MARION — Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds have continually said the town hall meetings they’ve hosted throughout the state are to gather input on their proposed education reforms.
On Tuesday, the pair acknowledged that after listening to the public, one of those reforms, the four-tier salary system, needs more work.
“We acknowledge it may take more time than we thought,” Reynolds told an audience of about 200 people at the Linn-Mar Learning and Resource Center.
The four-tier system, as it stands now, would move Iowa’s best teachers out of classroom and into mentoring roles for less experienced educators. Not all teachers who qualify for these high levels, termed “mentor” and “master” teachers, are expected to take those roles, but salary increases are tied to the different classifications.
Several educators have found fault with the plan, particularly those with little interest in being mentors.
“If I’m a great career teacher, I don’t want to come out of the classroom,” said Erin Watts, Linn-Mar’s technology integration coach. “I love my students, I love what I do, but how do I make more money under this system?”
Watts shared her concerns with Branstad, who reiterated that the plan is far from complete.
“I think it’s a very innovative idea that’s been tried in other places … but we need to study it more,” he said, adding that there need to be more options for salary increases.
Some noted in the draft include teaching in high poverty areas or in hard-to-fill subjects, and National Board Certification.
A draft of Iowa’s education blueprint was released last month. The blueprint is designed to support strong programs already in place, while introducing reforms that will strengthen three key areas — strong teachers and principals; high expectations for students; and innovative thinking.
Some of the draft’s proposals include more online learning options; making the ACT mandatory for every Iowa junior; boosting starting teacher pay to attract top talent; ending social promotion for third graders unable to read; and introducing end-of-course exams that act as a high school exit exam.
Branstad said the goal of the blueprint isn’t for Iowa to regain its status as the best state in the country, but give all students the education necessary to complete globally — a message Kelsey Willett called empowering.
“They recognize that we, the students, have an opportunity to make a difference, but we need more education to do that,” said Willett, a Linn-Mar senior. “They’re trying to help us.”
“I like that they want Iowa education to keep pace with the world’s education,” said Sangsun Kim, a mother of three children.
The revised proposal, with more details and a price tag, will be released in January, prior to the 2012 Legislative session.
A draft of the full plan is available online.
Replay live coverage of the town hall meeting here: