“Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and I are pleased with the progress being made to restore Iowa’s leadership position in education following the landmark reform package signed last year, but we know all parties – our administration, the Legislature and local school districts – must be held accountable to maximize our success,” said Branstad. “We have a shared responsibility to give our children the best education in the nation. Iowa’s schools are transforming. As they transform, the state stands ready to assist districts with further implementation to ensure success while we prepare our students for college or career training after high school.”
Branstad, Reynolds and Buck highlighted and provided updates for the following portions of education reform:
1) Teacher leadership and compensation system
More than 100 school districts have begun the application process to enter the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System, which aims to transform learning in schools by better utilizing the expertise of top teachers to strengthen the teaching around them.
More than one-third of the school districts in Iowa are expected to submit a plan prior to the deadline on Jan. 31.
The Iowa Department of Education is working closely with the Commission on Educator Leadership and Compensation to develop an equitable selection process. The goal is to ensure a rigorous selection bar for districts that receive funding and enter the system in the first year and also to ensure that the districts entering in year one reflect the diversity of the size and geography of Iowa’s schools. All school districts will have the option of entering the system over the next three years.
2) Update on task forces
The Council on Educator Development was created to recommend statewide systems for evaluating teachers and school administrators. The council has met three times and will reconvene on Feb. 13. To date, the council has engaged in conversations that define the legislative language in HF 215 as it pertains to the council’s primary task, has examined data around current evaluation practices in Iowa districts, and has reviewed the Iowa Teaching Standards in comparison to national standards known as the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium Standards.
Iowa schools are still required by law to administer the Iowa Assessments for accountability purposes; however, the Legislature created the Assessment Task Force to study testing options for the future. This task force has met three times and is on track to make a recommendation as early as this fall. So far, the task force has defined the scope of its work based on requirements in House File 215, completed a request for information from all major test vendors in Iowa and nationally to identify assessments that would meet those legislative requirements, and is building a mechanism to rate those potential assessments.
3) Year-long student teaching pilot
Five higher education institutions applied for the student teaching pilot project, which will provide students in participating teacher preparation programs with a one-year student teaching experience. Student teachers in Iowa currently train typically for 14 consecutive weeks.
All three regents universities and two privates colleges, Morningside College and Dordt College, applied for the project. The awards went to the University of Northern Iowa and Dordt College.
The Iowa Department of Education is now developing the award documents in order to disburse the money and establish the reporting, communication and accountability procedures.
4) TeachIowa.gov job postings
All 346 public school districts and nine area education agencies have access to TeachIowa.gov, a new statewide education job posting system. There are 23 nonpublic schools or school systems using TeachIowa.gov. Each Catholic Diocese and five higher education institutions are posting jobs or are set up to post jobs.
By the numbers:
• More than 2,000 jobs have been posted since the system was launched.
• There are currently 1,486 jobs posted to TeachIowa.gov.
• There are 3,500 applications in the TeachIowa.gov system.
5) Iowa Learning Online
The education reform package includes an expansion of Iowa Learning Online, a state-run system that has provided high-quality courses online and through the Iowa Communications Network since 2004. The goal is to provide a full array of course options, including language arts, social studies, math, science, health, physical education, fine arts, foreign language, and vocational education online. The Iowa Department of Education should have most of these options available in the fall.
Lt. Gov. Reynolds took the opportunity to highlight the Teach Iowa Scholar Program, which was also part of the education reform package of 2013. The program is designed to provide tuition reimbursement to top students who commit to teach in Iowa schools for five years.
“Governor Branstad and I believe the key to a quality education is having an excellent teacher in every classroom. In Iowa, we’re fortunate to have excellent teachers in every corner of the state,” said Reynolds. “The Teach Iowa Scholar Program aims to attract more top students into the teaching profession and into hard-to-fill positions – such as math, science and special education. This program will benefit K-12 students, school districts and the teaching profession as a whole.”
Starting with the Class of 2014, subject to an appropriation, selected teachers will receive $4,000 a year for up to five years – $20,000 total – for teaching in Iowa schools.
Reynolds concluded, “We have high expectations given the recent reforms adopted and the collaborative work under way by the Iowa Department of Education, area education agencies, school districts, the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, and higher education institutions to reach the goal of giving Iowa children a world-class education. Iowans know we must chart a path that makes steady progress possible on every measure.”