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“Here Are 5 Things That Should Be Done To Improve The US Educational System” With Penny Bauder & Dr. J. Paul Rand

I believe our system is overburdened because we introduce vocational and career exploration by default, and not design. Learning is the capacity to shape the future and we should raise children with the expectation they learn and seek education constantly through their life — it’s a journey that doesn’t end with high school. But we do […]

I believe our system is overburdened because we introduce vocational and career exploration by default, and not design. Learning is the capacity to shape the future and we should raise children with the expectation they learn and seek education constantly through their life — it’s a journey that doesn’t end with high school. But we do not provide such a system — correcting this error is imperative to our continued ability to lead innovation globally.


As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system, I had the pleasure to interview Dr J Paul Rand, MBA, CPCN. Dr Rand is a Regional White House Fellow, and once was the youngest elected public official in Washington State; he is a LinkedIn TOP 1% Leadership & Research Authority; Big 4 C-level adviser featured by FORBESPuget Sound Business Journal, CBS, and more as a performance psychologist. As an Educational/School Psychologist in K12 and Higher-Ed, he designed award-winning learning programs. He was endorsed for his education systems supporting veterans combating PTS/PTSD. As an Organizational Development Leadership Authority, he prescribes solutions maximizing ROI through organizational development/human capital performance strategies: a process he defines in his 2020 publication “Culture-ROI”. As the leading SME in applied professional degree accreditation standards Rand made a policy proposal to the White House and various federal agencies.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Rand! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?

In2003 after graduating college and a short-stint with a Big-4 firm at that time, I was approached by a small Seattle based Think-Tank operating at the intersect of higher-education, human capital performance, and corporate learning academies. I was tasked with creating systems to enhance public and private organizational learning programs by linking people, teams, and technology. These experiences inspired me to earn an MBA and PhD in Psychology to better understand putting the human back into education, business, and technology. My internship and residency focused on creating standards of Applied Professional Sciences. My research has taken me from working in the trenches with combat veterans and military leaders, advising education providers and designing educational products, to consulting in board rooms in exciting and innovative companies based in Seattle, Washington which I highlight in my Forbes Interview available on LinkedIn for my followers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Aside from educational and organizational consulting, I have run a therapy park just outside of the “City of Companies” (Seattle, Washington); a park dedicated to educational-based research serving combat veterans. Following a massive increase in teen suicides in the local K12 system and a school shooting that left a good friend of my “bonus daughter” (aka stepdaughter) dead, I turned attention to supporting K12 PTS/PTSD research, an extension of my work with combat veterans.

Through this tragedy and choice to refocus our research, I discovered that I have a very rare grove of trees that biologists report are well over 135 years old growing on my property: The Rowan Berry Tree. Historically this tree is regarded as the “Tree of Life” in many cultures. Ironically, this is the logo for the Department of Education — fitting considering the educational-focused research we conduct onsite.

Sadly, this tree is going extinct — ponder this question: what does it mean for humanity if we let the living-legacy — the Tree of Life — go extinct?

In an effort to preserve this only known grove of trees in the US — versus developing this very in demand buildable lot- my team is working to create products cultivated from the tree. We are working with a gold-medal winning local distiller to release of the largest global supply of Rowan Berry vodka (ryabinokva) which retails in the EU for over $95 a bottle. We are using a 700-year-old recipe that’s absolutely amazing! We are also researching the production of 100% organic, natural soap using the berry (my firm will lead FDA-focused clinical research due to laboratory studies showing the products effectiveness in combating MRSA; something Vikings knew about the Rowan Berry over 1000 years ago).

This unique journey has served to remind (teach) me that from tragedy we can dig-deep to find inspiring opportunity by leveraging technology to create a more vibrant and cultured human experience worth living…

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am. Presently I am working to integrate a multidisciplinary system that drives “Culture-ROI” by linking people, teams and technology. Specifically, we are integrating artificial intelligence (AI), emotional intelligence (EI) measurement tools, and business intelligence (BI) methods based on a proprietary education-based and human capital performance-focused software. It will allow organizational development to occur at the speed of technology!

