Our Opinion: An F in logic

Monday, January 9, 2006

Grades given to all 50 states in educational quality by the nationally circulated Education Week received widespread coverage by other media.

Iowa was given a mediocre C- as an overall grade, in part, because of an F grade for the state in standards and accountability.

Iowa is the only state that has no statewide standards in English, math, science and social studies, leaving such standards up to individual school districts to determine in a process that is overseen by the Iowa Department of Education.

Since Iowa has no state standards, how could it receive any grade other than an F? It's like judging the quality of the state's ocean beaches. Iowa would receive an F for that too.

Although the absence of ocean beaches is admittedly a disadvantage for the state, the absence of statewide standards for core education areas is not a self-evident disadvantage.

The state has long maintained a high level of academic quality in its public school system, judging from the consistently high average scores on nationally standardized tests given at high schools, middle schools and elementary schools.

The school boards across the state appear to be doing a conscientious job in establishing standards for educational quality. If there are any districts falling through the cracks because of local indifference or incompetence, we do not know of them.

The horror stories of wholesale failures of school systems to educate students come from urban areas outside of Iowa, in states that have statewide education standards.

We believe results are the most important measure, the only significant measure, of the quality of an educational process.

There is oversight by the Iowa government of local standard setting . Because of pressure from the federal government, this oversight of local control will become increasingly and unnecessarily intrusive.

Why is there pressure to fix something that isn't broke?

We have to look at the alleged problem through the eyes of the writing staff at Education Week. As a practical matter, they cannot evaluate the educational programs at every school district in the country. The sin of Iowa's decentralized educational system does not result from the quality of the results but the difficulty it poses to the writing staff of Education Week.

Journalists working for national media share the same psychology as bureaucrats working for the federal government. Any effect that they strive for is at the national level, or at the minimum, at the state level, certainly not at the local level. It is the nature of their jobs.

So if centralized control of education is so desirable, why not have such control over other aspects of our lives, such as commerce?

Wouldn't it be more efficient and equitable for the central government to control all business activities?

We wonder if this has been tried anywhere.