Monday, September 4, 2017

Janet Godwin, ACT, and the ICCSD

One of our school board candidates, Janet Godwin, happens to be the chief operating officer of ACT, Inc., the big standardized testing company that has its headquarters in Iowa City. A number of people have raised concerns about the conflicts that might create.

I’m not so worried about the direct legal conflicts; I assume that if Godwin is elected, she’ll have to recuse herself from any votes involving contracts with ACT. But I do worry about a broader kind of conflict. Many of the trends that have been spreading through education for the past twenty years are inextricably linked to an elevation of the role of standardized testing. In my view, that has led to a kind of reductive thinking about education and a de-emphasis of subjects (e.g., art, music) and qualities (e.g., intellectual curiosity, intrinsic motivation, critical inquiry about received ideas) that either aren’t or can’t be measured by a standardized test. How likely is it that the Chief Operating Officer of ACT could act to help reduce the role of standardized testing in educational policy?

A more concrete example: Last year, Godwin informed roughly sixty ACT employees that their positions were being eliminated because ACT was trying to shift away from paper-and-pencil testing to digital testing (which, in general, sells at a higher price). This trend toward digital coincides with the district’s own movement toward digital, as this year it starts the major ongoing investment of providing Chromebooks to every secondary student. Whatever you might think about the district’s decision, it would be useful to at least consider whether that trend in education is driven in some part by the money that can be made by private companies as a result. Godwin is not in the best position to raise that kind of question.

I’m also concerned about further immersing the school district in a corporate-style culture. I wrote here about why I think a public governmental entity is fundamentally different from a corporation in important ways. I’m afraid that our district has lost sight of that distinction, and that Godwin would be unlikely to reverse that trend. (At one point, during the candidate forums, Godwin even accidentally referred to the district as “this company.”) Our current board chair, Chris Lynch, also comes from a corporate operations culture; I don’t see much to distinguish Godwin’s approach to school governance from Lynch’s. As someone who would like to see a shift toward more democratically-informed governance, I will be looking to other candidates.


Anonymous said...

I have the same concerns as you about Godwin. I looked at ACT's website and they sell computer software and a bunch of training's, etc. that go far beyond their standardized college readiness testing.

I feel this would be a situation of volunteering to let the fox guard the henhouse.

Anonymous said...

Ruthina Malone and Janet Godwin, in my opinion are both very pro-administration and will be rubber stampers for Murley and his crew. If you are happy with how things have operated under board members like Lynch, Kirschling, McGinnes and approve of Murley's fascist style of leadership then by all means vote for Ruthina and Janet. If you want change in our district and are unhappy with administration and want more of a critial thinker rather than a rubber stamping puppet, then candidates Karen Woltman, Laura Westemeyer, JP Claussen and Charlie Eastham are more suitable.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that your definition of having a "conflict" just means that someone doesn't agree with you. Your support of the anti-bond candidates is evidence of this.You have chosen to support two candidates ( Woltman and Westemeyer ) both of whom have not had enough faith in our teachers or our system to
send their kids to public school. It is their right to make choices for their kids, but it is downright scary to put them at the helm of our public schools. But because they agree with you , you support them, instead of a smart, hard -working mom who worked her way up against the odds. Have you ever spoken with Janet about her views? Do you even know what ACT does in 2017? In a "democratically informed system " it seems like you should be more informed before you start tossing words like "conflict" around based only on your assumptions.
You say you welcome differing views .. I don't see it And if you get your wish and the bond doesn't pass ( even though a majority of voters will no doubt vote for it) the board is going to be in desparate need of someone with some real world skills

Anonymous said...

10:43, you're wrong.

Woltman has a child in ICCSD's public school now. Yes, she has done some homeschooling--that gives her real world experience with curriculum. She also has real world experience as an attorney. I've seen her speak at school board meetings in support of keeping our schools strong.

Westemeyer had a child graduate from ICCSD and has another two children in ICCSD now. She has that real world experience you want because she started, built and sold a successful business. She wasn't just an employee, she was an owner.

ICCSD has a homeschool program and their students are ICCSD students, for which the state provides $$ to ICCSD. Our district needs everyone to understand this because when those hundred plus ICCSD students open enroll into Mid-Prairie which is supposed to have a better homeschool program, money walks out the door with them.