Rooted in applied-learning sciences, the software will end a 150-year-old control-model system of organizational management. It literally puts a scholar-practitioner, speaker, coach/consultant into the pocket of every employee to support them based on their strengths. It maximizes learning, real-time research, and promotes principles of innovation and self-management to drive productivity of all employees. It will allow companies to strategically embrace what I defined in a policy proposal to the White House as the “rise of the learning economy.”

We have vetted the models against US Education Standards and are recognized by the White House as the leading authorities in organizational learning accreditation; our hope is that through collaborative partnerships we will link technology platforms, such as LinkedIn, with the accreditation standards I proposed to the White House, and provide much needed relief to the US Education System by creating a new form of applied professional degrees, delivered though this software and customized to each learner.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are authority in the education field?

I hold a master’s in business systems (MBA) and a PhD in human performance psychology with certifications in coaching, negotiations, and leadership. I have been researching, testing, and designing educational courses, programs, certifications, and accreditation standards for over 17 years. My SME focus is on modalities of applied professional science, specifically principles of applied-learning, research, and leadership.

As an educational (school) psychologist I have been awarded by the VA/Dept of Defense, Dept of Labor, USECI, and other institutions. Furthermore, I was awarded by the Society of HR Management (SHRM) ten years consecutively for design of educational-based systems delivered in private learning academies, universities and organizations.

Finally, I have proposed policy recommendations to the White House based on accreditation guidelines, as a regional White House Fellow, specific to the rise of the learning economy — detailed in length on my LinkedIn account.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?

It is important to differentiate various sectors of the education system based on my experience before giving an overall rating:

1) Adult education/re-training — completely non-existent and failing; I focus much of my thoughts in this discussion on this urgent crisis impacting our nation later.

2) Higher-Education — an international gold standard but struggling because we expect it to provide outcomes it was never designed to provide; it needs relief, not reform.

3) K12 — I would say the system is getting an A for accessibility and adaptability (thanks specifically to teachers and school principals) but is plagued by politics and a community expecting too much from an education system and providers.

Overall, I would rate the US Education System as being overburdened but holding firm and in need of refocused relief to better connect technology solutions with clear economic and labor programs that I will highlight later.

Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?

Absolutely, the five areas of great education performance across all sectors are:

1) K12 Teachers — competency, enthusiasm, dedication: Teachers are true servant leaders in all aspects. Their patience, devotion, dedication, and belief they make an impact is something truly unique to their profession; it is inspiring to see how day-in and day out they champion positivity and a genuine belief they can impact lives for the better!

2) Higher-Education: despite the challenges higher-education faces the fact remains that our higher-education system is the gold-standard internationally.

3) Accessibility: I believe that K12 teachers and principals ensure our system remains open, flexible, quality-focused, and accessible for all children.

4) Adaptability: I believe it is lost on many people how school leaders, teachers, and administrators are recognizing the complexities in communities. Schools are taking a proactive, multidisciplinary team approach to adapting to these challenges — which I feel is an unfair burden to expect of educators. They are addressing issues from suicide, domestic violence, homelessness, addiction, school violence and are constantly assessing their responsibility to respond to these unforeseen threats. The prioritization for safety and adaptability to very difficult situations demonstrates a resilience among Educators that is taken for granted by the general public.

5) K12 PBIS programs: positive behavior intervention coaches are demonstrating really great outcomes in K-5 programs. We need to expand these efforts recognizing that (like it or not) the community does expect our education system to provide social, emotional, physical, and behavior support to children. PBIS coaching works but needs rapid expansion to provide educators the support systems and tools they need to remain adaptable and resilient.

Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?

The following are recommendations based on the working system, that in many regards I feel is much stronger than our community gives credit. I believe fundamentally we expect the educational system to take on responsibilities of social concerns that fall outside of the scope of responsibility. This creates an unfair burden on the system and educators.

The following priorities are critical in refocusing education within its current operating objectives:

1) Adult Education System: Department of Labor Accreditation: I presented evidence to the White House this winter outlining a gap in the Department of Education 1971 charter mandate. This gap has directly created the bloating — or bubble — of higher education. For over 40 years we have gradually expected higher education to directly translate to career opportunity. This was not the intent of higher education — the intent was to introduce people to liberal arts thinking and exposure to broad subjects to become more well-rounded individuals.

