School Talk 'Xtra: 7 Questions for Stephen Murley - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

School Talk 'Xtra: 7 Questions for Stephen Murley

Jason Carter: How frustrating is the allowable growth debate, not action by state lawmakers, been for Iowa City Schools trying to set a budget for next year? 
Stephen Murley: It is very frustrating.  Allowable growth for the 2013-14 school year should have been set in February 2012.  This is their own rule!  If I failed to comply with a state statute I doubt I would get this kind of 14 month reprieve.  Allowable growth for the 2014-15 school year should have been set in February 2013.  The absence of action on these two items makes it impossible for school district to engage in responsible long-term fiscal planning.  Putting local school boards in this position is irresponsible.
Jason Carter: Will the $5M dollar security upgrade be impacted by the legislators delay on allowable growth? 
Stephen Murley: No.  we will be using Physical Plant and Equipment Levy dollars for this work.  Access to these funds was granted by local tax payers through a local resolution vote.  We are very grateful for their allocation and hope that the general public sees how important these funds are to maintaining a safe and nurturing learning environment for our students.  This levy is up for consideration again in 2015.  Because the next regularly scheduled school election will be this fall we will be placing this item before the voters at that time to save the cost of a special election later.  We will be taking time this summer to work with our local electorate to bring them up to speed on all the important work that these levy dollars have funded since inception including these security upgrades.
Jason Carter: What specifically do you believe would reform education in Iowa schools not being discussed in Des Moines? 
Stephen Murley: Although it is being discussed, I would like to see more prominence given to mastery instruction.  Right now we award credits to students for seat time regardless of how long it takes them to learn the material and regardless of whether or not the master that material.  If a student masters the content on day 100 or 160 they still have to sit in class for 180 days.  We need to start thinking about how we restructure education to recognize that ALL students need to master the content whether it takes them 100 or 200 days to do so.  It is not fair to the student who has not quite gotten the materials in 180 days that we give them a ‘C' and call it done.  The LEARNING needs to be the constant in the equation with time and place the variables, not the other way around!
Jason Carter: Was bullying legislation lost in the budget debates? 
Stephen Murley: I am not sure I would use the term ‘lost' to refer to the focus on bullying.  While it may have lost some legislative prominence, there is a great deal of work going on with this issue in schools throughout Iowa.  Legislation is not always required to get schools to do the right thing!
Jason Carter: Where does Iowa City Schools stand in regards to ensuring every student is paired with either a laptop or tablet (1-1)? 
Stephen Murley: We are working hard to get our technology infrastructure up to 21st century standards.  This means having a fiber network accessible in each building and the right interactive tools in each classroom (interactive whiteboard, digital document camera, projector).  The next step will be to build out a wireless network in each building that can handle the traffic that a 1:1 environment will demand.  After we have that done we will move forward with next steps in the implementation of 1:1.
Jason Carter: What strides has the district made in reducing the number of schools meeting improvements in at least category?  (NCLB, 15-17 school increase ) 
Stephen Murley: One important thing to remember is that NCLB sets all districts up to fail eventually.  Statistically it is not possible to comply with the r4equirements in the federal legislation.  For that reason we are working hard to get the federal legislation reauthorized with appropriate accountability standards.  Prior to that going in to effect we are measuring ourselves using the types of growth frameworks that we are recommending to our federal legislators.  When using these accountability standards we are seeing significant progress at all schools throughout the District.
Jason Carter: What's next for the district? 
Stephen Murley: From a facilities perspective we are working to prepare our district to accommodate significant growth in the next decade.  It is important to ensure our students, parents, and community that we have the capacity to adequately educate all students.  We are also looking at how we educate our students.  At the high school level we are working closely with Kirkwood Community College and the University of Iowa as we prepare to open the new regional high school.  We think that this will open up some wonderful new opportunities to all high school students throughout the District!
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