UPDATED: Iowa gets an F on Students First report card
Written by Kera Mashek, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
WATERLOO (KWWL) -
The education reform group Students First issued Iowa and 11 other states an "F" in its nationwide report card, issued Monday.
It adds fuel to the issue that's already expected to be a hot topic for state legislators again this session.
The new report based its grading on three areas: elevating teaching, empowering parents and spending public dollars wisely.
Governor Terry Branstad says Iowa's schools are not failing, but says the report emphasizes the importance of passing comprehensive education reform.
"We hope we can dramatically improve Iowa's performance by taking action now," said Branstad.
Iowa's schools have been slipping in national rankings for years. Branstad said he remains committed to taking steps to improve those standings.
His top priority is revamping the state's teacher evaluation and testing standards to ensure classrooms have the best educators.
"Iowa has been complacent," Branstad said. "Other states have set ambitious standards, and we now have put in place standards, but now we need to have assessments aligned with those standards. We then need to review and evaluate how effective teachers are based on how well are students are doing."
Hudson superintendent Tony Voss agrees new tests to measure Iowa students are badly needed, but determining teacher performance, and pay, strictly on one test might not be best.
"Most commonly, what we're talking about is one test, given on one day, which I think is absolutely the wrong way to measure proficiency," Voss said. "Instead, tests should be many benchmarks along the course of the school year, so you can get a much clearer picture of how a student's learning in a classroom."
Voss commended Branstad for looking to increase starting teacher pay as a way to encourage high achievers to enter the profession.
Because of Iowa's large budget surplus, Voss said the cost of doing that looks feasible, but noted that administrators don't think pay raises should come at the cost of other programs designed to help student achievement.
"It all comes back to looking at what's happened to Iowa schools over the past three to five years," he said. "Our funding is cut, or we're not given any funding. What ends up happening as a result of that funding cut is we have to start cutting resources that we provide to students that we know are impactful."
Those could be the very issues the state legislature will have to discuss when it reconvenes next week. With a record $800 million surplus, Branstad says it's important for lawmakers to carefully and thoughtfully determine the best ways to spend it.
The Students First national report card was critical in all its findings. The top-ranking states, Louisiana and Florida, only earned a B-minus.
Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass disagreed with the findings, and issued the following statement:
"Report cards from advocacy groups are common, but they are not based on objective criteria – they are based on the political agendas of each particular group," Glass said. "While we appreciate the pressure for improving education, each state's context is unique. In Iowa, we have crafted an education reform agenda that is the right fit for our state."
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