Jason Glass, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s nominee to head the Iowa Department of Education, commented on my post questioning his position on mandates. I asked if I could post it separately in its entirety and without comment. He agreed and he wrote:
Actually, it’s important to remember that Race to the Top wasn’t a federal mandate. It was an optional grant program. There was no obligation or "mandate" to participate. It offered unprecedented amounts of federal education dollars in exchange for states making bold plans to improve educator quality and student achievement. Every state could decide if they wanted to make the effort, or not. I can’t speak to how the politics of it played out here, I wasn’t working in the state at that time. But to characterize it as a federal mandate isn’t accurate.
On your point regarding the Iowa Core, I think it’s the state’s responsibility to set the bar for schools to achieve and then allow districts to determine how they get there. The development and continued evolution of the Iowa Core and the inclusion of the Common Core is part of that effort. Rarely do we get to be purely "local control" or purely "state mandated." I think good policy is actually a reasonable blend of both. In the case of new strategic compensation systems, while we have several districts around the country who are innovating in that space, it’s an innovation that’s still very much in the learning phase. Given that, it would be unwise (at least in my estimation) to "mandate" that.
On other issues "mandating" is important and necessary. For example, we should mandate that kids get a quality education regardless of race, gender, economic background, or disability. We should "mandate" that schools protect student data. We set ourselves up in a false policy dichotomy when we say it has to be one or the other. There are times when we should use mandates, and there are times when we should spur innovation. We should use prudence and wisdom in deciding which and work hard to avoid politicizing the issue.
In the future, you don’t have to wonder anything about what I think – just ask me. My email is [email protected] and my twitter handle is jasonglassIA. I look forward to continuing our conversation and thanks for engaging in the discussion on how we can improve Iowa’s schools.