with Joan Caulfield, 2005, and other books and chapters in several books.

• Other projects: wrote Five Year Plan for Adult Literacy for St. Paul that culminated in a state-of-the-art adult learning center; member of the Congressionally funded team for the evaluation of charter schools; delivered over many addresses to workshops, seminars, and conferences; assisted several foundations and the USDE with evaluating proposals.

• Established successful businesses: construction; manufacturing fiberglass canoes; education consulting.

• Experience on boards and leadership positions include:
o President of the International Association for Learning Alternatives (2001-2018)
o Board chair Jennings Community Learning Center (2001-present)
o Board chair High School for Recording Arts (1997-2016)
o President of the Education Industry Association (1996-97)
o President of Minnesota Alliance for the Arts in Education (1996-97)
o President of The Continuum Center board (1991-1993)
o President of the National Association for Core Curriculum (1966)
o President of the Minnesota Association for Core Curriculum (1963-65)
o President of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools (1997-99
o President of the Mounds View Public Schools’ Board of Education (1968 71)
o President of the Lauderdale School PTA(1962)
o President of St. Paul Administrators’ Forum (1980)
o President of the Board of Directors, Responses, Inc., Mpls. (1987-89)
o Vice President, Minnesota Futurists (1983 84)
o Vice president, The Minnesota Children’s Museum, St. Paul (1975 76)
o Treasurer, Center for Policy Studies (2006-2012)

• Other board positions:
o The Agency for Instructional Technology, Bloomington, IN (1981-1987)
o Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs (1991-95)
o Futurics magazine Editorial Board
o Changing School magazine Editorial Advisory Board, Muncie, IN (1979-89)
o National Advisory Committee, City Innovation (1989-1998)
o Transforming Schools Consortium (1988-2001)
o PivotPoint board member
o Brain-Compatible Learning Network Board
o Director The Institute for Learning and Teaching
o Advisory Committee for the National Association for Core Curriculum (1995-2011)
o River Heights Charter School board (2004-2006)
o Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs (current ex-officio)
o Minnesota Education Trust (2008-10)
o International Association for Learning Alternatives

• 1985-2016: Director, The Institute for Learning and Teaching
• 1996-2000 Superintendent of 4 charter schools
• 1999-2000: Adjunct Professor, Minnesota University at Mankato, MN
• 1988-2000: Adjunct Professor, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN
• 1987-2000: Chairman, Designs for Learning, Inc., St. Paul, MN
• 1985-1987: Director of Staff Development, St. Paul Public Schools, St. Paul, MN
• 1982 1985: Director of Education, Children’s Theatre Company and School, Mpls., MN
• 1980 1982: Principal, Central High School, St. Paul, MN
• 1978 1980: Principal, Battle Creek Junior High School, St. Paul, MN
• 1971 1978: Principal, St. Paul Open School, St. Paul, MN
• 1970 1971: Assistant Director, Career Study Center, St. Paul, MN
• 1967 1970: Assistant Director, City Center for Learning, St. Paul, MN
• 1960 1967: Director of Activities and Teacher, Como Park Junior, St. Paul, MN
• 1958 1960: Teacher, Phillips Junior High School, Minneapolis, MN
• 1952 1954: Instructor, U. S. Army, Fort Riley, KS
• 1944-1955: Various: railroad track maintenance, plasterer, construction, farming, manufacturing

• Bachelor of Arts as a core curriculum teacher, University of Minnesota, 1958.
• Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction, University of Minnesota, 1961.
• PhD in education, University of Minnesota, 1968.

• Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
• Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs
• National Society for the Study of Education
• Phi Delta Kappa
• John Dewey Society

• Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: best network newsletter (6 times)
• Cunningham Award for Educational Leadership
• Exemplary Contributor to Education by the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs
• Jennings Community Learning Center (high school) named for him
• Chapter describing Wayne’s work in The Educational Entrepreneur by Leisey and Lavoroni
• Selected as one of the College of Education, University of Minnesota’s 100 Distinguished Alumni
• Honorary board member of the Minnesota Association for Alternative Programs
• Listed in the Hall of Fame for Alternative Educators (Alternative Education Resource Organization)
• Selected as the Governor of Minnesota educator for the day.
• Received the John Dewey Society’s Outstanding Achievement Award for lifetime practitioner of Dewey’s schooling philosophy and practice.

