116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The state should work to expand early childhood education. The importance of preschool was highlighted by the many in attendance at the governor's Iowa Education Summit that I was lucky enough to attend.
Highlighted at the conference was the fact that the first few years of a child's life are a particularly sensitive period in the process of development, laying a foundation in childhood and beyond for cognitive functioning, and behavioral, social and self-regulatory capacities. Further emphasized was that access to preschool programs yield benefits in academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment.
Unless we make preschool a reality for every child, we cannot return to being the education leaders we once were.
In education reform, I hope to see a number of items beyond the scope of this column's length restrictions. I will therefore highlight two items in addition to expanding early childhood
First, we need to expand and enhance technology and technology-based curriculums. I do not mean to imply that I am a gadget guy or in support of technology for technology's sake alone. The two most important factors in a child's education are parental involvement and quality teachers. Technology is no substitute for those two.
Thus, I want the state to adopt a proactive approach to developing the use of technology in a way that is meaningful, relevant and enhances the education opportunities for our children. It should be developed in partnership with the teachers and students.
What I hope to not see is a merit-based pay system for teachers. While good in theory, I question the applicability of such a program in an educational setting. The lack of an objective standard makes the introduction of merit pay into our public education system very difficult.
More important, I think the concept is better discussed when based upon teacher performance as opposed to student performance. Even then, how do you objectively evaluate one teacher's performance from the next without over-reliance upon test scores? In some instances, the best teacher may not be the one with the highest-testing students. Rather, the best teacher may be the one who motivates a difficult population to merely show up and take the test.
I fear the value-added concept being discussed by the state has the potential to overlook many teacher intangibles and do a disservice to our educational system by motivating teachers to “teach to the test,” as has happened elsewhere.
One of the major local issues is the amount of negativity surrounding our district and our current board's admitted dysfunction. While I do not claim to have a magic wand, I believe the new board needs a reminder as to the reason they are there. Specifically, their job is to look out for the best interests and the education of our children. I have been attending meetings for the last several months and it appears to me they have lost sight of that duty.
I understand and believe that I can disagree with someone on an issue without it becoming personal. I also understand that, from time to time, I will be wrong. I have no problem admitting those instances and would hope and expect the board to do the same.
I think there needs to be a more constructive and more positive communication style brought to the board.
Jeff McGinness, resident of Iowa City for most of his life, has three children, including two in Weber Elementary School. After winning two NCAA wrestling titles under University of Iowa coach Dan Gable, he earned a law degree and is a practicing attorney. Comments:
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