Since the Governor unveiled his vision for education reform on October 3, he has been on the road getting input from Iowans and sharing information about the plan. He, along with the Director of the Department of Education, Jason Glass, and the Governor’s Special Assistant to Education, Linda Fandel, have held nearly 30 town halls all over Iowa. After receiving feedback, a few things in the plan have changed.
The largest change occurred this week, when Dir. Glass told the Des Moines Register that the proposed career ladder and teacher pay plan has been put on hold. The subject of the largest amount of scrutiny in the plan, the teacher pay scale and career ladder, raised many questions and much skepticism. It was the central point of the plan to get an excellent teacher in every classroom.
What was shared regarding this portion of the plan was that teachers would be paid more and a new career ladder would establish new positions called Mentor and Master Teachers. Beginning teacher pay would be raised from about $28K a year to around $40K a year. Pay would then scale up through 4 steps on a career ladder: Apprentice, Career, Mentor, and Master. Mentor and Master Teachers would be chosen by the principal and would spend a portion of the day mentoring, coaching, and evaluating other teachers.
Concerns, however, surrounded the lack of details. How could we pull the best teachers out of the classroom for even a part of the day? How would these teachers mentor teachers in other subjects? How would smaller schools handle converting someone to a master role? How much is the new plan going to cost? Where is the money going to come from?
Amid those questions and concerns, a few answers emerged, but it largely went undetailed. And perhaps because it was proving detrimental to the Governor’s overall plan, they announced this week they would put that portion on hold and instead encourage the legislature to put together a study committee to study the issue and provide recommendations that can be discussed and passed in the 2013 session.
Another change that is brewing surrounds the school year. The Governor has noted that the single most asked question they have received while on the road has to do with the length of the school year and how much learning time is essential for our kids.
No details have yet emerged regarding how they expect to address this, but they intend to propose something given the number of parents, teacher, and community members who have expressed interest in the issue.
The current model has weaknesses in student learning when it comes to knowledge lost over the 3 month summer break, and the lack of learning that occurs in the first several weeks of school and the last several weeks of school. Whether the new proposal actually increases the number of days, currently at 180, that a student is in school or whether it breaks up the 3 month summer break into 3 smaller breaks, for example, are conversations that still need to occur.
So expect those changes to the plan as we move closer to session in January. One positive thing we have seen during the past several months is that the Governor and other architects of the plan are keeping an open ear and making changes accordingly.