Senate’s Passed Version of Education Reform

The Senate passed its own version of education reform on Monday, the version shares some similar language with the House version, but differs considerably on many points.

The areas where the bills agree are mainly around competency-based learning and the Iowa learning online initiative.

What’s missing that the House language included are areas that will help:

-provide increased local control through home rule

-parental choice in education through improved charter school language and increased online learning opportunities,

-a way to foster innovation through a competitive grant process meant to boost student achievement

-value-added assessments that assess student performance based on how a student’s level of achievement has increased and not just based on where they are in relation to an arbitrary bar determined by their age and grade level

-the ability to retain the best teachers by disallowing schools to make reduction in force decisions based on seniority over performance and the needs of the school

-allowing the pool of available teachers to increase and bring in new talent by allowing for alternative pathways to licensure, so professionals in other fields can enter the teaching profession and bring their career experience with them into the classroom

-protect religious schools from having to abide by state mandated curriculum requirements which may conflict with their religious tenets

-the development of a meaningful evaluation system to be conducted annually which would help teachers improve

-an accountability system for schools which would allow the local community to know how their local schools are doing and providing the pathway for schools that are doing outstanding jobs to be left with further autonomy

-and a literacy initiative which recognizes that beyond third grade students are no longer learning to read, but should be reading to learn and would prevent students from being passed on from grade to grade when they aren’t reading at an appropriate level for success.

The difference between the bills will mean a difficult process of conciliation that will result in either a meaningful step forward in education reform in the state, a simply a minor change for the good with a few agreed upon issues making the cut.