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Letters to the Editor

Competency-based education

At the Iowa State Board of Education meeting Aug. 2, the last item on the agenda is “competency-based education (not a current board priority, but will be discussed)”.

Competency-based education are concepts and their applications, developing minds for in-depth thinking and problem-solving skills, used for millennia to develop the world to where it is today, but abandoned by the U.S. (including Iowa) about 60 years ago in favor of memorization, where all you have to do is memorize a fact and not worry about the underlying concepts that determined the fact.

The attitude of the state board indicates why the national government had to stage an intervention almost twenty years ago to try to get education back on track, why the National Council for Teacher Quality continues to assess Iowa’s teacher training programs as failures, why Iowa uses low standards to pretend to be good rather than actually being good, and why Iowa’s rankings are dropping on national NAEP assessments (that use higher national standards). Iowa wants control of its own assessments in order to continue to use low standards and memorization rather than mind-developing concepts – and this is another agenda item for the Aug. 2 meeting.

If memorization is as good as Iowa educators falsely believe it is, then why did the standards on the Iowa Assessments have to be lowered every time 50 percent of the students failed to pass them — averaging out to about every three years, according to the statisticians who work with these for the state? An education system that is truly working has no need to pretend to be good, as Iowa has been doing for decades, nor does it have a need to point the finger of blame at the students to avoid accountability for failure.

Iowa’s fourth-grade math uses the national Common Core (based on concepts), and when it is taught by teachers using methods provided by the colleges of engineering, NAEP scores rank 12th nationally. Iowa’s fourth-grade reading, using Iowa curriculum and Iowa teaching methods of memorization falls into the bottom half of the country at 28th.

NAEP provides the steps involved in selecting schools in each state to take the exams, and states have a lot of influence in the decision, which means Iowa is cherry-picking the schools to take these assessments. Using Iowa preferences and low standards only result in a failed reading system, according to NAEP results.

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