Reason #4 – School Reform “Initiative Fatigue”

In trying to understand the lack of commitment to public education in Iowa, my August blog used the “5 Whys” process to analyze the lack of commitment.

The five main reasons that were identified with this process include:

  • Depleted state revenues for Supplemental State Aid (SSA)
  • Legislators not following the SSA timeline
  • The need for binding arbitration for legislators
  • School reform “Initiative Fatigue”
  • Educators keep making it happen with reduced funding – doing more with less

Today, we will explore reason #4 – School Reform “Initiative Fatigue.”

Educators’ frustration comes in many packages. Currently with the reform efforts, many educators are experiencing initiative fatigue that interferes with the teaching and learning process. With so many initiatives being forced upon them, educators also do not feel respected. Many have second-guessed their decision to choose education as a profession. I would have never believed in my career that the state of Iowa would be in the same position as the other public schools in the United States. 

Teachers did not choose their profession to implement the flavor-of-the-month as selected by legislators. Have you heard of some of the latest and greatest initiatives? Here are just some of them, and the thought is that each one can be cherry-picked to make “THE difference” in the end. They include: Early Literacy Implementation (ELI), Multiple Tiers of Student Supports (MTSS), Response To Intervention (RTI), third grade retention, Teacher Leadership Compensation (TLC), Race To The Top, No Child Left Behind, Differentiated Accountability, Attendance Center Rankings, Schools In Need of Assistance (SINA), Districts In Need of Assistance (DINA), Universal Instruction, Common Core, Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM), Next Generation Science Standards, Smarter Balanced, teacher evaluation based on test scores, and competency-based education. 

All of these initiatives have some educational merit and value, but are many times isolated and not implemented systematically. Many of them are punitive in nature instead of promoting growth and learning. Another problem with many of these reforms is that they are coming from non-educators. So, they are not aligned within a system and organized through a systemic approach. 

The focus of the current educational funding is based solely on these unaligned initiatives at the expense of the foundational funding formula (Allowable Growth/Supplemental State Aid). While we focus on these initiatives, the educational foundation is crumbling; and if we’re not careful, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men” will not be able to put it back together again. (Public schools have been the foundation of democracy in the United States.)

So, enough with new and additional initiatives! We have plenty to work on. We need to cut down on the number of these new initiatives and focus on the ones that have the highest impact. The Governor and our legislators need to act like responsible parents, not protective parents.  They need to give educators the opportunity to grow like a good parent would allow their child to grow. We have to TRUST educators who have spent many years of training to do what is right for their students—and focus on improving instruction—instead of overwhelming educators with too many initiatives, which causes confusion; is punitive in nature; and can lead to a lack of focus.

Legislators and the Governor’s office must hear from parents, educators and the business community that education is still a priority in Iowa. Invite your legislators to see education in your community or contact them and let them know about your educational needs. We must be our own advocates to stop this alarming de-funding trend!

As always, be sure to check out our blogs, which we hope will inform, inspire and guide your daily work:

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Educationally yours,

Dr. Tim Grieves
Chief Administrator