Parents and educators weigh in on House education reform bill - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Parents and educators weigh in on House education reform bill


Iowa House Representatives approved their version of state-wide education reform on Wednesday. The legislation includes annual teacher evaluations, high school exit exams, and a controversial third-grade retention policy. Representatives approved the bill, mainly on party lines, after adding more than 40 amendments.

Not a single democrat voted yes, and seven republicans crossed party line to vote no. It's this kind of political back-and-forth that's discouraging to some parents and superintendents.

"There's such a battle between democrats and republicans, between teachers tenure and teachers unions and class sizes. There's so many things that get wrapped up into the learning abilities of... a five year old," parent Matthew McConaughy said.

Matthew McConaughy is looking forward to sending his daughter off to kindergarten this fall. He's also aware that state lawmakers are going head-to-head over her education.

"Yes, I think it's a political issue. I think there's no doubt about it. If you look at the bill passed today, it was basically a party-line vote," Superintendent of Hudson Community School Anthony Voss said.

Voss is paying close attention to every detail in both the Senate and House bills, including online-only education, comprehensive annual teacher evaluations, and holding back third graders who aren't reading at grade level. These ideas all developed after the education summit in July 2011.

"Are we going too fast? I don't know. I think the fact that we believe we can pull this off in six months is something we need to carefully look at. I mean, these are paradigm shifting changes in schools that are being proposed," Voss said.

Voss is also questioning how districts will carry out these proposals -- if they are adopted into law. For example, conducting a comprehensive evaluation of every educator -- every year -- will take manpower, training, and funding.

"If we're going to change the evaluation model, the evaluators are going to have to be trained on how to use the new model and the tools to go along with it. And what to look for in the evaluations. And how the student achievement piece is going to fit in. These are all pieces that, if they change that, they have to address it. We have to have a clear definition of what that's going to look like," Voss said.

McConaughy is hoping legislators are taking all of this into consideration. In his eyes, it's not a battle of conservative or liberal -- it's a battle for his daughter's future.

"Do I think they're looking out for us? I think they're probably doing their best. I hope, in good faith and conscience, they would be," he said.

The House bill now goes on to the Senate for consideration. Senate democrats are not likely to include the third grade retention proposal and are questioning the process for evaluating a teacher's ability in the classroom.

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