Experiential Learning

Learning through experience highlights the difference between active and passive learning. The brain learns more, deeper, and with longer-lasting effects from life experiences. In one-way learning, such as listening to a lecture or merely observing, learning can occur but with less impact and fades more quickly compared to direct involvement and participation.

The experiential school places its students in situations where they have to think, solve problems, interact with others in situations as close to societal life as possible. Students establish goals, create learning plans, establish courses of action, and be held accountable for results. This happens most effectively through activities where students hold important roles and exercise responsibility, or what John Dewey called learning by doing. With experiential learning, everyone is a learner and everyone a teacher.

Teachers act as “facilitators of learning” to help students be responsible citizens, achieve fulfilling careers, become self-directed, lead healthy lives and become lifelong learners. The various items around this wheel show a variety of experiential activities followed by descriptions.

The advisor-advisee program is the heart of the school. Each student is assigned to an advisor with an advisory group, the major subdivision of the school. The advisor works with students to establish a Personal Learning Plans (PLP). This requires daily contact, regular meetings and parental involvement. The advisor’s role includes many functions: friend, helper, guide, counselor, appraiser, record keeper, critic, facilitator, expediter, and arranger. The advisor helps the student grow in all areas–intellectual, social, physical–and to develop talents and uniqueness. The advisor is an educational broker. Like a travel agent, the advisor asks students where they want to go and helps make the best educational plans and schedules for getting there. The advisor helps parents and students fashion and design programs that best fit the needs of students. The advisory group establishes a supportive home base where the group can plan activities and feel included.

Personal Learning Plans
Every student has a Personal Learning Plan. The PLP, tailored to student needs, learning styles, and school expectations developed by the student in consultation with their advisor and their parents. It contains goals, how to achieve the goals, progress toward goals, projects, and graduation. The student, advisor, and parents review and update the PLP periodically.

Project-Based Learning
Project-Based Learning involves a student or several students working on a topic of interest. The process includes researching the topic, gathering information, organizing information, and reporting on findings. The reports may take the form of a written essay, a dramatic presentation such as a play or musical, discussion with adult resources, and always includes a public presentation before an audience of peers and adults. Student interest areas vary enormously and projects provide an outlet for exploring what may range from a passing interest to what becomes a lifelong career. Exploring a topic requires a fairly rigorous application and demonstration of many skills and knowledge areas.

Interdisciplinary Curriculum
An interdisciplinary curriculum removes the boundaries between school subjects and increases the likelihood that skills and knowledge from different subjects apply to solving problems or learning new topics. This departs from standard school curricula of separate subjects or what is sometimes referred to as “silos of knowledge.” The real world is not made up of just biology or just literature. Rather, the brain sees the world in totality with a mixture of understandings and learnings. It learns mostly from complexity. The mistake many schools make is to assume that dividing knowledge into separate areas will somehow combine in the brain as a more generalized picture of the world and knowledge. This does not happen for most people. Students need to see the broader picture of the world, its features, its problems, and its triumphs to better understand how the world works.

Service Learning Opportunities
Service-learning offers opportunities for students to make a difference in their school and the community through their efforts and applying school learning. This results in good feelings of self-efficacy or knowledge that “I can make a difference.” Examples include volunteering at a community agency, helping in a food kitchen, helping maintain the school’s computers, or touring visitors. Every student serves in a role that accomplishes important school tasks. Community- service is expected of every student.

Learning Through Travel
Trips to various places in the United States and beyond increase understanding of different cultures, history, geography, and other important areas of learning. Students plan trips by researching budgets, meals, lodging, maps, and using the Internet for learning about destinations and route highlights. Trips include journals, interviews, photography, and reflection. Students report that trips have been among the most important stimulating eye-opening experiences of their schooling years.

