The Iowa Department of Education recently linked to an article written by Mary Stegmier at The Des Moines Register on their Facebook page. They wrote, “A nice wrap-up of the steps Iowa schools are taking to improve, including support for teachers (TLC), early literacy and competency-based education.”
Stegmier pointed out five different trends launching in some Iowa schools this year including new tests being used to assess literacy. Schools that have student-led conferences not only have students involved in parent-teacher conferences, but actually lead them (I’ll keep an open mind). Competency-based education where students set the pace which sounds good because it is similar to what homeschooling families would do. It’s pretty easy to do one-on-one. In a public school setting we’ll see, and the devil, as always, will be in the details. Giving schools the flexibility to do this if they want is great, but will this trend become a mandate? To be seen.
Then the teacher leadership program will launch in 39 school districts. I really have my doubts. Pulling quality teachers away from the classroom doesn’t seem like the best idea to me, and the impact on the state budget is of concern. Perhaps the pilot in these 39 school districts will be great and it will prove itself to be a program that others want to emulate – we’ll see.
The fifth and last trend Stegmier points out is kids learning to code. As an idea it sounds great, but how she describes it gives me concern.
In classrooms across Iowa, 4- and 5-year-olds will learn rudimentary computer coding, and those lessons are expected to gain more prominence in Iowa schools in the years ahead.
A few national organizations, including CoderDojo and code.org, have developed free, self-guided tutorials that teachers or mentors can use to introduce elementary, middle and high school students to the field of computer science.
Knowing how to code enables students to go from being consumers of technology to producers, said Vicky Pedersen, an Iowa City High School instructor who teaches pre-engineering courses.
Looking at a video that Code.org released last year I can get behind kids learning code.
But 4-and-5-year-olds? I can see upper elementary, middle school, and high school kids learning coding. I think it is a valuable skill one, having taught myself website development, that I wish I had a better handle on. Kindergarteners need to focus on reading. With Iowa Core’s implementation happening this school year in all of Iowa’s public schools and most accredited non-public schools; kindergarteners already face a tall order.
The Iowa Core’s math and English language arts standards encompass the Common Core State Standards. Here are some of the standards being implemented in kindergarten classes across the state.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.3 (Kindergarten Operations & Algebraic Thinking)
Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).
For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.NBT.A.1 (Number & Operations in Base 10)
Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.K.8 (Informational Text)
With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.
Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is…).
Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.1 Speaking & Listening
Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
This is not the Kindergarten of my childhood, and it is no wonder that child psychologists, child development experts and social workers have shown concern about the developmental appropriateness of the standards. They are causing stress as New York teachers have seen. Do we really believe that Iowa students are that different?
Do we need to throw coding on top this?
I don’t think so. I agree it’s important skill to learn, but it can wait. Let kids learn how to read first, schools have had a hard enough time teaching that.
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