Friday, February 1, 2013

ISEA Talking Points--Governor's Education Reform Plan

The ISEA continues to support education reforms that are designed to improve student learning, expand educational opportunities, and enhance the educational environment in our state. Because we are deeply committed to the success of every Iowa child, we will only support reform efforts that put students at the center.

In order for any new education initiative to be successful it must be fully funded and must only be implemented once the regular program funding needs of local school districts are met. As such, ISEA will advocate for setting the Allowable Growth rate before the funding of any new initiative is discussed.

The ISEA will continue to review the Governor’s proposal, ask clarifying questions, and represent the concerns of our members in this critical debate. After a first look at the Governor’s legislative proposal, these are the basic concepts and ideas that are important to consider:

Division I – Iowa Online Learning (ILO) Initiative The ISEA supports the continued investment in Iowa’s online learning instruction. The ILO currently provides online learning utilizing Iowa-licensed instructors and has long filled an academic gap in the state—but has been short on funding. The ISEA supports expanding Iowa’s online program so it will be able to assist more students with excellent Iowa instructors.

Division II – Training and Employment of Teachers The ISEA supports attempts to recruit and retain quality, professional educators. While we applaud the Governor for beginning this conversation, we have many questions and need more clarification before we can offer any support for this section. Our questions include: • In the Teach Iowa Scholar Program, we are unclear about what the comparison data will be for the top 25 percent being considered for the scholarship program – high school achievement, grades prior to entering the teacher preparation program, or college graduation achievement? • Is the program a grant or a scholarship program? • Will the grant be applied in the first year of teaching? If so, how does this attract high school students to the teaching profession? • Define the teaching pilot program better, including whether the student teacher will stay in one classroom for an entire year or utilize multiple classroom placements.

Division III – Iowa Promise Diploma Seal Program The ISEA believes it is very important to motivate students with rich and robust offerings in their schools and we support efforts to improve and increase them. In addition, Iowa has the highest student graduation rate in the country and it is essential to continue this trend. However, even with the highest graduation rate in the nation, 13 percent of students still do not graduate from high school within the prescribed four years. The ISEA believes that the resources in the Governor’s proposal can be better used to assist Iowa’s at-risk and EEL students. There is also a great need for more support for Iowa’s GED program.

Division IV – Teacher and Administrator Development System The ISEA believes we are all accountable for student success: teachers, administrators, students, parents, and policy makers. We support a system that gives these stakeholders the tools and resources to succeed. With that in mind, the ISEA cannot support a proposal that seeks to move the core of our accountability—the Iowa Teaching Standards—from elected officials in the Legislature and place these important standards in the hands of one individual. The Governor’s proposal seeks to remove oversight of the Iowa Teaching Standards and place it solely with the Director of the Department of Education. Oversight of the Iowa Teaching Standards are much too important to place with one person.

Professional educators overwhelmingly support evaluation systems that are transparent and conducted with fidelity. We will continue to study this portion of the proposal.

Division V – Iowa Teacher and Career Compensation Matters As a general concept, the Teacher and Career Compensation proposal has merit. However, there are myriad questions that need to be answered before the ISEA can support this portion. One of the primary concerns was a focal point in the discussion led by Iowa educators in the Iowa VIVA Teacher’s Report, Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century. In the report, Iowa educators remind policy makers that while Teacher Leaders will be required to be out of the classroom for some period of time to observe and mentor other teachers, and to attend Professional Development and other activities; it is imperative that Teacher Leaders also spend at least 50 percent of their time in their classrooms. The Governor’s proposal does not adequately address this issue.

The selection of which teachers are chosen to fill leadership roles in schools will be critical to the success of this initiative. We will use the recommendations of our members in the VIVA Teachers’ Report to help ensure a selection process that provides adequate input from teachers.

ISEA recognizes that every school district will have different needs for teacher leaders and will have to craft a system that works for them at the local level. We will advocate for that local flexibility. The
ISEA supports efforts to enhance the teaching profession by raising the minimum teacher’s salary from $28,000 annually to $35,000 annually. However, per the recommendations made by the Task Force on Teacher Leadership and Compensation, we want to ensure that no changes made by legislation result in any educator experiencing a reduction in compensation at the time of transition to a new system; and any changes at the school district level do not harm any educator’s potential lifetime career earnings. We will advocate for more detail regarding this important issue.