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2013 Iowa Education Reform Bill, Reform or Transform?

Semantics? Maybe, but the team at Iowa TransformED doesn’t think so.

In an almost frighteningly comprehensive article over at, David Sirota shows that the idea of reform is misguided at best, and corrupt at its worst. Misguided in the sense that what we need is a war on poverty, not a war on teachers. Corrupt in the sense that every new initiative dedicated to shuffling the cards always comes with a slew of new contracts, software, and leadership.

Here’s the gist of the Salon article:

  • School reformers believe that teacher accountability, testing students, and shuffling money is the way to create profit for themselves and perhaps lift test scores of students (Note: not increase learning, innovation, etc…)
  • What we really see is an overwhelming amount of data showing that poverty is the reason for underperformance of students and schools.
  • Schools with an under-representation of poverty perform as well or better than all of the Japanese or European schools we’re “chasing.”

Reform is a lame duck:

Reform is essentially rearranging the deck chairs. Assuming your ship isn’t sinking, this could be ok.

Reform includes shuffling money around from existing purse to existing purse. Reform involves trying to pay some teachers more and some less, as if teaching is about money in the first place.

Reform concerns itself with the values of parameters within the equation, not the actual equation itself. Here’s a physics example: if I travel to the moon, the force of gravity changes, but the fundamental law is the same.

For instance, Michelle Rhee is a reformer. Rhee spent a huge amount of time and money closing schools, firing principals, demanding testing of students, and all of it to little effect in Washington DC. In the end, she did little to address the fundamental problem in DC’s schools: poverty and experience gaps.

Ms. Rhee is attempting to inject herself and her organization Students First into the politics wherever school reform becomes a hot item during a legislative session. She’s here in Iowa, just in case that worries you.

Closer to home, Education Department director Jason Glass is a reformer. A reformer who will be returning to Colorado quickly after passing the education reform bill here in Iowa. (July 1, 2013, actually)

The question being: is the 2013 Education Reform Bill a reform and a transformation?

Transformation is a redesign for modern constraints:

Transformation is building a new boat and then ferrying everyone over.

Transformation is realizing that your old system was designed for constraints that are no longer constraining you. Is this what we have in education?

We think so.

Here are the hallmarks of the Iowa’s Education Reform Bill:

  • Continues to fund schools at nearly the rate of inflation …
  • Raises the minimum teacher salary to $33.5k
  • Creates teacher mentor positions which pay higher
  • Creates pilot programs in Competency-based education. Finally, a true transformation, although they didn’t see fit to put in money behind this.
  • Changes minimum instruction time from days to hours! Now we’re talking real accountability, it must have been those missing 20 hours of instruction that were keeping families poor.
  • Gives homeschool and unaccredited private schools more rights. This could be awesome.

You decide, will this really transform our schools?

Putting our money where our mouth is:

The Iowa TransformED team, in partnership with SourceMedia Group, Vault Co-working and several Creative Corridor school districts will be opening a truly transformative schooling option this summer and fall.

Welcome to BIG.

We aim to provide rigorous and individualized learning for a representative sample of the Creative Corridor’s student body. Students are welcome from anywhere in the CC.

  • Competency-based: Students do not quit learning until they get it.
  • A school without walls. BIG has available space all over the Creative Corridor. Our students are immediately funneled into community experiences like internships and public facing projects.
  • A school for people who do. Our students learn by doing. Our students create projects, and only receive credit if a team of educators and professionals from the community are willing to sign off on that student’s abilities.
  • Every student receives and individualized education plan.
  • Teachers as mentors instead of babysitters.

Interested in enrollment?

One thought on “2013 Iowa Education Reform Bill, Reform or Transform?
  • Joey Kramer says:

    The test scores that Rhee published were sleight-of-hand at best and outright lies at worst. The hard data showed that their “reforms” actually hurt the district in many respects. GFBrandenburg does fantastic at breaking this apart. You can see this here:
    and here:
    plus a whole lot more spots over there.

    I also would like to put forth the argument that money actually does matter in teaching as a profession. Not as the end goal (I doubt anyone would argue that), but as a worthwhile investment in pulling more bright minds into teaching as a viable long-term profession. Young people have the option to go into teaching or into the business world for about 1.5 times or twice the pay a teacher makes with way more ability to move upward on the salary scale by the time they retire. This is a problem, though it may not be THE problem, of education.

    As a question: what do you think of the CCSS and do you address that in your BIG curriculum plans? Or do you come up with your own series of content standards developed internally?

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