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Letters to the Editor

Iowa still playing catch up

As Iowa schools prepare to begin the 2019-20 school year, educators continue to struggle with poorly-written Iowa curriculum (except for the national math), ineffective teaching methods (particularly at the elementary level) and standards below the national average (for the purpose of pretending to be good and avoid facing reality).

In spite of 17 years of No Child Left behind, followed by Every Student Succeeds, the U.S. Department of Education website still shows Iowa educators in continued need of assistance in understanding IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Because Iowa educators are trained to blame students struggling to learn — rather than effectively assessing the curriculum and teaching methods being used — too many are missing the fact there is a difference between a cognitive disability that limits the level of capacity to learn versus a situational condition that limits gains at a point in time but not capacity to learn. Evidence of this was shown yet again in the May 2019 state board meeting that approved a source to help with teacher training programs: The National Institute for Effective Teaching. On the website for this organization is a component of their program that believes students just need to respect adults in order to do better in school.

Just as politics is factional, so are educators, but the faction(s) in control of policy in Iowa persist in some of the same failed theories that reduces accountability and brought in the national government to raise standards, improve curriculum and teaching methods, and stop blaming students for problems in education. The faction(s) holding Iowa back from being nationally, and globally, competitive are demonstrating their lower-level critical thinking and problem-solving skills that already plague businesses in Iowa from being able to fill higher-level positions due to a lack of qualified applicants.

Do schools need more support systems to help those students with situational issues that do not limit their capacity to learn but only availability? Yes, they do. Even if such systems were put in place, remediation could only be achieved with quality curriculum, effective teaching and at least national standards. Too many Iowa schools lack this at various grade levels, particularly elementary, and once students fall behind no system is in place to correct the school failings.

At what point is Iowa education going to catch up with the states that are on track to be nationally and globally competitive?

Sue Atkinson

Baxter

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