Courses, Seminars, Workshops

Despite an experiential emphasis schools still provide specific courses on topics of importance and standard school subjects, often in a seminar or workshop mode to increase active learning. These might include, for example, the science of nutrition or modern politics with students carrying out activities that stimulate interest and exploration or community action. Many seminars or workshops emerge from world, state, or local current news events. Community experts and local resource people share their experiences as “sparks,” to spur interest, and serve as jumping-off points to new vocabulary and concepts. The world and all of its complexity and variety need to be understood by students.

Restorative Justice
Restorative justice is a process where all people affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been hurt by the wrong and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. Three key ideas support restorative justice. First is the understanding that the victim and the surrounding community have both been affected by the action of the offender. Second, the offender’s obligation is to make amends with both the victim and the involved community. Third, and the most important process of restorative justice, is the concept of ‘healing,’ or the collaborative unburdening of pain for the victim, offender, and community. All parties engage in creating agreements to avoid recidivism and to restore safety for how the wrongdoing can be righted. This allows the victim to have direct say in the judgment process. This gives offenders the opportunity to understand the harm they have caused, while demonstrating to the community that the offender might also have also suffered harm. Healing by reintegration of offenders into the community strives to restore harmony, health, and well-being by comprising personal accountability, decision-making, and the making right of harm.

Students as Resources
The concept of Students as resources recognizes the worth and value of every student and that each has gifts and talents to share with the community. Schools short of resources such as money and staff often overlook the greatest resource in their midst, that of the students themselves. Students can instruct, coach, help, handle responsibilities, initiate, manage and make decisions given an environment where talents are given rein and appreciated. For example, students can tutor, teach about a passion to others, and participate on the school’s Board of Directors.

By serving an internship in an organization for a period of time, students learn how an organization works, how adults interact, and about their abilities and potential. These include internships and formal work experience programs. Both immerse students in community organizations and businesses outside the school. Students learn the importance of record-keeping, writing skills, and math skills that increase motivation for academic learning. Students learn that punctuality is critically important, schedules must be met, behavior must conform to norms, dress is important, and courtesy is essential to the organization’s bottom line. These are learnings of importance and have a lasting impact on students.

Technology gives every student the opportunity to work on any topic.  Students value the Internet and other technologies for carrying out projects. Students become proficient at word processing, e-mail, graphic programs, presentation programs, and information searches.

Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is one that small teams–often as an aspect of project-based learning—work together with students of different levels of ability and use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a topic. Students collaborate through the task until all group members successfully understand and complete the task. Cooperative efforts result in all participants striving for mutual benefit.

Exchanges help students understand how another community or culture works by exchanging positions for a time. For example, a student or several students go to a rural community for two weeks and live in homes and attend the local school. This is often followed by a reverse exchange in which the rural students attend the city school. Exchanges have occurred across town and across national borders. Students report these as very powerful and stimulating learning experiences. They learn how other families manage, how other schools work, and experience community resources. Often these involve values very different from their own and broaden understandings. Such experiences better prepare students for the world of diversity they will experience for the remainder of their lives

Start the Year Right

Starting The School Year On The Right Foot

A rewarding way to begin the school year starts with a conference with three people: student, parent and advisor. An advisor means the school has an advisory program or students are with an elementary teacher most of the day.

The conference is best scheduled before the formal school start date, or during the first week of school. Many of the conferences will be in the evening to fit parent work schedules.

At the conference (scheduled by the advisor) parent, student and advisor become acquainted and establish communication means, such as a home or work phone number or email. They start a personal learning plan for the student.

The personal learning plan (PLP) starts with student interests and favorite subjects, then continues with areas where the student or parent suggest student improvement. The result, different for each student, becomes a personal learning plan.

The conference meeting should be relaxed and comfortable, for instance, coffee, treats and a comfortable chair, not a kindergarten chair for adults. The conference creates an easy conversation with the parent who knows their child best.

