imageJason Glass, the director of the Iowa Department of Education, gave a speech to School Administrators from across the state.  What he said in his speech (of which he transcribed his remarks on his blog) I could mostly agree.  We agree on the question – “can our schools be better than they are today?”  I’m in wholehearted agreement with him that yes they can.

I also agree that educator quality must improve, and that “innovation must become an institution.”  I also applaud Director Glass for taking the time to listen to those around the state about how education in Iowa can best be improved and for allowing a free market of ideas.  I also agree with his desire to reform educator pay.

And the agreement stops when he said:

Let me preface any “plan” that we might design with the notion that Iowa must move from being a fractured system of schools to being a school system. For too long we have left too much to chance that each individual school district would provide a world class education to each and every student. There is a balance of state and local control that we must find and frankly, capacity needs to grow on both sides of the equation.

How has the centralization of education at the state level improved our schools?  What study or empirical evidence can be pointed to in order to make that case?  On the contrary I’d say that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence in Iowa anyway to demonstrate the opposite.  The more centralized our education system gets the worse our education is.  There are other contributing factors as well like poverty, and schools becoming a social service agency instead of focusing on education.  Teachers who would rather indoctrinate than educate… and on an on.  Don’t even get me started on teacher unions.  But there is nothing that shows centralizing education will improve things.

The state of Massachusetts seemed to prove the opposite, well at least until their state board of education lost its collective mind and adopted the common core state standards.  Their reform led to more localization, not less.  That state has been a model for the nation are we going to ignore that ingredient in their recipe for success?  It’s seems like we’re rushing to repeat the mistake.

He goes on:

The work of the Iowa Core and its merger with the Common Core were positive steps in the right direction but we need to finish the job and get to full implementation of the Iowa Core. Every teacher in Iowa should know what their students are expected to learn and how to design curriculum and lessons to those standards.

I’m confused… did the Iowa General Assembly authorize the Iowa Department of Education to adopt the national common core standards?  No they did not.  What authority does the Department have to change state law?  None!  When was public input given?  Oh I guess that isn’t important.  What data can be shown to demonstrate that these standards are positive steps?  None than I can see as neither the Iowa Core CURRICULUM (just because you drop “curriculum” from the name of the law doesn’t change the intent) or the Common Core State Standards.

Parents and local communities know how to best educate their kids.  They are the ones who should set the expectations for teachers, as they are the ultimate stakeholders in the education of children.  Parents seem to be the one group not invited to the table by the Branstad administration.  Under Glass’ vision of education in our state, Educrats from Des Moines and Washington, DC, not parents will have greater say in the education of their child.  That is a recipe for failure.

Update: Director Glass responds to this post… I’ll respond later… I love the title of his post “Caffeinated Conspiracy Theories.”

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  1. You need look no further than to the work of the Marzano Research Laboratory to find the empirical evidence you need to prove that centralization works.  Your anecdotal evidence is simply humorous.

    Oh, and by the way, you can’t focus on education until you focus on poverty.  It is the single most significant barrier to learning today.  And yes, their is empirical data to back that claim, lots of it.

    Your recipe signifies failure, not the plan of the Department of Education.

    Please educate yourself before publishing this useless drivel.  You are obviously a man in need of enlightenment, please, I beg you, make no more assertions about policy decisions that you don’t understand.

    1. Mike, is there a specific study there you want me to look at because what I see on their website doesn’t give me enough of a description.

      Re. Massachusetts can we agree that they have been a model for reform?  They are the most localized of any state with each school having a school council that is elected and Principals report to them.

      Exactly how does centralization address poverty?  It doesn’t.

      Coming here and leaving a snide remark saying that I’m in need of enlightenment does not an argument make.  Iowa the more centralized it has become the worse the education has been and that isn’t just in school districts with high rates of poverty.  Again, I’m not laying the entire blame at the feet of centralized education, but it has cause more problems than it has provided solutions in my opinion and it has diminished the role of parents in decision making which happens best at the local level.

  2. Who does centralization serve?


    Answer: centralization always serves the largest advocates
    of the centralizing process.  The state
    does not want to deal with all the little school boards, they want to
    centralize their resources so that the state bureaucrats have an easier  job. 
    The feds use a carrot and a stick approach.  If you adopt these standards then we will
    increase or stream line the process for funding.  The unions like it as it presents a central lobbying
    point for the greatest effort to influence the procedure and outcomes.


    The magnanimous and selfless bureaucrat that our governor
    appointed with this lofty charge seems a bit surprised when people fail to
    swoon at his next proposal.  I can help
    you with this.  Since before you were
    born, we have been pedaled this pipe dream. 
    And to date year after year we have failed to see anything but falling
    test scores out of control schools and a curriculum that most I dare say do not
    support.  Please I beg you to give me one
    example of success that has been brought to the students and the learning
    environment in the last forty years.  Please
    for the sake of your credibility do not use infrastructure or equipment as an


    Real evidence that the minions (tax payers and parents) can
    see.  Would that be skyrocketing test
    scores?  The scholastic excellence of our
    students.  The undeniable success in preparation
    for collage.  The fantastic graduation
    rates.  My face as I write this is locked
    in an expression of anticipation.


    You responded in a snotty way by insinuating a conspiracy theory,
    and attempted to pass that off as a humorous swat, you failed.  I would certainly believe that most minions
    (tax payers and parents) do not believe that you are involved in a
    conspiracy.  What I do believe is easy to
    prove, a failed record of increased centralization at the state and federal
    levels.  Most of us no longer believe
    that you serve our interests.  We are suspicious
    of you and your efforts because we are tired of being told that it will be
    better when we can clearly see that it is not getting better. 


    You want to live up to your charge and really help minions
    (tax payers and parents) then do not go down the same failed path that we have
    been on for five decades.  Most of us recognize
    that the risk is always present that a small under funded school district could
    possibly not give the best education at some point in time.  Most of us however would gladly take our
    chances with a local problem that would give us unlimited access to correct.  Rather than some snotty bureaucrat with a
    blog and an important charge from the governor to be a better bureaucrat than
    all the ones before him.  You want to
    walk on water, declare our independence from this failed system.


    Minion 64297 (Tim)              

Comments are closed.

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