- December 8, 2012. Students First, an advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee, is reported as the biggest financial contributor to the 2012 Iowa legislative elections (by a large margin).
- April 23, 2013. Students First begins advertising campaigns in Iowa for HF 215 (a legislative bill that proposed tying teacher evaluations to student test scores).
- May 15, 2013. Patty Link is appointed as the state director of Students First’s efforts in Iowa.
- May 19, 2013. Blogger Karen W reports that Students First has five registered lobbyists in Des Moines who are advocating for its policy proposals.
- May 22, 2013. The Iowa Legislature passes an education reform bill that does not tie teacher evaluations to student test scores but instead establishes a council that will make recommendations regarding an updated educator evaluation system. The council is required to consider student performance as a possible evaluation metric but is not required to include them in its recommendations.
- August 30, 2013. On his very first day on the job, Brad Buck, new Director of the Iowa Department of Education, appoints Patty Link as a member of the new council that will determine educator evaluation systems in Iowa. In addition to her described status as state director of Students First, she is the only member of the council who is described as a ‘parent.’
I am not aware of any mention in any Iowa news outlet of…
- the fact that the reforms advocated for by Students First (and others) have resulted in smaller, not larger, student achievement gains;
- the corporate profit motive behind many of Students First’s proposed policies;
- Students First’s anti-gay ‘Reformer of the Year’ in Tennessee;
- the D.C. Public Schools’ cheating scandal under Rhee’s leadership and the fact that DCPS schools are worse off now than before her arrival;
- Rhee’s belief that communities should not be democratically involved in their schools (so much for local control);
- the fact that virtually none of Students First’s policy proposals have any peer-reviewed data, research, evidence, or other supports behind them; or
any of the other controversies (of which there are many) surrounding Students First and its proposed policies.
I’m also not aware of any state- or district-level systems that tie educator evaluations to student test scores that are deemed to be statistically stable, operationally reliable, and proportionately impactful (if you’ve got ’em, please share ’em!).
- Why aren’t the journalists in our state doing a better job of investigating the claims and backgrounds of groups like Students First instead of simply reporting on them and/or passing along their press releases as ‘news?’
- Should Students First have a seat on Iowa’s new educator evaluation council?
- So far Iowa has resisted many of the educational policy insanities that have infected other states. Will this council focus on evaluation measures for lower-stakes educator improvement purposes or higher-stakes educator accountability purposes? If the former, will such a scheme be approved by the federal government if/when Iowa applies (again) for a NCLB waiver? If the latter, will Iowa become just another of the many states that “pretend that mathematical models can do something they cannot?“
- Will this council think smartly when considering ‘multiple measures’ of teacher quality?
- Will we decide as Iowans what our educational policies should be or will we allow ourselves to be bought by outside advocacy groups?
UPDATE: In case there was any confusion about whether Patty Link is in this role as a ‘parent’:
When you put it all together like this it is scary. As a former teacher I am always nervous about the outcome of directly tying teacher evaluation to student performance. My first concern is always with the fierce competition it creates between teachers but my second and perhaps more serious concern is with the focus on testing it will create. Teachers won’t want to take risks, try new things, or focus on relationship building if their careers are dictated solely by the academic success of their charges. But as your rightly have pointed out, the media tends to support such change much more than it is critical of it.
I myself wonder why that is.
Thanks so much for breaking down what’s happening in Iowa education. It’s a difficult maze to navigate. I’m looking forward to sharing this with my colleagues and anyone else who will listen.