Janet Godwin probably would recuse herself from decisions involving ACT. The superintendent would still know which side favors ACT and I am pretty sure he would recommend the side that does. The conflict isn't going away.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:43

You are spreading lies! Both Woltman and Westemeyer send or sent their kids to our public schools. You are either extremely misinformed or purposely lying.

Anonymous said...

Ask them if they have ever home schooled or sent any of their children to private school. They should tell you.
Woltman has shared the information in public, at least she's up front about it. It's nice that she speaks up for public schools. She seems like a smart and deliberative person. However. the act of enrolling your kid in private school or home schooling in this district is a commentary on what value they place on the experience of public education in Iowa City.

It's nice to say you support public schools but when your action

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:43,

Hahahaha! You crack me up.

Laura Westmeyer's kid just graduated from West High with top rankings, and a scholarship to Norte Dame. Not too shabby for a school board candidate who "doesn't support public schools!"

And this comment "And if you get your wish and the bond doesn't pass ( even though a majority of voters will no doubt vote for it)..." local elections are NOT weighed like national elections. If a majority of voters vote for something, they win. Simple majority rules.

Anonymous said...

Bonds require 60% to pass.

Anonymous said...

Shawn Eyestone will be a "Yes Man" for Murley and his cronies too. He is pro-administration and will follow any and all orders given by administration without thought.

Anonymous said...

Clearly there is desperation to try to cast doubt on two of the finest candidates to run for school board in a long time.

You are saying that EVERYONE that has ever homeschooled even part time or chosen a private school for (what - preschool?) does not value or care about public education?

That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, especially when applied to these incredible women.

Chris said...

Anonymous (10:43 am) -- I think it's fair to describe it as a type of conflict (though, again, not the direct kind that is covered by statute). What's good for the standardized testing industry is not necessarily what's good for the ICCSD. And we're not just talking about a lower-level employee of ACT, we're talking about the company's Chief Operating Officer.

It could certainly qualify as a disagreement, too. I think it's fair to put the last paragraph of the post in that category. I see disagreement with a candidate (on an important enough issue, at least) as a good reason to vote for someone else.

Anonymous said...

I don't see a problem with running ICCSD as a corporation, provided it is run like a well-run corporation.

What corporations/schools cannot do is have boards of directors/school boards which act as rubber stamps for their chief executive officer/superintendant. Instead, they need to be critical, skeptical, and yet supportive of things that need and deserve support. What we have at the ICCSD, unfortunately, is a school board that is incapable or unwilling to bring any independance to their job.

Unfortunately, this has resulted in a loss of a lot of confidence and trust in the district. Regardless of how the bond election turns out, the damage will not be easily fixed.

And if the bond passes, and the various factions start fighting over the bond money, things will get really ugly.

Between a gang (pardon me, "group") killing in downtown Iowa City and a declining and dysfunctional school district, Iowa City is not what it used to be.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the huge brawl involving dozens of people in Coralville this summer.


From what I'm reading on the Vote No FB page there are some NL residents who are in for a rude awakening if the east side school agenda continues. They "the east side power brokers" didn't really want you to have your own high school. If you're in NL and your hand is out prepare to not even get a nod. The east side is one vote away from seizing control over a sum of money that will leave NL underfunded and overcrowded for a long long time. And that's NL's problem and only this vote will tell if they are going to start dealing with it now or in five years. And it will be so too late in five years. Good luck getting another bond together if this one passes on Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

Good to know - looks like I will be moving from Coralville to Iowa City then. Build it and they will come.

Anonymous said...

I believe Janet Godwin will step back from a decision that directly impacts ACT but the superintendent will still know what will make her happy and that's not good. The other board members may also throw a bone her way for a reason that is not "it's for the benefit of the kids" if they are horse trading for something they want before an upcoming vote.

So I will vote No on Godwin.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Anonymous 8:45 pm. People like Anon 10:43 are using lies to attack candidates while trying to get support for "One Community. One Bond." "One community"....?

Anonymous said...

"If you build it they will come"
Haha, a tired quote from a movie about ghosts.

Developers failed the people of Houston when they built thousands of homes in flood plains some literally in reservoirs.

And this district can only be cannibalized so much. People are deciding not to move their families to Iowa City. We are already falling behind. Not to mention the number of students open enrolling out. The writing is on the walls.

Anonymous said...

Malone and Godwin are the eastside candidates. I don't see either one getting rid of the superintendent or managing him so long as the east side gets its money.