The Good in Iowa Governor Branstad’s Education Bill Doesn’t Outweigh the Bad

Governor Terry Branstad’s proposed education reform bill SSB 3009 is online, and I need to walk a couple of things back from yesterday’s post.

1.  Online education is to be expanded to non-public entities, I said it didn’t, (pg. 11).

2.  Alternative pathways for teacher licensure is in the bill, (pg. 23).  This was one of the items that Eric Goranson, Bill Gustoff and I lauded when we graded the Governor’s education blueprint, but I was under the mistaken impression that it had been dropped.

So those are two items within the bill that should be kept in.  A couple other noteworthy things within the bill that I hope will be enacted.

  • The five year probationary period for new teachers, excellent idea… keep it.
  • Ending social promotion, the practice needs to stop.  It ultimately hurts, not helps, kids.

I agree with State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) who said in his newsletter yesterday, “Although these reforms do not go far enough, in my opinion, it is a starting point for continued conversations. Minimally we need to get back to more local control.”

I appreciate the conversation.  While there are things within the details of the education bill that I like; collectively it does little to enact reform and will take far too long to achieve minimal results.

Cross-posted from Iowa Grounds

One thought on “The Good in Iowa Governor Branstad’s Education Bill Doesn’t Outweigh the Bad

  1. Social promotion has always been a joke. You see, by Iowa law an elementary student or a junior high student may not be retained without parental permission. The only social promotion going on in Iowa is the social promotion that parents want. Why bash the schools when the state’s position is the real problem?
    I have a better idea for school improvement: reform the system, not the teachers.
    If Iowans truly want to reform education, reform the system, not the educators. Teachers know they are employed in a career that demands everything they have. It demands every waking moment, every ounce of strength, every mental synapse and every bit of empathy and compassion they can muster to effectively teach today’s student.

    My little reform program doesn’t have to cost a single penny—we already have the experts available within our very own school districts. What is needed is an honest system that is flexible enough to meet the needs of today’s students and those of tomorrow. This plan will do that.

    THE PLAN—SHORT AND SWEET

    • ONE: A STATEWIDE SALARY SCHEDULE —TEACHERS ARE ADDED TO THE STATE MERIT SYSTEM. CENTRALIZED STATE SALARY NEGOTIATIONS REMOVE THE PROCESS FROM THE LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
    We desperately need to remove salary negotiations from the local level. Nothing has been more detrimental to the health and operation of a school district than salary negotiations. I suggest teacher wages become a part of the state merit system already in place.
    • TWO: FLEXIBLE INSTRUCTIONAL PACING FOR STUDENTS—STUDENTS RECEIVE PUBLIC EDUCATION AT THEIR OWN PACE AND THEIR OWN TIME. ALL STUDENTS HAVE THEIR OWN INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PROGRAM.
    The long tail is a new economic term I’ve been reading about. Public schools should follow this model where education is available when the student wants it, not when the school wants it.
    • THREE: NON-GRADED EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURE, DIRECTED BY ABILITY LEVEL, NOT AGE LEVEL. EDUCATIONAL PACE MAY BE AS FAST OR AS SLOW AS NEEDED.
    We must eliminate a system that requires students be separated as learners and non-learners. Age is no criteria for determining curricular content. I suggest a two tier system targeting basic skills and knowledge as the universal basics needed by all students. Currently the Iowa Core Curriculum provides this universal blueprint. The second tier targets the creative portion of education. In this tier, students will use their acquired skills to solve real-world problems and pursue individual interests. I suggest Iowa adopt a non-graded system.

    • FOUR: ALTERNATIVE CAREER PROGRAMS DEVELOPED BETWEEN PARENTS, EDUCATORS, INDUSTRY AND LOCAL ENTITIES.
    We must develop alternative educational paths for our students. Not everyone should go to a traditional college. Partnerships between the business community, AEAs, community colleges and universities must be developed, allowing students to pursue their own interests. In collaboration with students and their parents, paths of instruction need t be developed so all students may reach their potential.

    • FIVE: CRITERION-REFERENCED TEST AND PROBLEM SOLVING PROJECT BECOME THE NORM FOR EVALUATION OF SUCCESS. EDUCATORS AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE RESULTS.

    If we truly want a performance based component in public education, an accounting system based on instruction is surely a better plan than using testing instruments designed to make a certain portion of the test takers fail. We need to build success, not defeat. I suggest real testing through a criterion-referenced testing system be enacted, developed by educators and put into operation by 2014.

    • SIX: MEANINGFUL AND EFFECTIVE EVALUATION OF TEACHERS AIMED AT IMPROVING TEACHING SKILLS AND INSTRUCTIONAL DELIVERY.

    Teachers need feedback. The current sporadic evaluation system is cumbersome and ineffective. We expect one principal in a school district to evaluate teachers across all subject areas even when they might not have expertise from their own personal experiences. Of course, being prompt, performing prescribed duties and completing tasks on time is important, but this must not be confused with meaningful evaluation of instruction. I suggest that teachers evaluate each other, letting principals become the instructional leaders of the school.

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