“Young people today must meet higher expectations than ever to succeed in this global economy,” Branstad said. “For the future of our children and our state, we must transform our good schools into world-class schools.”
The blueprint, “One Unshakable Vision: World-Class Schools for Iowa,” represents a long-term, reform-minded policy direction that builds from Iowa’s strengths and adopts whole system improvements with lessons learned from the highest-performing systems in the world.
The blueprint is the centerpiece of the Branstad-Reynolds administration’s comprehensive effort to build support for making Iowa schools the best in the nation, if not the world. The goal is one of four top priorities set by the administration.
In July, Branstad and Reynolds convened an education summit that set out to make the case that it’s time for significant changes, to learn about options and to spur discussion about what it takes to lead the world in education.
As part of the summit, the Iowa Department of Education released a report, “Rising to Greatness: An Imperative for Improving Iowa’s Schools.” The report documented Iowa’s stagnation in math and reading competency compared to other states and nations.
The summit was followed by efforts to identify strategies with input from stakeholders across the state. The blueprint represents a set of draft recommendations. Among them:
• 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.
In the months ahead, the Branstad-Reynolds administration and Iowa Department of Education leaders will seek feedback to improve these recommendations before presenting a sweeping proposal to the Iowa Legislature.
“Iowa’s school system has a strong foundation, but it needs a major upgrade,” said Reynolds. “Creating world-class schools will take a long-term, unwavering commitment. This blueprint shows the way.”
Gov. Terry Branstad