A national education expert says everyone in America wants reform in education, but no one wants to do anything themselves to make change happen. Willard Daggett, president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, is the keynote speaker at today’s high school “summit” in Des Moines. “You have really good schools (in Iowa) and in 1990 when I began the International Center, you were probably the best in the country and you might be the best in the country today…but let me be brutally direct with you,” Daggett says. “You’re not even close to competing with the best schools in the world any longer.”
But Daggett says Iowa is different from other states wrangling with education reform. “What we see is something that is kind of unique in your state,” Daggett says. “In your state, educators are seen as the agents of change rather than the objects of change.” Daggett and his staff are leading seminars for the teachers, principals, superintendents and guidance counselors who are attending the second annual Iowa high school summit.
Judy Jeffrey, director of the Iowa Department of Education, says “redesigning” high schools is the agency’s highest priority. “At a time when our workforce needs are changing dramatically and our communities expect their students to not only be ready to work but also ready to face the world as good citizens, we must rethink and react quickly to ensure that our Iowa students will be able to compete and be able to learn beyond high school,” Jeffrey says.
About 15-hundred educators as well as the state’s top education leaders are gathered for the two-day summit, and Governor Tom Vilsack took time to single out the State Board of Education for recently voting on new rules for high school athletes. “I want to acknowledge them again for the courage that they have taken in standing up for high standards in this state,” Vilsack says. “It is important…to send a message to all students in Iowa that failing grades will not be accepted.”
Vilsack says it’s time to junk Iowa’s “assembly line” education system. “We treat youngsters as if they were on an assembly line…In each year an additional part is added to that child, that product,” Vilsack says. “The economy has changed…It is important and necessary for us to have a school system and a structure that reflects the realities of the economy today.”
Vilsack told the 15-hundred teachers and school administrators meeting today (Monday) and tomorrow in Des Moines their work is more important than what’s going on anywhere else in the state today.