Eastern Iowa educators review final Education Reform Bill - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eastern Iowa educators review final Education Reform Bill

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WAVERLY (KWWL) -

After months of debate, this week lawmakers came to an agreement over the future of Iowa's schools.

The need for change was sparked last summer by a 2011 "Rising to Greatness" report card. State Education Director Jason Glass was trying to draw attention to Iowa's lagging test scores, and asked educators and lawmakers to act.

"Iowa students are missing the mark when it comes to math and science," he said in a July 2011 press conference. "We have a whole system problem, that will require a whole system remodel."

Following the report, hundreds of people gathered for the first Iowa Education Summit in Des Moines. September brought the announcement that states would be allowed to opt out of No Child Left Behind -- if they could prove they were on the right track to improving education. Then, in October, Governor Terry Branstad revealed Iowa's Blueprint for Education.

Lawmakers have spent the entire 2012 session working to transform that blueprint into legislation. Now a bill is sitting on the governor's desk.

"We -- at the beginning of the legislative session -- thought we were in for this bold, transformative change," said Bridgette Wagoner, Director of Educational Services at Waverly Shell Rock Community Schools.

The final education reform plan is not the bold change many were hoping for, but it does include several of the Governor's original points. Some of which Wagoner agrees with, others she doesn't.

For example, it requires educators to spend more time meeting with, and learning from, their colleagues. But teachers will also face an annual peer review.

"Sometimes, when teachers feel like they have to look over their shoulder and be concerned about if their colleagues are judging them it can impact negatively the collaborative culture we're trying to foster," she explained.

The bill gives students the ability to learn at their own pace.

"I really value the flexibility for competency based instruction. That was one of the things I have held a lot of hope for from the beginning," said Wagoner.

There's also a controversial measure to hold third graders back who aren't meeting literacy requirements.

"It's in there, and I'm not happy about that. But the saving grace is that it's pushed way back with a 2017 implementation date," Wagoner noted.

The 33-page document includes a lot of demands and a lot of promises. But what it doesn't include is a lot of funding.

"There's very little in here that's funded. We also know that to do justice to the work that needs to be done that we have to fund it appropriately. And that means we'll have to make hard decisions," said Wagoner.

Some of the measures which fell to the wayside include a call for high school exit exams and a 3.0 GPA requirement for college students who enter the teaching field.

A compromise for opponents of third grade retention is in the bill -- allowing parents to enter their child into an intensive summer reading program instead of holding them back a grade.

Many lawmakers are calling the legislation a step in the right direction. But Wagoner was hoping for a leap -- and a more immediate impact on her students.

"A lot of the initiatives that I really wanted to happen are in a study phase. And I think one of my biggest concerns is that we as a state will constantly study and never actually do. And every year we waste studying, we have another graduating class that leaves and aren't prepared as they should be," Wagoner added.

Governor Branstad has not yet set a date to sign the legislation.

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