The Blueprint

Chris Liebig over at A Blog About School graciously posted a summary and some thoughts of mine about Governor Branstad’s education reform proposal here.

Here are a few more comments I have shared with legislators about the Blueprint:

The Blueprint is bold, yet fails to substantially focus on the key to improving student achievement in Iowa: getting serious about teaching reading and elementary mathematics.  Literacy and elementary mathematics form the foundation for academic achievement.  A weak foundation in literacy and elementary mathematics cannot support later academic success.

The Blueprint offers an assortment of fixes such as higher teacher pay, teacher mentors, Common Core standards, and new assessments.  None of these changes can substantially improve student achievement if built upon our current approaches to reading and mathematics instruction.

Improving student achievement must begin with improving teacher preparation programs.  Teachers cannot teach what they do not know.[1]  The Blueprint recommends more coursework in core content for future elementary teachers.  However, more college-level mathematics courses will not help elementary teachers understand topics in elementary mathematics and how to explain them in mathematically correct ways appropriate for elementary-level students.  Similarly, more hours of the current approach to reading will not help elementary teachers learn the rules of English phonics and spelling and how to use that knowledge to implement a Science Based Reading Instruction (SBRI) program.

[1] For weaknesses in programs to prepare elementary teachers to teach mathematics see Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics by Liping Ma.  See also The Mis-Education of Mathematics Teachers by H. Wu (available at

For weaknesses in programs to prepare elementary teachers to teach using Science Based Reading Instruction see Teaching Reading is Rocket Science by Lousia Moats (available at and the National Council on Teacher Quality’s What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching About Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning (available at (note p. 24 of the report: UNI fails to treat adequately four of the five components of SBRI and U of I fails to treat adequately any of the five components of SBRI).