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July 2012 Policy Study, Number 12-6

   

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way: School Choice in Iowa

   

Lack of Education Reform in 2012

   

 

The education reform actions taken by the Iowa Legislature in 2012 (Senate File 2284) were a piecemeal approach, dropping many parts of Governor Branstad’s proposal.

 

The most significant part was a third-grade literacy requirement. Parents of children who do not read at the third grade level or above by the end of third grade must either send their child to a summer intensive reading program or have them repeat third grade.[15]

 

Unfortunately, there was no “extra” funding appropriated for the schools to implement this program. Therefore, it is not actually happening in the 2012-2013 school year.

 

The “plan” is for funding to be provided in the 2013-2014 school year for extra reading education. The full program will not be implemented until 2016-2017.[16] This is five years from now! In the meantime, the government schools will continue to promote children to the next grade, even if they can not do the work of their current grade.

 

Let me repeat, the most significant part of Iowa government-school education reform — ensuring third-graders can actually read — will not even begin to be in force until five years from now.

 

Five years from now this year’s third graders will be in the eighth grade. Based on current test trends, over
one-third will not be able to read proficiently. Yet they will have been passed each year, from third to fourth, to fifth, to sixth, to seventh, and finally to eighth grade. Lead, follow, or get out of the way!

 

Other “reform” provisions included strong objections to on-line schools and transformed two leading-edge local, on-line learning programs into limited-term pilot projects. This is at the same time many are concerned about the cost and distance involved in sending children to regional schools.

 

In contrast, Legislators approved awarding credits to high school students who could demonstrate competency in a subject, even if they have not taken the class.[17] On-line schools are not welcome, but competency without being taught is. If children can and are learning without being “taught,” why do we have schools? And why are we paying teachers? Lead, follow, or get out of the way!

 

On the teacher review and support side, performance reviews will now be conducted annually, though two of every three years they will be done by peers, not supervisors, and Legislators approved increased time for teacher collaboration. These provisions were intended to address Federal requirements for obtaining a statewide waiver from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Unfortunately, the changes were not considered sufficient or flexible enough for proper management, and Iowa’s waiver request was turned down in June. We are now one of 18 states whose waiver requests have been turned down.[18]

   

 

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