A group that’s been studying the state’s education system today (Tuesday) released a report calling for dramatic changes in how things are done. Jonathan Narcisse (Nar-siss) is president of the State of Black Iowa Initiative, and says his group has studied the education system in Iowa for the past four years. Narcisse says they’ve found the perception of education doesn’t fit with what’s actually happening.He says the rhetoric is that Iowa education is the best in the world, but he says the data refutes that, saying we’ve been in a decade of academic decline. He says test scores in middle and high school are at an all-time low. He says only one third of students in urban centers can function academically once they reach eighth grade or beyond. Narcisse says the state isn’t facing up to the education decline. He says the four pat answers are, “We’re great, two, there are certain kids who just can’t learn because of their race or economic status.” Three he says we set lofty feel good goals that can’t be reached, and he says the fourth is “more money, more money, more money.” Narcisse’s group is calling for a complete overhaul of the educational structure. He says the first step, “is gutting the massive education bureacracy represented by our 371 districts 12 A-E-A’s and 15 community colleges and collapsing their administrative structures into an A-E-A structure.” Narcisse says the A-E-A’s or area education agencies can legally serve as the administrators for school districts. He says this would free up a lot of money that’s wasted on school administration and maintain local control. He says communities with more than one high school would see the high schools and its feed schools becoming one district with a board and the administrative function would be collapsed into one of 20 A-E-A’s. Another proposal would remove the open enrollment barriers for Iowa kids. He says they would have to pay for transportation, but he says parents should be allowed to open enroll kids. He says Iowa’s current desegregation plans have been a “total failure” in a state where 80 to 90 percent of our black youth will be failing by the time they reach eighth grade. Narcisse says the state also needs to upgrade the quality of its teachers and not settle for anything but the best. He says educators ought to be educated people who inspire confidence, who show the value of the education by communicating that orally and by example. He says, “we can no longer have incompetence in the classroom.” Narcisse says they’re laying out the plan seeking to make positive changes for all students — not just blacks. He says there may be opposition, but he says “so what.” He says if they can document that the proposals are wrong, then people need to do so. Narcisse says Iowans should be getting more for the billions they’ve spent over the years on education and they’re trying to get that message out and change attitudes.
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