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Letters to the Editor

Iowa workers behind because educational missteps

Ever since Iowa educators transitioned from concepts to memorization about six decades ago, the twin excuses of money and “defective” students has been their rationale for poor performance. The focus on increased funding in the current legislative session is normal, in spite of the increasing number of school districts being cited for either poor money management or misuse of financial resources.

Included in the plans for the current legislative session is funding for improving the skills of Iowa workers so they qualify for higher-paying positions that would improve not only more lives but also state coffers. Why do Iowa workers have skill levels lower than national marketplace requirements? The answer lies with the fact they are products of an education system stuck on memorization instead of transitioning back to the system of concepts they abandoned. This means Iowa educators are part of the workforce with lower skills than those in states whose education systems are out-performing Iowa on NAEP (where proficiency in concepts up to national grade level are required), and those states already implemented effective workforce remediation in addition to training, because knowledge of how to effectively remediate is necessary to improve both k-12 education as well as worker remediation. Iowa lacks this.

In spite of numerous studies showing achievement gaps are the product of discrimination, ineffective teaching, and poor curriculum, what was Iowa’s first ESSA plan to close the gap in proficiencies here? Educators wanted to further lower standards for those students (below Iowa’s already-low standards) to pretend to close the gap rather than effectively remediating them because to effectively remediate would require effective teaching skills and concept-based curriculum Iowa lacks (except for the national math curriculum it adopted). When this first plan was rejected by the feds, Iowa’s second plan (submitted last fall) was to close the gap by a measly one-tenth of one percent a year — which means in ten years it would only be closed by one percent (and the proficiency gaps are bigger than this).

Given this dismal track record – with no accountability for spending billions of tax dollars on programs that are ineffective — there is little to no chance Iowa educators can design a worker training program to get up to national standards. Iowa educators — and their elected pawns — tout Iowa’s top graduation rate without ever mentioning it is the result of lower standards than other states. This is low skills at work.

Sue Atkinson

Baxter

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