Two bills in the current legislative session are SF 2350 and HSB 598. Both deal with classroom behavior, looking for ways to change the responses available when a student disrupts a class. Unfortunately, both bills fail to take into account the range of factors possible causing this disruptive behavior. The legislation can be improved in ways that will actually help not only the teachers and other students in the class, but also the individual students having the problems.
Several factors could be contributing to the situation, including problems at home, problems with peers, personality conflicts with teachers, and frustration with teacher instruction that is not connecting. Students and schools both need better support systems. Iowa’s teacher training programs are not rated well by the National Council for Teacher Quality because there is still a tendency to blame students when underperforming, and the instruction methods are not improving in ways that are meaningful for some students.
In the latest results of an international exam given to teenagers, the U.S. ranked 31st in math literacy out of seventy-nine countries and economies. At the U.S. high school level, there is a tendency to focus on formulas and procedures rather than relating to every day problem-solving and critical analysis that would help U.S. students be globally competitive. Iowa does not even use national standards, so forget about higher global standards. Higher levels of thinking and creative problem-solving are needed in the workforce, including education, to improve income for individuals as well as the economy. Iowa is presently failing to use improved critical analysis and higher problem-solving with regard to education.
The tendency has been to avoid teaching math as creative problem-solving and complex analysis that helps students relate to it as something at work in their lives they could actually understand. The countries outperforming the U.S. are not only using everyday hard data from a variety of areas (including science), but they are developing computer-based programs to improve the instruction and interaction. These countries are also rearranging the types of math classes at all grade levels, which actually keeps the proficiency gaps from appearing. Iowa lacks the ability to close proficiency gaps, a requirement of ESSA.
Educators with under-developed critical analysis and problem-solving skills are presently influencing the way these two bills are written, with regard to classroom behavior, completely missing some very important factors that could redefine some of the situations.