Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rolling out the Blueprint for Iowa

Jason Glass, State Director of Education in Iowa, did not disappoint in creating "One Unshakable Vision - World-class Schools for Iowa" released yesterday, Oct. 3rd 2011. The much-anticipated document, outlined in a concise 16 page PDF file, is destined to face scrutiny and debate from all sides. At least I HOPE we can debate, discuss, contemplate and rebut the ideas presented.

Education is a big political issue, and if you are into the politics and the strategies of today, you know they are divisive and becoming more polarizing. Sound bites and advertisements are now black and white, either you're for us or against us. So when you push things to be black and white and eliminate the gray, there is no room for discussion or thought.

The blueprint will be categorized and characterized by the majority of Iowans without even reading or considering what is on it's pages. Newspaper headlines are reading "Branstad Education plan could be costly, some warn." - Omaha World-Herald. The article talks on the surface about how many teachers they would have to hire to provide time for Mentor and Master Teachers that will work with the rest of the staff. They quote one administrator as saying they'll have to add 10 staff.

Freeing up time for teachers to collaborate and work with other teachers will necessitate additional personal. But it's not as simple as taking all those quarters and halves and adding them together to make up their time. (Mentor teachers will spend 25% of their time and Master 50%) But we want to equate it in simple terms, we want to dismiss or accept without much thought.

In terms of adding staff I was able to look at our staff of 20 teachers and discovered I could get by with adding one full time teacher in English to accomplish the blueprint's goals. That's not considering we were contemplating adding a 1/2 time English teacher next year.

I challenge all Iowans to resist the temptation to put things in simple, politically charged, packets and sound bites but to instead work through to a solution. Whether in the end it's 90% of what's in the blueprint or 10%, let's find answers and not sound bites. Let's talk to each other, not at each other or down to each other. Arguing is good if you have a viable alternative or direction to fight for, not an interest-pushed agenda.

I would suggest having county-wide implementation teams of Superintendents, Principals, Board Members and Legislators working on feasibility, not in terms of is it possible? But more like MAKE it possible. Maybe even reach out to nearby districts to share resources in and out of the county.

My fear is that we never get the chance to work on this at the building level. There are "town-hall" meetings scheduled, which were held last spring and did a lot to craft the blueprint. I believe we're past that format and need to move to groups that directly are affected by the legislation to demonstrate what could work and find alternatives to what needs re-worked.

I challenge everyone to read, think and above all act. Whether it's attending a meeting, writing a legislator, working in your building to see what could work and taking the ideas and applying them in ways you can right now.

In that way the spirit of the document could gain traction even before hitting the state house floor.