imageIowa Governor Terry Branstad announced his administration’s new education blueprint.  The blueprint was written by Jason Glass who is the Director of the Iowa Department of Educaiton, Linda Fandel who is Governor Branstad’s special assistant for education, and Byron Darnall who is Jason Glass’ policy assistant.  Some of the main points of the blueprint are these:

  • Attract and support talented educators with an increase in starting teacher pay, more selective teacher preparation programs and improved recruiting and hiring practices.
  • Create educator leadership roles in schools and develop a meaningful peer-based evaluation system that requires annual and multiple evaluations of all educators.
  • Develop a four-tier teacher compensation system with Apprentice, Career, Mentor and Master levels and substantial pay raises for teachers who move up. Add other options for increasing teacher pay, such as work in extended day or year programs.
  • Establish a definition of educator effectiveness and tie job protections to an evaluation system based on this definition.
  • Free up principals from some managerial tasks to lead and support great teaching.
  • Improve and expand the Iowa Core to put Iowa’s standards on par with the highest-performing systems in the world.
  • Develop an assessment framework that includes measuring whether children start kindergarten ready to learn and high-stakes End-of-Course assessments for core subjects in high school. Have all Iowa 11th graders take a state-funded college-entrance exam.
  • Provide value-added measures for all districts, schools, grades and educators that take into account student background characteristics and consider student growth.
  • Seek a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law and work with key education groups and leaders statewide to design a new accountability system.
  • Ensure children learn basic literacy by the end of third grade with high-quality reading programs, supports for schools and students, and an end to social promotion for third-graders who read poorly.
  • Nurture innovation with funding for transformative ideas, greater statutory waiver authority for the Iowa Department of Education and pathways to allow for high-quality charter schools in Iowa.
  • Create a state clearinghouse of high-quality online courses available to any student in Iowa, and back the courses with licensed teachers and the best online learning technology available.
  • Set goals for student outcomes, including a 95 percent high school graduation rate and top statewide performance on national standardized assessments.

Where’s the local control?  If hiring practices are determined, if new teacher/staff structures are dictated, and pay structures are determined by the state what is the purpose of the local school board?  I’m not saying all of the ideas are bad ones, but we need to be as concerned about the means as we are the end.  Not all pathways to reform are created equal.  It looks to me that any semblance of local control is on its last leg with the Branstad administration.  While school boards will still exist they will have essentially been stripped of their policy making ability.

That alienates parents as it is infinitely easier for a parent to bring concerns to their school board than it would be to bring them to an educrat in Des Moines.  The school board is directly accountable to their constituency, not so with staff within the Department of Education.

They want to address some of the right problems, and do have some creative ideas.  This blueprint represents the wrong approach.

You can read the blueprint below:

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s Education Blueprint

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