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No Poison Apple? Terry Branstad’s Education Proposal Aims to Be Palatable to Varied Legislators and Interests. They’re Open to Reform but Leery. - Page 3 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 06:42

Sidebar: What’s in Branstad’s Proposal?

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Governor Terry Branstad’s education-reform proposal contains 26 components in three basic areas. Below are short summaries of each element.

A PDF of the proposal can be found at RCReader.com/y/edproposal. A PDF of the legislation – Senate Study Bill 3009 and House Study Bill 517 – as introduced can be found at RCReader.com/y/3009.

Section I: Great Teachers and Leaders

1) Iowa Education Job Clearinghouse. “Establishes a statewide Web-based education employment system where every public preK-12 education job in the state is posted and applicants complete one application.”

2) Improving Teacher Preparation Program Selectivity and Student Teaching. “Include[s] raising standards for entry into teacher-preparation programs to include having at least a 3.0 cumulative college GPA and passing a pre-professional skills test in the top 75 percent nationally.”

3) Alternative Pathways into the Education Profession. “Includes widening alternative pathways to allow teachers, principals, and superintendents to come into the profession from non-traditional pathways. Quality is paramount, so the same GPA and assessment requirements of the traditional pathway also would be required of alternative pathways. Candidates in alternative routes would be required to undergo training in teaching or administration and have practical experience under a mentor before gaining full licensure status.”

4) Bringing Educator Licensure into the Iowa Department of Education. “Moving licensure [from the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners] into the Department of Education, where a new internal structure will be created focusing on educator effectiveness.”

5) Educator Evaluation. “Calls for all teachers and administrators to be evaluated at least annually, rather than the every-three-years model we have in place now for non-probationary educators. The proposal formally creates a standing task force to continually improve the evaluation systems for educators and calls for the state to build uniform systems of evaluation with supporting electronic data-collection programs.”

6) Extending Teacher and Administrator Probationary Status to Five Years. “Giving schools more time to make a good judgment about whether a person is going to be an effective educator before additional job protections are provided.”

7) Educator Non-Renewal and Dismissal. “Would have probationary educators (in their first five years) who are under-performing be subject to contract nonrenewal at the end of any school year. For non-probationary educators (sixth year and thereafter) who are under-performing and any educator being dismissed for good cause, this proposal calls for the school board to make a determination on terminating an educator’s contract based on the employee’s annual evaluation or other evidence. One outside adjudicator review would be allowed to make sure the employee was evaluated fairly and provided due process in the evaluation and nonrenewal process.”

8) Ending Seniority-Based or “Last-In-First-Out” Layoffs. “Would require that performance be the primary determinant in making layoff decisions. While seniority could be considered as part of the decision, it would be secondary to employee performance and needs of the school district.”

9) School Administration Manager Program. “Helps give principals the time to focus on instruction by delegating some time-consuming tasks of building management to other staff members.”

10) Strategically Aligning Professional Development. “Would have the Department of Education annually target areas for professional development based on state needs and direction.”

11) A Task Force on Teacher Leadership and Compensation. “Asks the legislature to create a state task force to study these important issues and to make recommendations in time for the 2013 legislative session.”

Section II: High Expectations and Fair Measures

12) Continuing and Expanding the Work of the Iowa Core. “A tightly aligned education system should have consistency from the standards to the curriculum and in the assessments.”

13) Kindergarten Readiness Measures. “Would have all four-year-olds in the state voluntary preschool program complete a kindergarten-readiness assessment that would determine early literacy and numeracy skills.”

14) High School End-of-Course Exams. “Calls for the development of [standardized] end-of-course exams in core areas such as algebra, English, science, and U.S. history. ... Over time, the results on this suite of assessments would be used as a component of graduation.”

15) The Programme for International Student Assessment. “Calls for a sampling of about 3,000 students in the ninth grade to take the PISA every three years, following the same procedures of countries all over the world. Data from this assessment will give Iowa information on how well our education system is doing versus the international competition our students will face once they graduate.”

16) College and Career Readiness Measures. “Calls for all 11th-grade students to take a college-entrance exam.”

17) Value-Added Measures (VAM). “A method of analyzing assessment data that accounts for student background and demographics in determining whether students are making expected growth from year to year. ... Calls for making VAM available at the individual student, teacher, grade, school, and district levels.”

18) Statewide Literacy Program. “Calls for all students, beginning in preschool, to be taught with an evidence-based reading program that covers the five components of reading. ... Students finishing third grade who do not meet basic literacy requirements across a broad set of measures would be retained and provided intensive reading assistance that could include one-on-one or small-group reading supports, summer-school programs, or specialized tutoring.”

19) Project Lead the Way. “A project-based and hands-on middle school and high school science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum. ... Makes Project Lead the Way eligible for concurrent enrollment supplemental weighted funding for high-school/community-college credit.”

Section III: Innovation

20) Innovation Acceleration Fund. “Calls for the creation of an Innovation Acceleration Fund with money from the state, from philanthropies and foundations, and from the business sector. These funds would be available to schools and to community-based nonprofit organizations across Iowa through a competitive-bid process.” Of the $25-million price tag for Branstad’s proposals, $2 million would go toward this fund.

21) Competency-Based Education. “This [current] time-based system is the root of the outdated ‘industrial’ or ‘factory’ model of education. The truth is, some students don’t need the seat-time requirements we have now, while others need more. ... Removes barriers to schools choosing to adopt competency-based systems.”

22) Online Learning. “Creates two pathways for online learning in schools across Iowa.”

23) Charter Schools. “Would provide a wider pathway for charters. School districts could still start charter schools, but so could universities, community colleges, and nonprofit organizations, as well as collaborative efforts of all these groups.”

24) Increased Waiver Authority. “Would provide school districts the same flexibility that charter schools have. It would give the director of the Department of Education the authority to waive compliance with rule or statute for schools wishing to use an innovative approach that isn’t currently allowed.”

25) Statewide Parent Engagement Network. “Iowa currently has a system called the Iowa Parent Information Resource Center ... . This program has been effective at increasing parent engagement and student achievement in the schools where it has operated. ... Would take this system statewide with a tiered model of supports.”

26) Task Force on Time and Schools. “In town-hall meetings on education across the state, Iowans asked how school calendars, extended days, and the extended year fit into the broader discussions on reform. ... Calls for a statewide Task Force on Time & Schools to convene and study this complex (and often contentious) issue and make recommendations to the legislature for the 2013 session.”

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Always negative
written by Bobaloo, January 22, 2012
I haven't read the entire story, and I realize that a major initiative/major proposed legislation such as the "One Unshakable Vision" plan to improve education in Iowa deserves close scrutiny by all interested parties: teachers, legislators, taxpayers, and so forth. Depending on what is included in the final version – it may be all of it, some of it or none of it, and it could be several years before any adoption is made – it will have far reaching implications on the public.

That being said, I fear that this story is an example of what I've noticed lately in the River Cities Reader: Negative-slanted coverage of an important issue affecting daily life, creating the impression that all elected officials are corrupt and power hungry to the point of narcissm. Here, I fear that it's implied that none of the proposed legislation will work toward its ultimate goal of improving education, and that it is some covert plan for unions and certain legislators to control education and in essence use "mind control" on the students. The cover art with this story – a caricature of Gov. Branstad as the Wicked Witch – seems to support your stance.

I think the merits of points in the plan will be debated in the halls and chambers of Capitol Hill. As the debate happens, commentary will then be appropriate. I just don't think now is the time just yet for editorial comment.

As far as editorials go ... ever think of writing something positive for a change that doesn't have any negative references to politicians?

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