As superintendent, I feel it is my duty to continually think of the path of progress for my district. In reality, I know there are many paths trying to improve our local educational system – each teacher, support staff members, board member, or administrator may have a slightly different vision of what progress looks like and should be. Through time and discussion, we have learned that collectively we can move forward faster, stronger, and better than with un-aligned forces and interests. (Seems like an appropriate time for a shout out to my alignment guru, Brad Niebling!)
So, as I work to understand and align the various passions, philosophies, and practices in my district, I also think about the forces in the state at large. At a recent Curriculum Network meeting at my AEA, we discussed some fairly strong competitive forces at the Department of Education, in the state Legislature, and throughout Iowa’s school districts.
For education reform or transformation or simply improvement to move forward as fast, as strong, as good as possible we must align our forces and our energies. How do we have comprehensive improvement when we are debating third grade retention at the same time we espouse competency-based education? It seems to me the two are not philosophically compatible, nor practically compatible. Yet, strong forces on both sides leave gridlock, status quo and inertia.
Further, we continue to learn more about the Smarter Balanced consortium and its instruction/assessment suite of tools, yet we also debate the merits of specific end-of-course exams. Do they work together, or against each other? Further, in a truly competency-based system, there may not even be courses to have end-of-course exams.
In each Iowa district, each teacher and administrator is required to have an individual professional development plan aligned to a building professional plan that is aligned to the district plan that is aligned to the district comprehensive school improvement plan (and the Iowa Core implementation plan). With all of this aligned planning, the expectation is forces are united and greater progress occurs. I believe the same expectation is needed at the state policy level.
We need to work to come together – then work together – so our efforts this far do not come undone.