My proposal to the White House provides systematic relief of an overburdened US Education System to allow it to better refocus on its core competencies. Such a system can only occur by recreating a credential-measurement (earned degrees) system through organizationally funded and delivered system that is accredited through Department of Labor mandate. This system designed specifically to promote specific soft-skills and technical skills governed by market and technology innovation that is not bound to the years and timeframe of US Education system requirements. This system creates learning to empower immediate career retraining and relieves pressure on Higher Education to restructure a gold-standard program to meet technology and economic demands.

Such a system can charter programs to be earned in less than 2 years (the minimum program length to qualify as a Federal Education program), but longer than 36 hours (the maximum in most states that defines a private training program that does not require approval as a Federally accredited educational system). This will resolve the fact that many individuals are underemployed or marginalized in the labor market because they earned a degree that do not have applicable economic opportunity in a quickly changing tech-focused economy. It can be privately funded but it requires clear guidelines for earned recognition through government policy.

I encourage readers to follow me on LinkedIn and read proposal to members of Congress and the White House. Parents and working-American’s do not have 4, 6, 8 years to be retrained so they can better participate in the digital economy. This system I have proposed opens a pathway while also providing much needed relief on the US Education System.

2) Individual Education Plans (IEP) for ALL students promoting Self-Management and Strength-Based learning: one of our great strengths as a nation has been the investment into special education. Many cultures do not value life the way we do in our commitments to serving and supporting all children, despite any physical or learning disabilities. K12 Special education system provides evidence that strength-based, coaching-focused, and specially designed instruction should not be the exception, but the norm.

In conducting research with combat veterans in 2009–2014 and within K12 systems recently, I discovered that using applied learning strategies using strength-based IEP processes resulted in decreased learning-time, increased content retention, and greater content application. Because this segment of the system works very well, we should refocus and leverage this method with intentional technology strategies to help.

While special education is a strength, it is one area that needs clear-cut refocus specifically in the diagnostic tools of eligibility for special education services. The decades old methods used to create the diagnostics have clear bias and need widespread modification. Finally, there is too much fear over litigation creating confusing guidelines, unrealistic expectations, and red tape that is unnecessary. However, because special education is federally mandated, immediate effort to reform the diagnostics can serve to not only further enhance this great system, but also lay the leveraging technology to create IEP’s for every child which I discuss next.

3) Technology & AI Integration: The reality is that AI, more than all other technology, will impact education. Creating a plan to leverage AI to support teacher, class, and student strengths needs to start now. Delaying research, investment and integration is unacceptable. Technology investment should be intentional and focused on strength-based, progressive-adaptability for educators and students alike so it can evolve to continuously support educators as they direct the AI training needed to revolutionize EdTech systems. My firm is already researching and confirming this is achievable.

Teachers are already sacrificing evenings and weekends to ensure their student’s success, AI powered technology can (already) help them work smarter and not harder.

Individual Education Plans described previously can be monitored, audited and adjusted based on on-going, real-time AI-powered data analytics, and directives set by educators to ensure their expertise governs AI’s ability to learn and adapt to the complexities of being a young mind in today’s digital era and education system. AI will ensure real-time monitored and progressive performance, providing better information to teachers and parents on student performance, needs, wants, desires, and areas of learning performance.

We have the best educators in the world let’s empower the system with the best technology to support our children using evidence-based methods already used within the US Educational System.

4) Expand Positive Behavior Intervention (PBIS) through increased Enrichment-Required Programs– Inspire innovation, life-skills, and responsibility; we should place greater emphasis and prioritize cultivating effective habits early in life.

Many schools employ one or two positive behavior intervention coaches. This is a mistake. Strategic Learning Alliance (www.strategiclearningalliance.org), as one example, provides a list of thousands of independently certified coaches — let’s put one in every classroom in America. Coaching improves student performance by 40–60% while reducing in-class burdens on teachers by 30%.

