Wayne Jennings


Wayne Jennings

Wayne Jennings lives at Applewood Pointe of Roseville at Langton Lake, though instead of finding a life of leisure he’s kept on working into his golden years. He officially retired in 1987 after almost 30 wide-ranging years in the St. Paul school system, only to embark on a second career in education that hasn’t ended yet. 

He recently published “Transforming Education,” a book that details what’s wrong with education and offers ways to address it.

Jennings had long been a critic of the traditional classroom model for schools in the U.S. “That model, at 160 years old, is obsolete for learning and maybe always was. It endures because it’s administratively efficient,” he says. 

With ideas for effective schooling developed throughout his first career, which included founding and running innovative schools such as the first Open School in St. Paul, the transition to his second career was natural. 

Something of a maverick within the school district, he’d earned a reputation as a change agent, which served him well in his new venture. 

“A lot of people knew me and agreed with many of my ideas for improving schools for kids. So when I started Designs for Learning, much of our early work came from within the district,” he said. 

Within a couple of years, Designs for Learning won a national competition in designing systems for school reform; it received the top rating out of 700 entries. “That happened when the charter school movement was just starting,” Jennings says, “and we had a tested model that seemed to fit perfectly with that movement.”

Since those days, almost 20 years ago, the need for educational reformation persists, but the alternative models initiated by Jennings and others throughout those early years still exist and thrive in communities nationwide. 

“Even so, change remains slow,” he says, “but essential. Ten years ago, I’d have said maybe 5% of schools offer an alternative learning style. Today, I’d adjust that to 10%. And I’m still optimistic that more change is ahead as more parents come to understand that if their child hates school, it’s rarely the fault of the child.”

That optimism is reflected in the publication of “Transforming Education.” Jennings says he’s already working on a second edition of the book. 

“I realized soon after publication that its length might discourage potential readers so I’m revising to make it shorter. The first version would attract primarily educators. The revised version will be more appealing to parents and former students — and aren’t we all? — who understand how flawed the traditional model is in meeting the needs of  kids in today’s multiethnic, multicultural and increasingly technical society.”

 

—submitted by Monette Johnson

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