I got a like from The Ed Buzz on my last article, so of course I checked him out. This man is a superintendent of a school district in California, but the state doesn’t matter. What matters is that he has the right idea about what schools and learning are all about.
He has a piece on evolving or changing. We need to heed the outcome of the dinosaur!! I know that I hear frequently, “But this is how we have always done it.” Now Iowa doesn’t have the charter schools that California does, and they (charter schools) are not all really meeting the needs of families. A number are in it only for the money and pick and choose the students they will accept. Check his blog out: The Ed Buzz. You can learn a lot about the charter school systems and about how to be an effective educator or administrator in a public or private system.
So what can we learn from Ed Buzz. We need to learn about taking ownership for what we have and fixing what is not working. That means that the public school system of Iowa shouldn’t sit on its hands and complain about No Child Left Behind. The need for accountability led to the legislation. Unfortunately, schools haven’t embraced it as a means of saying how do they get back to the mission of helping children become independent, responsible adults who can find employment in the community they live in.
I see too much emphasis on bringing higher level learning to lower elementary school students. We have forgotten the 3 R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic – which are the foundations of higher learning. We push so fast for students to learn, that almost half of each classroom is left behind. If you look at the NAEP 2011 for reading, Iowa has decreased in its score form 225 to 221, while nationally the score has increased from 219 to 224. 31% of our students are reading below the basic level (national is 34%). 35% are just reading at the basic level for 4th graders (national is 34%). Together that means that 66% of our students are reading below a proficient level for 4th graders. Our students are expected to be proficient, are being taught as if they are proficient, but are struggling, falling behind, and showing increasing problems with behavior, self-esteem and mental health.
For math, if you look at the NAEP for 2011, Iowa has had an 11 point increase for 4th graders in scores from 1992 to 2011 (230-243). But the nation’s public schools as a whole have increased from 219 to 240 (21 points). The 50% is 242, so Iowa is in the middle of the pack, just like Governor Branstad noted in his speech on Education Reform. If we want to bring businesses to Iowa we need to make sure that our elementary students get the basics down before moving on to higher level math.
The NAEP for writing was last assessed in 2007. Iowa was also in the middle of the pack for 8th grade students (4th not assessed) with 56% achieving at a basic 8th grade level, 12% at below basic, and 32% at proficient or above. Writing effectively is important in the workplace of today, so we are not meeting the needs of future employers.
We need to change “business as usual” into the “business of helping children succeed”. As Ed Buzz noted, we need leaders not people in leadership positions complaining about how everything is “someone else’s fault”.