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On June 10, the Iowa Department of Education published a one-page document about what an Iowa diploma means and how it should meet ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) requirements for states.

An Iowa high school diploma must be aligned to Iowa standards, which remain lower than national standards. Required high school courses are: four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and three years of science. No longer will diplomas be awarded for lower standards.

An interesting aspect to this is the approval of potentially “creative” teaching methods for IEP students to help them achieve these goals.

Not mentioned in the new definition is consideration of the embedded bias that has pervaded Iowa teacher training, influencing perceptions and responses for decades. These are so biased, they influenced the selection of the legislation title No Child Left behind and also the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Since the 1960s, Iowa schools routinely did not test or did not count test scores, for students perceived to do poorly on the annual assessments — until NCLB put an end to this. In addition, when 50 percent of students failed to pass the assessments, the standards were routinely lowered rather than an analysis performed on the curriculum content, teaching methods being used, and embedded bias.

Given the productive conversations taking place today with regard to embedded bias, which some are just beginning to see, wouldn’t this be a good time for educators to also join the conversation examining the presumptions they have used for decades? Wouldn’t this provide an expanded opportunity to re-assess teaching methods as well, since failure to learn is based as much on teaching methods as it is on curriculum? An examination of support services is also allowed in this recent document from the Iowa Department of Education, so shouldn’t these be included in today’s discussions so as to actually come close to the intended outcomes of the national legislation No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds?

With Sesame Street, YouTube and online educators showing how to effectively teach online, making this an aspect of expanded discussions could also address classroom behavior issues and still be part of an expanded support system.

Cornell Law School, on its web site, has a great narrative showing how interpretation of the 14th Amendment about citizenship has been interpreted over the years and we are in the process today of improved understanding.

Sue Atkinson

Baxter

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