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Boosting quality in every Iowa classroom

May 20, 2015
By State Senator Steve Sodders - D-State Center , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Iowa is among the first states to create a teacher leadership system designed to boost student achievement, increase teaching expertise and raise the status of the teaching profession.

Research shows a correlation between a school's ability to keep good teachers and student achievement. Iowa's 2013 Education Reform initiative rewards effective teachers with more responsibility and higher pay, attracts promising new teachers with competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement, and encourages greater collaboration among all educators.

Under the Teacher Leadership & Compensation System, 25 percent of teachers will take on new leadership roles-including serving as instructional coaches and mentors-to improve the classroom experience and raise student achievement. Districts that apply to start teacher leadership systems must set goals, establish minimum teacher salaries, mentor new teachers and have a rigorous selection process for leadership roles.

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State Senator Steve Sodders

Teacher leadership systems are being phased in over three years, with the goal of all Iowa school districts participating on a voluntary basis by 2016-17. So far, 198 school districts have been accepted into the program. Some are wrapping up their first year with teacher leaders; others are gearing up to implement their teacher-leader plans, including GMG and West Marshall, which were approved just this week.

The Iowa Legislature approved $50 million for the first year of the program and $100 million for the second year. The third year will see a $150 million investment. Money for teacher leaders, however, was never intended to supplant other K-12 educational funding.

While the Teacher Leadership & Compensation System is a great tool for schools to increase student achievement, it is not a replacement for basic school funding from the state. If we don't provide adequate dollars to support the daily needs of our schools, they will have more students and less staff this fall.

For example, one Iowa district would have to make about $300,000 in cuts under the House proposal to increase school funding by only 1.25 percent. That would significantly diminish the impact of the $340,000 the district will receive in teacher leader grants.

We must provide a strong foundation for schools to build upon. That way, the teacher leadership program can effectively prepare our students for higher education, worker training and good jobs in a competitive global economy.

Our local school districts selected for the teacher leader program include: East Marshall - 2014-15; Marshalltown - 2014-15; Union- - 2015-16; GMG 2016 -17; West Marshall- 2016-17

The World Food Prize just hosted its fourth annual Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University.

The program is widely recognized as a national model for STEM education. Students participated in immersion and roundtable sessions and interacted with elected officials, business executives and science and education leaders. Participants wrote a paper and presented their ideas to solve critical global food security challenges.

They presented their research and recommendations to a panel of experts and were recognized as Borlaug Scholars, receiving a $500 scholarship to ISU's College of Agriculture & Life Sciences for their tremendous work and promising future as a leader in agricultural and STEM fields.

Haley Shope, South Tama High School, researched education in Malawi. Haley is a student at South Tama County High School and studies under Terri Guenther-Mayer.



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