Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in his Condition of the State address on Tuesday said the following about their plan to reform education in Iowa:

One, we need a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal leading every building. That starts with being more selective about who can become an educator. A “B” college grade-point average for admission to Iowa’s teacher-preparation programs is not asking too much.

Two, all prospective teachers seeking a state license should demonstrate content and teaching mastery to assure they are ready for the crucial work of teaching our children.

Three, the School Administration Manager program should be changed to provide more time for principals to be instructional leaders.  Other staff can take on management tasks to free principals to observe and coach teachers in their classrooms.

Four, the Iowa Department of Education will continue to improve the Iowa Core —our state standards in math, science, English, and social studies. But well-rounded, healthy students need more than just these core areas.

The department will work with educators to develop new standards for music and other fine arts, character education, physical education, entrepreneurship education, applied arts, and foreign languages.

Five, a new kindergarten assessment will measure whether children start kindergarten ready to learn and leave prepared to flourish in first grade.

Six, end-of-course tests for core subjects will demonstrate that high school students are ready to graduate.  These will be designed with teachers, and will emphasize not just knowing content but being able to apply it.

Seven, all juniors should take a college entrance exam, with the state covering the cost. In addition, they should have the option of taking a work skills readiness test.  This will tell us whether Iowa students are college and career ready for life after high school.

Eight, let’s assure that children can read by the end of third grade.  Otherwise, they will fall further and further behind.  An intensive focus on literacy means working closely with families and providing more support for reading and writing in schools starting in preschool, and continuing through kindergarten, first, second, and third grades.

Because reading is so essential for later success in school, it is unfair to promote an illiterate child.

Nine, Iowa has some highly innovative schools, and we should encourage more schools to be innovative. Youngsters need more opportunities to engage in real-world experiences–including internships–in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Doing well in these subjects is the gateway to fast-growing fields with some of the best-paying jobs—whether students are headed for career training or a two- or four-year college.

To encourage such efforts, Iowa should establish an Innovation Acceleration Fund.  Schools and partners will identify education problems and innovative solutions.  Competitive grants will fund the best ideas, which may be scaled up statewide.

Ten, online learning that complements learning in traditional classrooms should be promoted.

So should competency-based learning that personalizes education for each child, and begins the process of moving us away from the time-based industrial model of education.

Let’s do all this and more for our children with a bipartisan consensus that will stand the test of time.

All this and he wants to take a decade to accomplish it.  Color me uninspired.  Raising GPA standards for teachers alone won’t address the problem if the content they are taught is poor.  Indoctrination has been a hallmark of the university.  In their blueprint they addressed alternative licensure process which I don’t see highlighted here.  That’s unfortunate.  Let’s recognize that some of our best teachers may not be produced by a university’s education department.

Not to mention this requirement would be placed upon all 32 of Iowa’s teacher prep programs who are approved by the State Board of Education – whether they are private or public.

Testing alone won’t produce reform that is needed.  They want to expand the Iowa Core which is exactly what we don’t need.  More local control not less.

The administration also doesn’t want to tackle the teacher’s unions which are the primary roadblock to meaningful reform and then they skirt over the proven reform measure – more choice.  Their charter schools proposal will be meaningless since they don’t address collective bargaining.  Their online education idea, as far as I can see, is public only.  No mention of increasing tax credits for School Tuition Organizations, lifting onerous requirements on homeschoolers, school vouchers, even tax credits or deductions for homeschoolers, or allowing for private online education.

Leaving choice out of the equation and not dealing with teacher’s unions will doom this plan to failure and it’ll take 10 years to achieve that result.  Oh how wonderful!

Originally published at American Principles in Action

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