More free, effective personalized schooling available

The following column originally appeared in the Mankato Free Press on January 21, 2022


My View: More free effective, personalized schooling available

  • JOE NATHAN My View

Jan 21, 2022


While the pandemic is on people’s minds Mankato area students and families have terrific opportunities to personalize their education in the next two months, thanks to many public school options.

Youngsters can use these opportunities to save themselves and their families thousands of dollars while identifying and improving their gifts, talents and interests. They develop vital basic and applied life skills.

One example are the range of courses allowing students — sometime starting as early as 9th grade — to challenge themselves and earn free college credit. Minnesota’s PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Options) program is one option. This allows 10-12th grade high school students to take free college credits on a college campus or on-line. State law requires that high schools allow students to use school computers to take PSEO courses.

Minnesota State University notes that in the 2020-21 school year, the 1,793 students and families using the PSEO program saved $3.8 million in tuition. Their PSEO students earned 11,589 credits. Ninety-two percent of the credits were successfully transferred.

PSEO courses are available in “hands on” vocational as well as traditional academic subjects. Though not as well known, starting in 10th grade, students can take free vocational courses at two year public colleges such as South Central College.

The PSEO law requires districts and charters to provide information to 8-11th grade students and their families by March 1 or three weeks before students register for the next year’s classes. The registration deadline for 10th-12th grade students is May 30.

Both district and charter public schools offer other valuable high school/college credit options. For example, the Mankato district offers high school students changes to take not only Advanced Placement courses in more than a dozen areas. The district also offers courses allowing students to earn free college credit as they learn cabinet making, accounting and webpage design, to name just a few.

Many districts ask families and students to select students’ school and (at the secondary level), class schedule, during January or February. Virtually every Minnesota high school offers one or more college level courses — called Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Concurrent Enrollment, or College in the Schools.

One difference among them is that college credit for AP and IB is based mostly or entirely on how well a student does in the final exam. College credit for other courses depends on a student’s work throughout the course. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education offers information about college/university acceptance policies for these courses:

More personalized education is more effective because it builds on students’ interests and talents. That helps increase student motivation to learn, as Ted Kolderie explains in this paper (

This can be part of Minnesota’s law requiring every student, working with their family and educators, to develop a post-high school plan

Minnesota has developed many opportunities for personalized learning over the last 30+ years. These opportunities are found within school districts as well as chartered, private, home and online schools.

Their availability gives opportunities for thousands of students to learn to their potential while also being a resource for traditional learning. Expansion of personalized learning will benefit our increasingly diverse student population while also improving traditional learning for all. School leaders and policy makers should make its growth a priority.

Along with districts, Mankato families have a variety of charter public school options, including both the Kato Charter, and the Minnesota New Country School in Henderson. A complete list of Minnesota chartered public schools is available at

Fortunately Minnesota families have more and more opportunities for a free, public, personalized education.

Joe Nathan, Ph.D, has been a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president. He directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome at