Some people read the newspaper every day. If they are away from home for a few days they purchase the daily where they visit but still feel compelled to review the stack of local papers that the neighbor saves for them when they get home.
I admit to being a newspaperaholic but confess that the want ads are not usually part of my daily reading ritual. Occasionally I'll check out the personals to see if there are any good deals on airline tickets that I can't afford and don't have time to use. I also haven't been able to shake the idea that the good-looking girl who stood me up when I was her blind date on New Year's eve in 1964 has by now felt some remorse and printed an apology for me to read in the personals. I really try not to dwell on this awful event and have just about forgotten it.Despite the fact that I am a thorough paper reader, the want ads really get only a passing glance unless some other newsaholic notices something important and points it out to me - like a Snow College colleague did last week.
"According to the ad in Education Week, Iowa City is looking for a new superintendent of schools."
"You don't have to show me stuff like that," I said, "I have tenure . . . incidentally, what's the pay?"
"That's an interesting question for someone that isn't interested."
"Are you trying to tell me something about my status at Snow or is there something about the ad that is interesting?"
As it turned out the advertisement was interesting. I wondered in reading it if there was any school district in Utah that could use the same advertisement and just change the name of the district. Would Utah school boards look for the same kind of administrator as the school board in Iowa City.
Iowa is somewhat like Utah. Saying rural Iowa is probably as redundant as saying rural Utah. Iowa is a farm state with few large cities. Incomes in Iowa are certainly lower than in California and property cheaper. I don't suppose Iowa has "The Greatest Snow on Earth," and it certainly is not our competition for the Winter Olympics. Maybe it's the chorus of "Music Man" that has given us a romantic view of the place by suggesting that "you really ought to give Iowa a try" even though "there's trouble right there in River City."
Iowa City's advertisement for a superintendent of schools notes the following (it does not look like trouble in Iowa City):
- An excellent, growing district in a university community.
- 9,000 pupils; supported by an area that highly values education.
- High achievement and wide recognition typify students, faculty and staff.
What the advertisement says is true. The average class size in Iowa is 15.6. In Utah it is 24.7. Iowa ranks 14th in the nation and Utah 51st in class size. Iowa spends $3,808 per student each year and Utah $2,415 (1987 data.) They invest 26.7 percent of their per capita income in education, and Utah invests 21.2 percent. This percent difference looks even bigger when one considers that the per capita income in Iowa is $14,236 and in Utah is $11,366. Iowa supports education.
The class size and expenditure comparisons, however, are not the real point. The point is the attitude that the advertisement for a superintendent represents. The ad is telling a prospective school employee that the community supports education. It says precisely that high achievement and wide recognition is typical of students and of faculty and of staff. It says in effect "we expect good schools."
Perhaps that is a message that the residents of Utah would also like to send to prospective school employees, including teachers.
The residents of Utah should expect high achievement and reward this achievement with wide recognition. Utahns should be able to say that we are "an area that highly values education."
Does Iowa get a good system for its money? It's hard to make a generalization because good education is not always something that can be discovered with any one measurement. It is interesting, however, to let one fact speak for itself. The average ACT score in Iowa is 20.3. That score is the highest in the nation.
Attitude, expectations and a manageable class size may even mean as much as salary in nurturing a good Iowa school system. Iowa is only average in its thanks to teachers with money. Of the 50 states and D.C., Iowa ranks 30th in average teacher salaries. Of course, the 1988 average of $24,847 in Iowa is $2,302 ahead of the average teacher salary in Utah, the amount of a ten percent raise.
Now about that job for superintendent, how much does it pay to work where the class size is 15.6 and people are willing to advertise that they expect and recognize high achievement? The advertisement notes "upper seventies-upper eighties." Maybe more newspaperaholics in education will start reading the want ads.