Iowa Education Blueprint Proposed Legislation
Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds released their final recommendations for restoring Iowa’s standing as a leader in education on Jan. 6. These recommendations are a follow-up to the original Iowa Education blue print that was released in October. The current recommendations are based on input received after a series of townhouse meetings held across the state. Washington was the first of these stops last October.
The updated recommendations do not include two very controversial proposals in the original blueprint. The four-tiered teacher salary schedule is no longer there but suggestion that third grade students below reading level would automatically be retained still is there. I intend to take the key proposals being suggested to legislators and break them down in terms of my feelings and impact on the Washington Community School District. Overall, I am very supportive of most of the recommendations.
1. Be more selective about who can become an educator by requiring a 3.0 grade-point average to gain admission into a teacher preparation programs.
2. Candidates for teaching licensure must pass a test demonstrating content-specific and teaching knowledge.
I lumped these two recommendations together because I think they are connected. I do not support the 3.0 GPA to gain admission into a teacher education program but do support the teaching candidates passing a test for content specific teaching knowledge. I think there is a maturity issue here. There are individuals who do a lot of growing up and maturing in high school that maybe do not have a great GPA to demonstrate. That doesn’t mean they might not become a great teacher. I did not take my high school classes as seriously as I should have. While my GPA wasn’t bad, it was 2.78 and under this recommendation, I would not of been able to become a teacher. I took my collegiate coursework much more seriously and was a 3.75 student in college. Much of that was related to maturity.
3. Evaluate teachers annually instead of every three years, which is the current requirement. Principals and superintendents also would be evaluated each year.
This recommendation would be cumbersome, but I don’t disagree. New teachers are evaluated annually for the first three years currently, but tenured teachers have a formal evaluation every three years. This would require a lot more time for administration to do formal evaluations of all their teachers each year. Washington currently evaluates the principals and superintendent each year, so that would not be a change.
4. Widen the pathways to alternative teacher licensure with a number of quality assurance checks.
The best example of how this would be used would be something like foreign language. A native speaker of Spanish would possibly be able to teach Spanish without a traditional teacher license. This is a good move.
5. Make seniority a minor factor in deciding which teachers are laid off by a school district faced with reducing the workforce. Annual evaluations based on performance should be the main factor.
I made this same request as a part of negotiations a year ago. Of course, it is not language of interest to a union member. Not a popular recommendation for ISEA, but certainly one I would support. It is more like the real world of business where you retain the best employees, not the senior employee. I’m sure this recommendation will face a lot of battle but I like it.
6. Establish state task forces to study important long-term issues, such as teacher leadership, compensation and questions about extending the school day or school year.
I don’t see much controversy over these conversations, though the four-tiered pay scale proposed before didn’t go well. I am hopeful that we are able to work towards extending the school year at Washington prior to its becoming mandated. Adding additional days to the school year is a current conversation we are having.
7. Give all preschool students and enrolled 4-year-olds a kindergarten readiness assessment to determine early literacy and numeracy skills.
I don’t see anyone having an issue with this recommendation.
8. High School students take a college entrance exam as a way to provide one of the keys needed for postsecondary education. Phase out the current 11th grade assessment, the Iowa Test of Educational Development.
We are pretty much already there. We actually are doing this on the 10th grade level where we are having our students take the Kirkwood college entrance exam – I think a very good recommendation. The only difference is that we still require the Iowa Test of Educational Development for grades 9-11.
9. High School students will take end-of-course exams in core academic areas of algebra, English, science and U.S. history to make sure they have a solid foundation before they graduate and to better align high school course to Iowa Core.
This is another recommendation that I don’t anticipate there being much issue with other than to assure that the exam is aligned to the Iowa Core. The other question is what happens if the student doesn’t pass the exam? Do they not graduate?
10. Eliminate requirements around seat time for academic credit to accommodate school districts that choose to adopt a system of competency-based education, which advances students based on their mastery of subjects.
This is an outstanding recommendation that I totally endorse and support. The biggest stumbling block here will be getting the board of regents for colleges and universities beyond the point where they evaluate a student’s application based on seat time and academic credits.
11. Widen the pathway for starting charter schools by giving the State Board of Education authority to approve charter applications from universities, community colleges and nonprofit organizations, as well as collaborative efforts of all these groups.
12. Give school districts greater flexibility to meet state requirements so that public schools can better apply innovative ideas to improve learning. School districts would have the same flexibility that charter schools have.
I lumped these two together because I believe they are closely linked. I was the developer of the first charter high school in the state of Iowa. The reason it was opened was to gain flexibility in waiving certain requirements that I couldn’t waive at a regular high school. I agree with the need for flexibility, but do not like the concept of charter schools being allowed outside of the public school district control. There is a need for the state to allow flexibility. Many of the rules, regulations and mandates don’t make sense and the concept of “local control” really doesn’t exist. It is time to loosen those mandates.
Summary: These are the recommendations to the Iowa legislators. I suggest that if you have questions or concerns over these recommendations, you direct those questions and concerns to the legislators who represent you.