Iowa's Education Reform

September 13, 2011

    Recently, Jason Glass, the Director of the Iowa Department of Education, stated upcoming reform initiatives that will be unveiled in October 2011. The initiatives are:

Eliminate step pay based on experience and college credit and create tiered system that aligns with compensation 1 - apprentice ($40,000), 2 - career (50,000), 3 - mentor (60,000), and 4 - master (80,000).

Eliminate last-in/last-out lay offs and focus on schools' needs and teachers credentials

Create a fund for innovation

Continue to advance the Iowa Core and outline grade level expectations

Expand the presence of charter schools

Focus on assessment by creating a high school exit exam given as early as 10th grade and requiring all 11th grade students to take the ACT

Change teacher preparation and teacher evaluation

    As a College of Education that prepares the largest percentage of the states teachers, these reform initiatives warrant our attention.

    As you reflect on these initiatives, respond about which of these should the College of Education take a stance and what response mode should we take. The response modes are:

Responsive - Acceptance of the initiative and respond by showing support and encouraging implementation.

Proactive - Initiative will affect our programming and we should be a part of the discussion as guidelines for this initiative are established.

Reactive - This initiative is unfounded and we should state our rationale for opposition.

I look forward to seeing your responses.


I honestly enjoy looking at

I honestly enjoy looking at the half of this that I was able to, internet explorer is displaying really bad errors due to this page and lots of other on this website. I have tried repeatedly to "refresh" these pages but I am shown the same exact thing. I'm wondering is there a person that I can get in touch with about website issues? Thanks and I look forward to having the ability to use the web site properly.

I honestly enjoy viewing the

I honestly enjoy viewing the half of this that I got a chance to, ie is displaying to really bad errors due to this website page and a lot of other on this site. I have tried more than once to "renew" these pages but I am shown the same exact thing. I'm concerned is there someone who I can contact about website issues? Many thanks and I look ahead to being able to use the web page appropriately.

Reform Initiatives

1. Rewarding good teachers—who could be against it? Jason Glass is proposing to import ideas from the Eagle County plan he was associated with in Colorado (see ). The plan is not without critics as it seems to share many of the same problems of “value-added” (VAM) models for assessing teacher performance. For an explanation see . While the concept seems intuitively attractive, looking behind the curtain suggests not wizardry but statistical voodoo that has significant risks of attributing teaching success or failure in error. Experts in assessment continue to suggest that these schemes are not ready for the real world—but they are popular among politicians who want a quick fix for identifying teachers who are not effective. Shooting first and asking questions later seems rational to the gunslinger, but good teachers could be unfairly tainted or targeted by this plan.
2. Expand the presence of charter schools would be a good idea if there was evidence that charter schools are doing a better job that public schools. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that charter schools are not doing any better job than public schools and in many cases doing worse. Both parties seem to be supporting the concept for reasons that are not based on research or reason. Furthermore, there have been significant examples of public monies being given to charter management companies with unfortunate and sometimes corrupt outcomes. The state of Iowa took the lid off charters last year in our Race to the Top application. We should be extremely careful in providing incentives for charters given the lack of evidence or reason for doing so. (recent commentary on the issue at with links to the original CREDO study).
3. There is an extensive literature on exit exams that should not be ignored. Once again, the idea seems logical but such logic and reality seem to be in conflict. For example, the National Research Council issued a report this year on the topic that concluded that exit exams contribute to a higher drop-out rate without an increase in achievement (see ) . Quite consistent with research over the past 50 years. Some ideas never die… and we keep putting them in play with similar results. When are we going to reform our reform of education?

I think we should be

I think we should be proactive to ensure that the details of these initiatives align with our philosophy. I agree with the increase in teacher salary and eliminating step-based pay. My first question though is how the new designations are defined. I assume there will be some sort of data used in making the determination of when a teacher moves from apprentice to career and so on. I think we should be at the table ensuring that the the data used to make these high stakes decisions about teachers is reliable and valid data matched to the purpose of its use. I'm not so sure how I feel about the high school exit exam, but again I think we need to be at the table ensuring that if an exam is something our state supports (and the research also supports), then our expertise is needed in the development of the test items and administration procedures.

Education Doesn't Matter

I recently had an interchange with Mr. Glass regarding his assertion that advanced do not matter in terms of performance. He forwarded me an article from a 'conservative think tank' that had 'research' that teachers having advanced degrees did not impact the performance of students on standardized tests.

I would hope the institution where I obtained my Bachelor and Masters degree would fight this false assertion. What message does it send our students if we say that getting an advanced degree doesn't advance you in your position and doesn't advance you in pay? Why would anyone want to continue in schooling?

I am not saying I want to be paid more. I am comfortable with the amount of money I make. What I do want is respect from the leaders at the state and national level. I have used my Masters degrees in a multitude of ways and some of them may not be on a paper and pencil test...Nothing important ever is.

State's Initiatives

I applaud the continued advancement of the Iowa Core outline and grade level expectations, as these are what will guide Iowa's curriculum, assessment, and high achievement.
I champion the fund for innovation, for it is only as we look at learning in a student-centered way and restructure learning to enable students to take charge of their own learning, will we advance as a state and nation.
I do not support an "exit test" because I know, as a lifelong learning facilitator (aka teacher), that there is no one "test" that can assess completely a student's understanding. Many of these "exams" are reduced to standardized tests. The purpose of standardized tests to "separate students" into a bell curve. To do this, you must ask students questions they don't know in order to separate the "well read" from those with less experiences and opportunities. This will do nothing but create a larger gap. Either that or we create an environment that teachers teach to the test. If we go there as a state we take a huge step back. I, for one, want to go forward.

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