Expand education to 8–5 (less time home alone and unsupervised) and reduce summer in order to provide more structured enrichment, but less burden on educators. This time extension should allow increased access to guided physical activities, sports, and practical life skills courses, (sewing, changing tires, etc.). Cultural arts and languages should be required in K-5. This can occur immediately by linking coaches and eLearning content in addition to hands on application of the content/projects. Moreover, recreational-focused, language/cultural-immersion with PBIS coaching is highly effective in addressing concerns of emotional, social, and behavior challenges. Finally, coaches are an affordable, practical, and proven method to supporting education.

5) Integrate Entrepreneurial applied-learning and not just STEM content: Education provides a safe environment for people to innovate, plan, and build teams around entrepreneurial studies. I was endorsed, in fact, for creating programs of this nature supporting combat veteran outreach systems in 2011–2014. Put simply: the learning economy is the future — how do we put education and knowledge to use to improve our character, life, and community when we do not provide a safe place for individuals to learn the skills required to attain success? Starting in K12 by teaching students how to think, act, and lead to drive their own economic success in our 70%-service based economy is imperative. There is no reason we leave this to chance any longer.

How is the US doing with regard to engaging young people in STEM? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

STEM should embrace young minds to innovate ideas, embolden them to share apply their learning, and focus on positive interaction with technology tools more productively than unfocused internet access alone provides. Creating a system to promote entrepreneurialism would be a great way to link social media and STEM projects to better engage students in a peer-to-peer environment using platforms they currently overuse for purely entertainment reasons already.

Can you articulate to our readers why it’s so important to engage girls and women in STEM subjects?

I believe the US Education System is being overburdened with expectations to be all things to all people. As a result, the most pressing need — at the adult level — requires a new solution through the Department of Labor. There are many women in the workplace that could fill positions in new careers and industries as they are highly competent and successful in the workforce, but they are unable to go back to school, keep a career, and support families through a 4 to 15-year long academic program.

From my time in the field researching, I believe out K12 educators are doing exceptionally well engaging girls and boys in all content areas. I answer this from the perspective of a father of three daughters, and one developmentally delayed son. Is it not our obligation to promoting diversity, inclusion, and participation in STEM programs regardless of our child’s gender? When do we take accountability as parents?

How is the US doing with regard to engaging girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

As parents we can support educators using the following tips to take accountability to inspiring our children from early ages to value their STEM education:

– Coaching — empower children’s ownership to overcome bias or self-limiting beliefs by coaching them to define and achieve their best and highest contribution as a student.

– Teach-to-Learn/storytelling: engage your children by having them teach you STEM subjects they learn and apply on their own; you might be surprised by what you learn. Help them teach concepts through story-telling — this inspires creativity, abstract thought, and makes it fun for both you and the your child!

– Hand-written notes/journals: when asked for a business card, I give out a pen. Putting pen to paper fundamentally exercises cognitive and emotional skills that typing on a keyboard can never capture. The more students (at all ages) write by hand — the better! Parents are too quick to promote digital-addiction with the “electronic nanny” — promote reading, handwriting and physical activity as much as possible in our youth!

As an education professional, where do you stand in the debate whether there should be a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math’s) or on STEAM (STEM plus the arts like humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media)? Can you explain why you feel the way you do?

STEAM ahead … don’t cut humanity off at the STEM!

In my work with combat veterans I created a system in 2009 that was considered “experiential” or “non-traditional” as a means for attracting, engaging, and positioning each learner for success. The focus was on development of the whole-inspired individual — inspira disciplina. STEM did not matter, being more human mattered to them.

The purpose of education is the pursuit of broad knowledge that inspires young minds to understand the diversity of thought, the value of cultural application, and to learn from the success and failure in a safe environment. To do so hyper-focusing on STEM alone is a mistake.

Our educators and administrators are being expected to handle a variety of life issues — the common over-emphasis on STEM is honestly the least of the problems the US Education System is facing. We have programs, courses, and quality educators, but coaches and in-school support need much greater attention. Further, peer-to-peer involvement to create learning and leadership cultures has zero focus yet research indicates could impact suicide, anxiety, depression, and violence far greater than hyper focus on STEM.

If you had the power to influence or change the entire US educational infrastructure what five things would you implement to improve and reform our education system? Can you please share a story or example for each?

