Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Future, the Money, and the Iowa Core

It appears that the current proposals floating around the Legislature include no allowable growth for 2 years, and the gutting of funding for the Iowa Core.  Education took 58% of the cuts last year, and now it will be hamstrung for another two years, along with promises of 'not raising property taxes.'     Come visit my school, my classroom, and then decide if education is worth the cost.  Any takers?

I have three blocks of classes.  I teach in a constructivist pedagogy, and my classroom is organized into small groups, with project-based learning and data gathering occupying more than half of the students' time.  Students use technology on a regular basis, from hand-held data loggers to computers and online texts.  The goal of my teaching style is to allow students to gather data, think about, and generate conclusions through metacognition.   In this context, I teach coursework in physics, environmental science, and astronomy; my curricula includes Arizona State Modeling and several NSF-funded activities, including PHET, an online course from Annenberg, CLEA, and ssds.org.

In my after school time, I help lead our high school professional development program, serve on the building leadership team, and co-facilitate struggling learner initiatives instead of coaching sports.  With more than 240 college credits,  a MA in science education, and 20+ years of experience, it seems to me that there should be multiple pathways to salary advancment, rather than just becoming an administrator.   I find myself wondering where the needs of my classroom will be next year, and the next, and so on, as I plan on teaching for another 15 years.  Doing this is not in question, nor is it because I lack other skills; teaching is my vocation and it is my passion.

For the last five years, I have worked with talented educators in the Every Learner Inquires and the Iowa Model School project and the IRIS project.   I see experience as a great asset here, but the vitality of young teachers is also important. Balanced, they convey a passion and vision for a school building.

After all of this, how could I be so crass as to ask for money?   Isn't the experience enough?   Don't I love teaching children and helping them reach their potential?   In response, I say,   "Of course I love teaching, and I have honed my skills with years of study:  Doesn't that count for something?"  My class sizes are huge, but I stay after each day as needed to accommodate those kids.  I've built the physics program so 50% of each grade is taking the class, and the percentage is rising.  I think my performance speaks for itself.

If you must hamstring us by cutting funding, Gov. Branstad, please ALSO adjust the mechanism for school finance categories, because the boiler plate model we currently have will have us improving school buildings with PPEL funds at the same time we cut to a minimum the teachers staffing them.  Zero percent allowable growth affects our spending authority, and limits our options.

IA-SB and ISEA should be working together at this point to try to look forward to ways to innovate and change the schools.

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