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Amy Moore has a simple proposal for the governor and legislature of Iowa: If you won’t fund our state’s public schools adequately, then let us have the freedom to teach.
Moore teaches fifth grade and writes frequently for the Des Moines Register. She taught second grade for many years. Sheafter Governor Terry Branstad vetoed a $56 million increase in school funding. The legislature had approved the increased funding to compensate for having earlier granted an increase of 1.25%, not enough to cover rising fixed costs.
Republicans in the legislature–and the governor–expect the schools to do more with less.
What improvements can educators make without cost? She has some ideas.
“The first thing that would make a great impact is to bring back play-based curriculum in the early childhood grades. There is a recent, almost comical, “new” movement being highlighted by the media to restore play in kindergarten. I say comical because some of those touting its importance are acting as if early childhood educators haven’t been screaming for years that traditional academic materials and learning approaches are not appropriate for our youngest.
The thing that is not funny at all is the lost childhood many of our babies are suffering as they are pushed to do things earlier than they should and in ways that are detrimental to their development. One positive that has emerged is newer research is proving little ones have neurological connections that are made when exploring their worlds through play and being forced to learn in other ways can actually be harmful.
“So if we want to improve our schools programs without purchasing anything, we should discontinue the use of any scripted curricular materials in the earliest grades. That is not how young kids learn. There should not be multiple choice tests, but instead only teacher created assessments along with observation.
“God bless those administrators who haven’t gotten caught up in data hysteria and who have allowed their teachers to continue to implement lessons that are suitable for little girls and boys. For the rest, we should allow our teachers to dust off their dramatic play areas, their sand tables, and their art easels and let them be used.
“Early childhood educators have known for years how to use these tools to enhance academic skills with what appears to others to be “just play” and, at the same time, our young ones will again learn essential life skills such as problem solving, cooperation, communication, persistence and creativity. The most important thing of all that children can gain through play is a lifelong love of learning. There is such a thing as the wrong kind of teaching. It’s happening in many of our schools and we have the power to stop it. It won’t cost a dime.”
Here is another no-cost idea:
“No single textbook company or method of teaching can be a good fit for all. If districts have spent thousands of dollars purchasing materials that all are expected to follow then that’s great. Have them available to the teachers to use at their own discretion, in their own time, with their own supplements as they see fit. That’s called teaching. Not only will it not demand additional money but it will reduce the exodus of great educators from the profession because they will once again be allowed to do the job for which they were trained. It will set us back on the path to the highest quality of teaching and learning possible.”
Moore advises teachers to get involved in the Presidential primary. Study the candidates’ records on education. Ask them questions.
“The last thing is an easy one for those of us in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. We need to pay attention to the political races and, ultimately, cast our vote for candidates who will make schools a priority. We have the opportunity to shake hands with many of these people. We can ask them directly how they plan to fight poverty and inequity, to strengthen public schools, to keep the decision-making process away from business interests and with educators….
“Have these candidates supported taking away teacher job protections? Have they promoted a test-based culture? Have they allowed taxpayer money to go to for-profit schools? We need to ask about their beliefs about using artificial measures such as test scores to judge teachers. Showing up at a forum and posing these types of questions will cost us only the gas money to get there.”
Good advice for parents and teachers in every state.