Localization Not Centralization

Jason Glass, the director of the Iowa Department of Education, gave a speech to School Administrators from across the state.  What he said in his speech (of which he transcribed his remarks on his blog) I could mostly agree.  We agree on the question – “can our schools be better than they are today?”  I’m in wholehearted agree with him that yes they can.

I agree that educator quality must improve, and that “innovation must become an institution.”  I also applaud Director Glass for taking the time to listen to those around the state about how education in Iowa can best be improved and for allowing a free market of ideas.  I also agree with his desire to reform educator pay.

And the agreement stops when he said:

Let me preface any “plan” that we might design with the notion that Iowa must move from being a fractured system of schools to being a school system. For too long we have left too much to chance that each individual school district would provide a world class education to each and every student. There is a balance of state and local control that we must find and frankly, capacity needs to grow on both sides of the equation.

How has the centralization of education at the state level improved our schools?  What study or empirical evidence can be pointed to in order to make that case?  On the contrary I’d say that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence in Iowa anyway to demonstrate the opposite.  The more centralized our education system gets the worse our education is.  There are other contributing factors as well like poverty, and schools becoming a social service agency instead of focusing on education.  Teachers who would rather indoctrinate than educate… and on an on.  Don’t even get me started on teacher unions.  But there is nothing that shows centralizing education will improve things.

The state of Massachusetts seemed to prove the opposite, well at least until their state board of education lost its collective mind and adopted the common core state standards.  Their reform led to more localization, not less.  That state has been a model for the nation are we going to ignore that ingredient in their recipe for success?  It’s seems like we’re rushing to repeat the mistake.

He goes on:

The work of the Iowa Core and its merger with the Common Core were positive steps in the right direction but we need to finish the job and get to full implementation of the Iowa Core. Every teacher in Iowa should know what their students are expected to learn and how to design curriculum and lessons to those standards.

I’m confused… did the Iowa General Assembly authorize the Iowa Department of Education to adopt the national common core standards?  No they did not.  What authority does the Department have to change state law?  None!  When was public input given?  Oh I guess that isn’t important.  What data can be shown to demonstrate that these standards are positive steps?  None than I can see as neither the Iowa Core CURRICULUM (just because you drop “curriculum” from the name of the law doesn’t change the intent) or the Common Core State Standards.

Parents and local communities know how to best educate their kids.  They are the ones who should set the expectations for teachers, as they are the ultimate stakeholders in the education of children.  Parents seem to be the one group not invited to the table by the Branstad administration.  Under Glass’ vision of education in our state, Educrats from Des Moines and Washington, DC, not parents will have greater say in the education of their child.  That is a recipe for failure.

Originally posted at Caffeinated Thoughts

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