photoIowa Governor Terry Branstad unveiled his 2013 Education Agenda this morning during his weekly press conference at the Iowa Capitol Building.  Prior to the Iowa Legislature gaveling in Governor Branstad listed several reforms that his administration will be bringing to the Legislature for their consideration.  The centerpiece of this plan is centered around a teacher leadership and compensation program, but include other reforms as well.  This proposal was recommended by the Task Force on Teacher Leadership and Compensation that the Governor appointed and the Legislature authorized last session.

“We have many good schools with committed educators, but they are stuck in a system designed for the 20th century, not the 21st century,” Branstad said. “I am ready to invest significant resources into these educational reforms, which truly have the power to dramatically raise achievement.”

The education reform package proposed by the Branstad administration will scale up over five years.  The first year will start with $14 million, $72 million in the 2nd year, and $187 million annually at full implementation in five years.  This would be new spending in the budget.

Branstad challenged the Legislature by saying, “I do not believe we should spend even one minute discussing additional resources to prop up our current educational structure until we have first agreed on the reforms our children need.”  He said responding to a question by the press that he was not willing to discuss allowable growth until this proposal was passed.

Summarizing the details of the plan the major points include:

  • Raise Iowa’s minimum starting salary from $28,000 to $35,000 to make teaching more attractive.

  • Keep top teachers in front of children, but pay these teacher leaders more to take on more instructional leadership responsibility alongside school administrators, which will strengthen the teaching throughout the building.  Teachers who are selected for model, mentor and lead roles will be paid more for sharing their expertise and for working additional days to coach, co-teach and to foster collaboration among all educators.

  • Give brand-new teachers a reduced teaching load in their first year so they can spend more time learning from outstanding veteran teachers.

  • Teach Iowa Initiative: Expands an existing program to provide both relief and incentive through tuition reimbursement to top students who commit to teach in Iowa schools for five years, with a focus on hard-to-hire subjects such as math and science. Teach Iowa scholars will receive an extra $4,000 for each year of service, for a total of $20,000. This initiative also includes a new pilot program to strengthen clinical experience with a full year of student teaching in the senior year of college, rather than the typical one semester.

  • College- and Career-Ready Seals: Use diploma seals to identify and recognize graduating high school students who demonstrate that they are college- and career-ready. A blue-ribbon commission of business and education leaders would set high standards for the seals to better define what it means to be college or career-ready. The seals are in addition to a high school diploma. The purpose is to help students better prepare for the future and to align education with workforce development in a thoughtful way.

  • Improving educator evaluations: Iowa needs to update existing teacher and administrator evaluations to provide more valuable feedback. This will include deciding how student achievement growth should count. This work should help the state win a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

  • Expand the Iowa Learning Online program: This proposal expands an existing program at the Iowa Department of Education to allow more high school students the opportunity to take high-quality online courses taught by Iowa teachers. Small districts that often struggle to find applicants for hard-to-hire subjects also will find this helpful. This will require an initial state investment, but would be self-sustaining in three years.

Some thoughts:

  • This isn’t nearly as controversial as his education reform package last year.
  • I was told by Jason Glass (see fourth video below) that teacher evaluations are optional for non-public schools which is refreshing to hear.
  • I’m concerned by the uptick in new spending.  Our budget has grown since Governor Branstad has taken office.  I would like to see how he will compensate the spending increase in education with spending cuts elsewhere.
  • Increasing the minimum salary for new teachers could cause disparity between urban and rural school districts.  School districts can have a higher starting salary, but will they?  Can they?  Would a new teacher want to go into a tougher urban school district when they could take a job in rural Iowa with a lower cost of living?  Hard to say.
  • Teacher evaluations and pay reforms are products of centralized policy making and have a negative impact on local control.
  • The task force that was responsible for this proposal had teachers, administrators and business leaders involved.  No other community stakeholders?  Parents?
  • I like the idea of new teachers taking on a decreased class load their first year and for teachers having a mentor.  That is a good idea, and it should be encouraged – not mandated.
  • Having a full year of student teaching rather than one semester is a great idea.
  • College-and-career seals – waste of time and resources.  Colleges won’t care one iota whether a kid has one of these seals.  Also I’m not a fan of the business community driving the direction of education as education is for more than just producing workers for the workforce.  Making sure that we have a quality STEM program is important, but I’ve said it before we can’t neglect other subjects as well.
  • Expanding the Iowa Learning Online program – before we do that why not give private entities approval first?
  • We’re still pushing forward with mediocre standards with the Common Core.
  • No mention of school choice measures which can provide real reform.

You can read the detailed legislative brief from the Iowa Department of Education here.  Below are videos of the press conference:

Governor Branstad’s Remarks:


Lt. Governor Kim Reynold’s Remarks:


Jason Glass'(Director of the Iowa Department of Education) remarks:


Q&A with the press:

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