Putting a hold on our children’s education

Dr. Sue Atkinson's Column--Published: Friday, Aug. 5, 2016 11:01 a.m. CDT in the Newton Daily News

How many know that Iowa has put a hold on the improvement of student proficiency standards?  Not only is there a hold on improvement, but two different officials in the Department of Education have told me that standards are “arbitrary.”  With an increasing number of states passing Iowa on the national NAEP exams (using grade level standards), and U.S. students in the bottom 30 percent of the developed countries taking the international PISA exams using international standards — not to mention the higher education movement working to make their degree programs globally competitive — Iowa’s present position does not bode well.  Ineffective curriculum, ineffective teaching, and ineffective remediation make up the majority of reasons for failing to achieve proficiencies.

The Common Core forms an effective entry level for curriculum that can be improved upon as education theories improve teacher training to be able to do this.  We know Iowa’s teacher training programs are assessed as a failure by the National Council on Teacher Quality (with their next report due out this October).  Remediation is a complete failure.  Statistically, 95 percent of the human species has capacity to learn within normal limits when the curriculum, teaching, and remediation are effective — something the rest of the world and an increasing number of states here know — which means that the majority of students assigned to Special Ed. in Iowa are there for failures of the education system and not because of a reduced capacity to learn that requires special support.

According to the website of the Department of Education, based on failed Iowa education theory, the purpose of Special Ed. is support for a defect, not remediation. If it was used for effective remediation, most of the students in the program would not need Special Ed. (including English learners who used to be able to learn English in weeks several decades ago when a quality curriculum and effective teaching were being used). Summer school has been a waste of time and money because it was premised on, provably, failed education theories. I requested a spreadsheet of FAST scores for elementary schools of all Iowa districts.  I used Excel to rank them, with the following results of average proficiency and ranking for Jasper County public schools: Baxter at 63.9 percent ranks 202, Colfax-Mingo at 69.1 percent ranks 150, Lynnville-Sully at 63.6 percent ranks 204, Newton at 64.2 percent ranks 199, PCM at 57.0 percent ranks 254. Failed education theories must go.

Sue Atkinson