The most important result is a plan for the student’s success. It helps if the school program allows flexibility and choices as described in School Transformation. Goals, projects, and classes become the path to success.

The last step schedules periodic times for the advisor to meet with the student for progress and adjusting for problems. The parent and advisor set a date for the next conference to review progress. The school ideally sets one or two calendar dates midyear and an end-of-year time for conferences.

Subsequent conferences should be student-managed as in, “ Mom and Dad, here are the goals we set and what I worked on. And here is how it went.” Role-playing the conference with the advisor ahead of time prepares the student for the upcoming conference. The conference discussion should emphasize accomplishments.

Initial and later conferences help the student understand accountability. The conference recognizes the importance of the parent and the means of two-way communication. The school-parent partnership aims for student-management of learning and the importance of responsibility.

The beginning of the year conference validates school-parent partnerships with the student’s progress at the center as it should be.

Wayne B Jennings, retired teacher, principal and author of School Transformation.

My Book: School Transformation

After 60 years with schools and the gathering of 7,500 reports, articles, notes, conference handouts and the experience as a teacher, principal, and university teacher, I’ve written the book, I always planned about different and better ways of schooling.

The book, School Transformation at 450 pages with five hundred footnotes (on the bottom of the referenced page), and is written without jargon for the public, educators, and policymakers. It has stories, quotes, my experiences, and famous but little-known items that new generations would have seen go viral.

I’m getting a good reaction, some calling it the education book of the century. It will stimulate a new way of thinking about an outmoded system. They say only I could have written it because of a base of experience and references. I’m certain it will excite you.

School Transformation is available from Amazon.

Innovation Sources

Innovation sources: the following is a partial list of organizations thought to promote progressive education. I omitted others considered primarily training or commercial outfits. There may be errors of omission or mischaracterization, but the list shows how many organizations promote progressive approaches. Scroll down to see the entire list.

  1. Whole-Learner Education
  2. Advancing Education
  3. Alternative Education Resource  Organization
  4. Atlantic Rim Collaborative
  5. Buck Institute for Education
  6. Center for Collaboration
  7. Center for Mental Health in Schools
  8. Center for Reinventing Public Education
  9. Centre for Personalized Learning
  10. Communities in Schools
  11. Competency Works
  12. CTQ Collab
  13. Deeper Learning Network
  14. Digital Badge Program
  15. EdSurge
  16. Education Evolving
  17. Education Reimagined Lab (Note: check link to Transcend)
  18. Education Reimagined
  19. Edutopia
  20. Experiential Learning Depot
  21. Future Lab
  22. Future Ready Schools
  23. generation Learning Challenges
  24. Getting Smart
  25. HundRed
  26. iNACOL
  27. Innovation Sources
  28. Institute for Educational Leadership
  29. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning
  30. International Society for Technology in Education
  31. Just Ask Us
  32. KnowledgeWorks\
  33. LeaningForward
  34. Maker Faire
  35. MindShift Education
  36. National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
  37. Nellie Mae Education Foundation
  38. NewTech NetworkNext
  39. Next Generation Learning Challenges
  40. OBESSU Organizing Bureau  European School Student Unions
  41. Open Way Learning
  42. Problem-based Learning
  43. Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
  44. Reimagine School
  45. Reinventing Schools Coalition
  46. Remake Learning
  47. ReSchool Colorado
  48. Spark-Y
  49. Transcend
  50. UNICEF
  51. Unschoolingschools.com
  52. Up with Learning
  53. Yellow Hats League

School Transformation


Wayne B. Jennings Ph.D.

