The acting director of the Iowa Department of Education says it’s time to recalculate how students advance through school.
Kevin Fangman has been the department’s acting director since May. “I think it’s really time to think about: Can we really change this paradigm we have about school?” Fangman says. “Can we blow it up and think about it in a different way?”
According to Fangman, there are “forces” pushing for a “massive overhaul” of the system and that includes changing how students earn credits in high school and in college. “That whole paradigm about time being the constant is starting to be looked at in the whole learning process,” Fangman says.
In other words, it’s time to consider letting students advance when they’ve mastered the coursework rather than after they’ve spent a certain amount of hours in the classroom.
“We are really focused in classrooms about the amount of time that students are in class and learning is what is the variable, so time is the constant,” Fangman says. “And we really need to flip that around so that learning is the constant and time becomes the variable in how much time that’s going to take.”
According to Fangman, teachers have to be able to move students along at varying paces. “It’s not based on seat time,” Fangman says. “It’s about what students know and are able to do, and so if they can demonstrate that they know it and they can do it, then they need to be able to move on in their learning process — and that doesn’t mean that they’re in a class for a long period of time.”
Fangman says this is important not only for students who quickly master subjects, but for students who fall behind their peers. That way those students won’t have to “repeat” an entire year in one grade. Instead, when they begin to master the coursework, the student can move on. The “huge challenge,” according to Fangman, is that making these kind of time adjustments will require changes at all levels of education, from kindergarten through college.