Composed by students with the guidance of
Lindsay Law, Erin Olson, and Christine Sturgeon.
Whereas, the world, and the skills and abilities to thrive in it, have drastically changed in the last decade while government, well-financed reformers, and their notion of “school” remains stuck in 20th century constructs and assumptions about learning and school, and;
Whereas, the research is clear that student passion and interest matters in learning and student efficacy, and not success on standardized and decontextualized exams determine future success, and;
Whereas, in today’s educational system we are categorized into groups based on our age, instead of being categorized based on our intellectual gifts, abilities, and personal interests and skills. Because of this, many of us are falling behind because we are just being passed along without a second thought, simply because we are supposed to be in a certain grade at a certain time. We deserve a personalized learning plan because many of us learn at different rates. We are tired of being reduced to a once-a-year measure that tells us or anyone else little about who we are and what we are capable of, and;
Whereas, we are currently required to memorize information or facts for exams and our teachers are forced to teach to the test rather than teaching to our abilities. After all this, we are able to simply discard such learning due to its lack of use or relevancy for us today or in the future. For example, elementary scoring accountability system creates apathy in students regarding their work and the effort they put forth on your obsolete tests because we have no long term use for such skills or information, and;
Whereas, we should and need to be able control our learning and our learning process. Grade- levels and grading practices hold us back by telling us we aren’t good enough, or that we aren't who others want us to be. We, the future of this world, should be able to live without the constant judgment and evaluation of others, without the worry of grades, and with the knowledge we have a say in our lives. Grades create the idea that failing is wrong and must be avoided, but it is failure and the lessons it provides that leads to success. Success by piling up points and grades is hollow and unfulfilling.
Grading is a one-time thing, but when grading doesn’t exist, you can keep trying over and over again until you get it right. Grading is designed unfairly to sort, categorize, label, and limit us;
Whereas, those of us who don’t learn as fast don’t get the time to learn all of the material; and those who already know it have to wait for everyone else to catch up. The entire system is designed and evaluated on its ability to create a uniform and standardized world led by diversity and creativity. All of us should get the opportunity to learn at our own pace rather than have to adjust to the arbitrary timelines that date back to 1890. We should have more choice about who teaches, how we access information, and learn important content and concepts.
Therefore, we demand that the adults leading our schools, communities, and local and state governments put students at the forefront of all educational decisions rather than politics, money, or the ridiculous ideas of those without a vested interest in Iowa and your children. We demand students be included as equal stakeholders at all levels of the decision-making process, and that school policies, procedures, and structures are more about us and less about adult convenience and political expediency.
Given the rapid pace of change and the need to prepare for a world vastly different than yours and unknown to all of us, we demand an education system in which:
· The school “day” starts and ends fluidly, with a limited amount of structure enabling instruction to be highly flexible and individualized.
· We are independent in our learning of concepts and content, ensuring our competency, not simply our compliance.
· We are expected to meet certain standards and competencies in order to graduate, but at our own pace. As soon as we learn it, we move forward.
· Learning experiences are honored inside and outside of school.
· We are engaged in what we are passionate about so that we will learn that which society deems important through these passions and interests.
· We are guided rather than instructed by teachers. We welcome guidance alongside our independent learning.
· There is less judgment and more collaboration from adults who support our learning interests.
· We are enabled to reach and exceed our potential through student-driven expectations.
· Students have purposeful experiences through hands-on, project-oriented, authentic learning, including apprenticeships.
· Self-paced learning will keep things moving in a cadence that leaves fewer students behind.
· Questions are welcomed in every classroom.
We believe if adults heed the call of Iowa’s students and redesign our schools around these premises, education will be much more valuable to us and truly empower us for success in the 21st century. We are counting on you to do what's right and our expectations are that you step up and demonstrate that you care about the future of Iowa.