Governor Branstad Outlines Education Achievement Goals, Pushes Ed Reform Bill

Governor Terry Branstad gave a press conference on Monday outlining their educational achievement goals.  The accompanying press release said the following:

Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today joined Des Moines North High School Principal Matthew Smith to outline their educational achievement goals.

In 1992, Iowa was a top performer on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card because it is the only state-by-state comparison. Iowa eighth-graders were No. 1 in math, with an average score of 283. Iowa fourth-graders placed fifth in reading, with score of 225, but no state scored significantly higher.

By 2011, the most recent national test data, Iowa eighth-graders had fallen to 25th in math, with a score of 285. Iowa fourth-graders had dropped to 29th in reading with a score of 221.

The governor identified his first achievement target: For Iowa to score in the top 10 on national tests in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math by 2019.

“National tests in reading and math are given every two years,” said Branstad. “If the Legislature passes our education reform package, it would be fully implemented in 2017-18. The 2019 national tests would be our first opportunity to see how we are doing a few years into implementation.”

Meanwhile, by 2011 many other states significantly improved their scores bypassing Iowa in the rankings. No. 1 Massachusetts, for example, in 2011 scored 299 in eighth-grade math, and No. 2 Minnesota scored 295. Third-place New Jersey scored 294.

By 2011, in fourth-grade reading, No. 1 Massachusetts scored 237, followed by second-place New Jersey and third-place Maryland each scoring 231.

Branstad also stressed the importance of Iowa’s global competitiveness.

“Iowa eventually will need to benchmark not only against No. 1 Massachusetts but against academic stars like Singapore, Canada and Finland,” said Branstad.

Attracting more top students into teaching is a focus of the governor and lieutenant governor’s education reform plan. In the Iowa class of 2012, students who took the ACT who said they plan to become teachers scored lower than other test-takers. Here is the breakdown:

  • Prospective teachers (820 students) had an average composite score of 20.8.
  • For other test-takers (22,299), the average composite score was 22.2.

“Higher expectations for all students mean it’s no longer reasonable to expect one principal in each building to provide all the instructional leadership needed,” said Reynolds. “That’s why we’re calling for principal and teacher leadership teams to work together to do this.”

Here’s the thing with mentioning Massachusetts… they jettisoned their superior standards for the Common Core so is that really the goal we want to set?  If Massachusetts stays on top it will be due to their other reform measures like having each school have an elected board allowing for more input from the community and parents.  It won’t be because of anything new they are doing.

Also next week I was told that the education reform bill will be debated on the House floor on February 19th and/or 20th.  I’ll keep you posted when I know more.  Also expect some amendments to this bill including ones that are very favorable to the Christian school and homeschooling communities.  The Governor’s office has been doing some wheeling and dealing.  I’ll report to you what the lipstick on the pig looks like when I know more.

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.

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