As I said, technology is a game changer; therefore, I prefer to think in terms of evolution and refocus over reform. In a new creation, such as the proposal I made to the White House to provide evolutionary relief to the US Education System through a Department of Labor sanctioned model, I would refocus with the following principles:

1) Life-long learning system: I believe our system is overburdened because we introduce vocational and career exploration by default, and not design. Learning is the capacity to shape the future and we should raise children with the expectation they learn and seek education constantly through their life — it’s a journey that doesn’t end with high school. But we do not provide such a system — correcting this error is imperative to our continued ability to lead innovation globally.

2) Strength-based focus: leverage technology to create individualized education plans that are rooted in understanding the natural core values of each child and assign them to classes where content can be delivered based on those strengths. End the randomized classroom assignments by intentionally setting-up every teacher and child for success. This was not possible before, but technology and EI-tools makes it achievable today.

3) Cultivate a Leadership Cultures: promote the responsibility of students to serve as leaders in teach-to-learn experiences and community-oriented activities to create peer-lead and facilitated leadership cultures.

In multiple studies I integrated combat veterans with professional learners; introduced entry-level employees into classes with to senior executives and created “schoolhouse-like” models in the modern educational setting. When we learn, we all meet on a level springboard and let the learning enhance our thinking and performance. The result was enhanced performance of lesser educated students when immersed with more senior level learners. In many cases, the junior employees actually outperformed senior and experienced participants using multiple measures. Why? Because learning is life long and inclusion begins with diversity of thought and experience — education creates an environment where we can all be equal. While higher education is embracing this to an extent, it can start earlier in life.

When we raise the standard in a safe environment, humans can and will perform better — and learning together is a great ecosystem to cultivating a culture of leadership across our nation.

4) Increase Teach-to-Learn Opportunities: by leveraging technologies and being willing to rethink the role of education, specifically in later years of K12. By leveraging our students to learn through SERVICE we can deploy TEACH-to-LEARN systems that enhance our student’s practical skills they will need when they leave the confines of the educational sector.

Specifically, these should integrate appealing technology, self-managed creation, and focus on life-skill/life-hacks to help them learn responsibility, accountability, and success in self-management early in life. My 13 year old presented on this live on 5th Ave in NYC at Forbes Speakers — from the mouth of children! So let’s promote an ecosystem by students, for students. This builds confidence, creates community, and challenges learners to think in creative ways beyond rote-memory presentations; it serves to bind them to a belief that participation in education is to ask what you can do for your peers, your community, and your nation; now what they can do for you…

5) Soft-skill integration — for over 20 years soft-skills (or lack thereof) have been the primary challenge of over 75% of hiring authorities in the private sector. We do not teach soft skills in education. Support teachers with more coaches and technology to make learning continuous and positively focused in all subjects — life and soft-skills included.

If we want to end the inappropriate behavior in the workplace, we need to teach the soft skills to helping people understand how to better interact at early ages in life and within school. This is imperative in college and adult sectors where these skills can and should be taught based on established standards immediately. Furthermore, this provides a skillset that changes very slowly whereas market place and career demands change rapidly. In this regard the revised system can address an important problem facing all industries, but without over investing into career focused content that technology may automate and make obsolete in years to come.

Technology has changed everything, the better we do at recognizing we can not look at the US Education System through the political paradigms of even the last twenty years, the better. In many ways I think technology will show how amazingly effective our teachers have been in educating youth. We need to halt politically charged drives to reform education and recognize that technology has been and will continue to be a game change. Either we focus on educational core competencies and stop asking educators to fix-it-all (as we have been for the past two decades) or we start equipping educators with tools, systems, and support resources they need to adapt to the ever increasing expectations we place on them to literally “raise our future.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The magnitude of (one’s) worth is defined by what they learn in their moments of greatest weakness. — Martin Luther King.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

LinkedIn innovators and founders: Mark Cuban and Peter Theil — so much to share and learn from them! However, for my wife’s sake — she was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana and given you interviewed Peyton Manning, I should probably hope opt for breakfast with him so I can finally get her an autographed jersey… happy wife, right!?!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I welcome followers exclusively on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/drjpaulrand/ or by visiting me on the web at www.jpaulrand.com

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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