Capitol Update for June 9th, 2012

Education Reform

 A bill bringing some minor education reform finally made it through the legislature the last day of session.  The bill, nearly a year in the making, began as a conversation last summer when the Governor convened an Education Summit bringing together Iowa’s education community and education experts from around the country and culminated with a conference committee report that passed both the House and Senate on May 8th with bipartisan support.

The bill was a much scaled down version of the Governor’s original vision that he submitted to the legislature in January.  After 5 subcommittees totaling nearly 12 hours, 3 days of committee consideration, and a public hearing, the House whittled the 130 page bill down considerably, making a final concession in April by removing several more contentious items to find a middle ground with the Senate.

The final result is a modest proposal that lays the ground work for future discussion about education reform in this state and contains a hint of some possible ground-breaking movement for the future of education, specifically competency-based education.

Here is what remains in the final bill after the dust settled:

  • Competency-based education, credit can be offered for obtaining competencies
  • Codifies the Iowa Assessment as the test to be used for 4th, 8th, 10th, and 11th grade testing
  • Annual evaluations for teachers and administrators, with every 2nd and 3rd year for teachers being peer reviews which cannot be the basis for intensive assistance, employment, or compensation decisions
  • Online learning as exclusive means of instruction, but with cap of 900 students statewide, limiting it to the two existing districts with programs, and a three-year sunset
  • Requires the DE to develop a model online learning program for school districts
  • Expansion and codification of Iowa Learning Online, and allowing non-publics to access online classes
  • The executive director of the Board of Education Examiners is to be appointed by the Governor
  • Strengthens the teaching profession by requiring that students in practitioner preparation programs score above the 25th percentile nationally on performance assessments and extends the student teaching experience from 12 to 14 weeks
  • Project Lead the Way career technical courses are eligible for supplementary weighting
  • Defines, establishes authorization, and sets up training programs for School Administration Managers (SAMs)
  • Establishes a continuous improvement plan at the Regents universities, requiring them to assess their programs
  • Establishes college readiness and awareness programs for potential first-generation college students and underrepresented populations
  • Rewards teachers for achieving national board certification
  • Reinvigorate early literacy programs, building on existing programs, and creating a path for progression through early grades.  Establishes retention for non-proficient students, who aren’t eligible for a good cause exemption, that do not enroll in a summer reading program at the end of third grade.
  • Makes kindergarten compulsory for enrolled students, however, parents can withdraw enrollment at any point

The conversation will continue into the future through several studies and task forces established:

  • Competency-based education task force (report due January 15, 2013)
  • Educator evaluation task force (report due October 15, 2012)
  • Iowa Teaching Standards and Criteria Review Task Force (report due November 15, 2012)
  • Teacher performance, compensation, career development task force (report due October 15, 2012)
  • Instructional time task force (report due October 15, 2012)
  • Online learning interim study (report due December 14, 2012)

The final bill passed the Senate 31-15 and the House 87-9.  It was signed by the Governor on May 25th.

As always, if you have any concerns or issues that need addressing, please contact me. My email address is lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or my phone is 319-480-1997.

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