I got a kick out of Karen’s suggestion to the drafters: “Please do not find yourself in the position of claiming to hold high academic standards for all students while failing to competently proofread a document you plan to submit to the US Department of Education.” But the trouble is far worse than typos and misspellings. Karen points out, for example, that the waiver application makes it clear that Iowa intends to focus on statewide implementation of PBIS. Moreover, the entire document seems designed to demonstrate just how lost you can get in a faulty paradigm – in this case, the idea that empirical research in social science can dictate indisputable policy solutions that we just need to impose uniformly on all of our schools.
Here’s just one passage I came across, pretty much at random, on “Universal Supports”:
All schools will engage in school improvement through the Seven Characteristics of Effective and Improving Schools, the C-Plan, and the System for Improving Student Success. All schools will be supported in the following ways.Should I go on? Needless to say, the conclusion is that “it is imperative that RtI be implemented with fidelity in each Iowa school” – even though the one previous attempt to implement the program apparently resulted in a “lack of success,” even under its own almost certainly reductive definition of success. When our “robust universal instruction,” “data-based decision making,” “intensive interventions,” and “progress monitoring” fail, it must mean we need to do even more of them!
Response to Intervention (Turnaround Principles: strengthening school’s instructional program and using data to inform instruction): From 2003 to 2011 Iowa implemented a process called Instructional Decision-Making (IDM) which was a prototype of Response to Intervention (RtI). IDM was developed by a team of Iowa general educators, special educators, and administrators and information was disseminated to a contact person in each Area Education Agency (AEA). With this train-the-trainer model (AEA contacts provided training to individual schools), IDM was not implemented consistently across the state. In some schools where IDM was in place, it was not integrated into practice as an on-going approach to improving learning. Because of the lack of success of IDM, it became apparent a more concentrated and prescriptive approach to RtI implementation was necessary.
As presented in Principle 1, RtI is a multi-tiered framework by which schools use data to identify the academic supports each and every student needs to be successful in school and leave school ready for life. In their review of 13 studies investigating the impact of RtI on academic achievement or performance, Hughes and Dexter (2011) found some level of improvement in all studies, primarily on early reading and math skills.
Once you hack through the bureaucratese and the management guru jargon (I particularly like that C-minus Plan), this program appears to be designed to catch students who are falling behind academically and give them “intensive” forms of attention. Don’t look for any reflection on the definition of “successful” or its susceptibility to measurement. Don’t look for any concern over the need for buy-in by parents and teachers. Don’t look for any limits to the faith in our state bureaucracy to know what’s best for everyone. Don’t look for any inquiry into just how this intervention and monitoring might affect the kids’ long-term attitudes toward school and toward learning, or any recognition that few of us welcome “intensive interventions” into our own lives. There is a citation to a study, after all, which certainly proves that imposing this program uniformly on teachers in every school in every district is better for children than allowing individual districts to make their own decisions about how to help struggling students, and better than allowing teachers to use their experience, judgment, and wisdom instead of applying a centrally-dictated, “concentrated and prescriptive” (i.e., idiot-proofed) “System” to whatever challenges come their way.
Yet the use of “data” in this way is widely accepted and practiced on all sides of the educational debate.
We have seriously lost our way.