Iowa Education Summit kicks off in Des Moines - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Education Summit kicks off in Des Moines

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DES MOINES (KWWL) -

Monday hundreds of Iowa educators and community leaders are in Des Moines discussing the future of the state's education system. This marks the first Iowa Education Summit, and for many, it's the beginning of major changes in how Iowa students learn.

Monday morning's speakers were certainly not sugar-coating the condition of education in the Hawkeye state. Governor Terry Branstad, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Iowa Department of Education Director James Glass are all pointing at the same issue: Iowa is failing its kids, by letting its education system stall.

Duncan said there are four main issues which pushed Iowa from the top of the pack, nationally, to the bottom. First, Iowa is not setting the bar high enough for its students. Schools need to equip high school graduates for college and encourage more students to attend college.

Secondly, there is a lack of innovation in how students learn. He and Branstad called on revising laws for charter schools as a way to impart more creative learning in the state.

Third, there are not strong systems in place for evaluating and educating our teachers. Duncan called for Iowa to become a national leader in educator accountability.

Duncan's final point was a politically charged one in Iowa. Duncan called for a continued push for free preschool for all Iowa kids, which was met by a round of enthusiastic applause from the audience of educators. That statement held some irony, considering he later charged Iowans with taking politics out of the education system.

This is very clearly a politically-involved event.   Monday evening, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie explained how he's reforming education in his state. Christie was once thought to be a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

But overall, educators said the primary focus was in the right place.  After the summit wraps up on Tuesday, Governor Branstad will meet with several groups of lawmakers, district administrators, and teachers to discuss what they've learned.  In the next few months, you can expect to see Branstad in your community at town hall meetings, focused on education.  He is hoping to have a bipartisan plan in place by the time the legislature convenes in January 2012.

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