Key Points:

Four Goals for K-12 Education
• Active, responsible Citizenship
• Productive, satisfying careers
• Lifetime learning
• Personal fulfillment

Seven Problems of Present Schooling
• Disengagement rates of 60 %
• Dropouts (one million per year)
• In-school dropouts
• Achievement gap between poor and middle class
• Suspension levels
• Limitations of the classroom model
• Curve of forgetting

Four Attempts at Fixing Schools
• 100 million each: Miami, Philadelphia, Newark
• Federal grants (millions)
• 1000s of workshops, seminars, books
• Abundant Consultants
• But: Disappointing results

Features of our New Era
• Technology: (more to come, e.g. AI)
• Families have changed
• Race, gender equity and preferences
• Many others

Four Key findings about how the Brain Learns
• Input: the more the better
• Experience: opportunities to test one’s wings
• Feedback: essential to refine learnings
• Safety: lack of anxiety, unconditional positive regard

Nine Basic Principles for Transformed Schools
• Personal learning plans
• Advisor program
• Trust and belief in youth
• Student-directed learning
• Vision, team building, commitment
• Supportive creative team
• Partnerships (many kinds)
• Choices: students and teachers
• Technology
But, (what to do with resisters)

Some Brain Compatible Learning Activities

• Project-based, place-based ventures
• Outdoors, escape from 4 walls
• Community resources (rural also)
• Service experiences
• Field trips, local and extended
• Sparks
• Interdisciplinary
• Exchanges, schools, rural, urban, ethnicity
• Reflection
• Photography, video tape, editing
• Drama, debate
• Fine arts, practical arts
• Sports, recreation
• Oral and written history
• Writing: stories, newspapers
• Internships, Shadow studies
• Decision making, democracy, PP
• Learned expertise, geniuses
• Exhibitions, public presentations
• Restorative practices
• Pupil-teacher planning
• Student as a resource
• Camping
• Competencies (Badging)

Quotes on Learning

“The person who grabs a cat by the tail learns about 44 percent faster than those just watching.” (Mark Twain) quote from School Transformation.

“I don’t blame teachers and administrators for school shortcomings. They were trained for their roles and are given little wiggle room. They work diligently and creatively to make the current system effective. They would change the system if they had the authority, time, and encouragement to do so.” From School Transformation

Winston Churchill is thought to have said,  I love learning. But I don’t always like being taught.

I have never let schooling interfere with my education. Mark Twain.

Boy says to friend, “I taught my dog to talk.” Friend, “Come on! Dogs can’t talk. Show me.” Boy, “I said I taught him. I didn’t say he learned it.”

People today do not even know what children are actually like. They only know what children are like in schools. (Carol Black)

The brain is made for learning. It doesn’t need to be taught how to learn, just as the stomach doesn’t need to be taught how to extract nutrients from food. (Leslie Hart)

The president of the dog food company said to salespeople at their annual meeting, “We have best dog food factory in the world. “The sales staff said, “yea.” The president said, “We have the best dog food anywhere.” The sales staff said, “yea.” The president said, “If we have the best factory and we have the best sales staff, then “Why isn’t our dog food selling?” There was silence in the room. Finally, an old blind man sitting in the last row said, “Because dogs hate the stuff.” (Gary Phillips in a metaphor about teaching)


New Schools for a New Era

Today’s schools don’t fit a modern era notwithstanding the dedication of teachers and principals. School people work hard with a model developed 140 years ago. Everyone trying to improve schools struggles to get a little more mileage from the conventional system. They succeed to an extent, but the present model reaches an upper limit. It’s like trying to make a typewriter a word processor.

Schools aren’t good enough in many areas: too many students are bored and disengaged; participatory democratic citizenship skills like critical thinking are poorly developed and little practiced in school; 20th-century skills, community participation; and personal health and talents are not valued or measured. Modern principles of learning are not applied. Too much talent goes wasted. Today’s schools are a poor fit for the Internet age.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I will share ideas from School Transformation to:

  • Clarify the shortcomings of today’s schools. This won’t rely on international comparisons and test scores. This describes Old Schools in a New Era page.
  • I will describe the new era and its implications for schools including how students learn and changing societal forces impacting schools. page.
  • Provide a new conceptualization of schooling for the new era.

I want to see schools (even the word “school” conjures an image and gets in the way of rethinking) that are places of action, where school doors swing both ways tapping the goldmine of community resources; where schools are a beehive of active students in a variety of ventures and expression; and where teachers and administrators draw upon their creativity in creating schooling that fits a changing democracy.