Educators face challenges on national, local levels - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Educators face challenges on national, local levels

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Despite the changes and challenges ahead in national education, University of Iowa grad student Kathleen Hession is looking forward to becoming an English teacher.

"I think it's a really exciting time to go into education," said Hession, as she coached students in competitive speech at West High School on Wednesday.

Her excitement comes even at a time when President Barack Obama is calling for massive education reforms, such as shifting to a system of performance-based pay for teachers. But the Obama administration says their performance may end being measured by test scores, an idea that needs tweaking, according to Professor Peter Hlebowitsh, chair of the university's Department of Teaching and Learning.

"Really good teachers can lift test scores, but really bad teachers can lift test scores, too," Hlebowitsh explained. "And that is, if they simply make their classrooms into these sort of robotic test-preparation factories."

It's an idea that raises questions for Hession.

"Is that through taking a test, is that through someone coming in and seeing what I do when I'm in there with the students, is that someone looking at lesson plans I create?" she asked.

Hlebowitsh says teacher recruitment and retention are other areas where national education is suffering.

"We lose about 50-percent of all teachers within the fifth year of teaching," he told us.

But Hession plans to stick with it. When she graduates this year, she'll enter the ranks of a new generation of classroom leaders who will likely experience drastic changes to their profession in the years ahead.

She believes their biggest challenge, "is finding a community that works best for them. A teaching community that really fits with what they want to do, where I can use all of the stuff that I've learned."

Despite recruitment of new teachers is a problem nationally, Hlebowitsh said the University of Iowa's diverse set of teaching programs is an exception. He said every year, they have to turn away about a third of students who want to become pre-service teachers.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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