Regular readers of this blog know that I don’t always agree with Dr. Jason Glass, Director of the Iowa Department of Education. But I’m going to be one of the first to say how sorry I am that he’s leaving Iowa for his new position as Superintendent of the Eagle County (CO) Schools.
I have ongoing concerns about some of the directions that Iowa educational policy is heading. Like in other states, we have seen policy proposals in recent years that hurt kids, schools, and our state. From teacher ‘accountability’ to third grade retention to assigning schools letter grades, these policies play well to certain fringes of the ‘ed reform’ crowd but have nothing to do with transforming education in ways that facilitate deeper thinking, student agency, or relevance in a digital, global world. Unfortunately, our policymakers also are not immune to the influx of outside monies. When the Governor is a founding member of ALEC and the largest political donor in the last legislative race is StudentsFirst, Iowa can expect to face some significant issues regarding inappropriate outside and/or corporate influence on policies that affect its children, teachers, and schools. In a state where most educational professionals either don’t have an online voice or aren’t willing to use it, I have felt the need to sometimes speak against some of the lunacy.
For the most part I think that Jason has been a moderating influence on much of this. Despite the policy positions from above (or outside) for which he’s sometimes had to stand behind, he’s pretty middle of the road on most things. Every conversation that I’ve had with Jason has been nothing but congenial and respectful. In addition to his advocacy for strengthening the teaching profession, he’s been a strong supporter of competency-based education (which, along with technology, I believe has the greatest potential in our state for upending school as we know it). He has tried to help us learn from high-achieving school systems and he’s facilitated the expansion of online learning. He fostered the #iaedfuture Twitter hashtag (which has become an important channel for conversations about Iowa school policy) and has been exceptionally accessible to the larger public via his blog and Twitter. And he always, always is proud of and talks highly about the work that Iowa educators and schools are doing. One of our greatest strengths in our state is the tremendous interconnectedness and mutual support that Iowans and their educators give to each other. We have a long history of caring about education, we are small enough that everyone seems to know each other, and it’s relatively easy to get positive movements started. Jason has always understood this and, in his way, tried to leverage these strengths to do good things for kids and schools. Although I have expressed occasional concern about the possibility of Iowa becoming one of ‘those states’ (yes, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New York, Tennessee, etc., I’m talking about you), we have a number of fantastic things happening here when it comes to education. Some are a direct result of Jason’s leadership. For others – such as the grass roots 1:1 computing movement or the burgeoning standards-based-grading awakening – he has known when to stay out of the way (a much less appreciated but critically important characteristic of effective leaders).
So I’m going to miss you, Jason. Thanks for taking the ACT with me. Thanks for the public Twitter exchanges that everyone saw and the private email exchanges that everyone didn’t. I hope you have a smooth transition back to a place that was once home and wish you the very best in your new role. And if you ever want some help or support on the technology front – particularly with your building- and district-level leaders – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.