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Opinion

Iowa lacks proper foundation in education

Seventeen years after Congress enacted No Child Left Behind – at the request of the business community and military (who were unable to find sufficient numbers with higher-level skills) — Iowa continues with: low standards, achievement gaps, failure to get its teacher training programs back on track with concepts (after abandoning them sixty years ago), 2018 average ACT score at 21.8 (60 percent - a D), and a workforce lacking in higher-level skills wanted by business and military.  Iowa educators continue making demands for more funding — with no accountability — while the failures of a dysfunctional system of memorization places blame everywhere but where it belongs: on the system of memorization.

Iowa educators immediately rejected the national Common Core curriculum for math and reading — with the false presumption they could do better — and found their math curriculum so embarrassing, Dir. Brad Buck replaced it with the national math curriculum.  The engineering schools stepped in to help train teachers how to move away from memorization and get back to mind-developing concepts.  Unfortunately, the retraining began at the higher levels rather than with the elementary, which continued with memorization that failed to provide a proper foundation for higher levels, until more recently (depending on the individual school).

Unfortunately, Iowa educators continue to use their embarrassingly bad reading curriculum with teachers trained in memorization, particularly at the elementary level, thus continuing in their failure to prepare a strong foundation for higher levels. This also makes it necessary to keep the lower standards Iowa has used for decades.  Even the four teacher training programs that include all five of the reading concepts continue to train teachers in memorization methods rather than effective concept methods.

In 1998, the National Reading Panel examined, and assessed, studies going back to 1958 (just before Iowa changed from concepts to memorization that required the continual lowering of standards) and produced a 449-page report in 2000 on which methods worked best to avoid achievement gaps, teaching English Language Learners, and educate students up to grade level. This report formed the basis of the national Common Core reading curriculum, national standards, and regular assessments of state teacher training programs by the National Council for Teacher Quality. 

Iowa fails at all of these. Because no proper foundation is being developed for higher levels of learning, attempts now to create adult training for better jobs is doomed to lower quality results than would otherwise be possible.

Sue Atkinson

Baxter

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