Branstad-Reynolds Administration Unveils Final Recommendations for World-Class Schools

Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today released their final recommendations for restoring Iowa’s standing as a leader in education and preparing all students to compete for jobs in a global economy.

The document represents an overview of proposed education legislation that will be presented by the Governor and Lt. Governor in the 2012 session.

The recommendations stay true to three key areas outlined in a blueprint for education reform released by the Branstad-Reynolds administration in October: highly effective teachers and leaders, high expectations for all students with fair measures for results, and innovation that boosts learning.

“Iowans have played a critical role as we’ve worked to elevate the conversation about improving our schools,” Branstad said. “These proposals will put us on the path to make Iowa schools among the best in the world.”

World-class schools are one of four top priorities set by Branstad and Reynolds. The administration has worked for the past year to carve out a long-term, reform-minded policy direction that builds from Iowa’s strengths and adopts improvements with lessons learned from the highest-performing systems in the world.

In July, the Branstad-Reynolds administration convened an education summit to discuss ideas about what it takes to lead the world in education.

As part of the summit, the Iowa Department of Education released a report, “Rising to Greatness: An Imperative for Improving Iowa’s Schools.” The report documented Iowa’s stagnation in math and reading competency compared to other states and nations.

The education blueprint released in October was a starting point for meaningful change. Members of the Branstad-Reynolds administration traveled the state last fall to listen to ideas at dozens of town hall meetings.

One change made as a result of input from Iowans: Doing more, beginning in preschool, to help students read by the end of third grade. At that point, most students go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students who finish third grade without meeting basic literacy requirements across a broad set of measures would be retained and provided intensive reading assistance.

Another change adds state standards for music and other fine arts, applied arts, physical education, character education and entrepreneurship education.

“We all share a common goal of giving our students a first-rate education,” Reynolds said. “We look forward to engaging Iowans in this ongoing discussion as we work together to find the best solutions for our state.”

Key proposals include:

  • Be more selective about who can become an educator by requiring a 3.0 grade-point average to gain admission into teacher preparation programs.
  • Candidates for teaching licensure must pass a test demonstrating content-specific and teaching knowledge.
  • Evaluate teachers annually instead of every three years, which is the current requirement. Principals and superintendents also would be evaluated each year.
  • Widen the pathways to alternative teacher licensure with a number of quality assurance checks.