More student testing, raised teacher standards in Branstad education proposal

'Innovation fund' also part of $25 million package

UPDATED:  Gov. Terry Branstad released a $25 million education reform package this morning that calls for more rigorous testing of students, higher standards for the state’s teaching corps and includes a $10 million statewide literacy initiative.

It’s the first time state official put a price tag on the plan, passage of which Branstad has said will be one of his top priorities this legislative session.

Key proposals include of Gov. Terry Branstad’s education reform blueprint:

  • First-year cost $25 million, funded with $17 million new revenue growth and $8 million in reallocations
  • Task force to study teacher compensation and lengthy of school day/year issues and make recommendations for 2013 legislative session
  • Reform effort likely will span 10 years with largest costs in out years still to be determined
  • Require 3.0 grade-point average for admission into teacher preparation programs
  • Require teaching licensure candidates to pass a test demonstrating content-specific and teaching knowledge
  • Evaluate teachers, principals and superintendents annually
  • Widen pathways to alternative teacher licensure
  • Base workforce decisions for teachers based on performance more than seniority
  • Give all preschool students and enrolled 4-year-olds a kindergarten readiness assessment to determine early literacy and numeracy skills
  • Require end-of-course exams in core areas of algebra, English, science and U.S. history for high school students
  • Require all 11th grade students take a college entrance exam as pathway to postsecondary studies
  • Eliminate “seat-time” requirements for academic credit to accommodate competency-based education
  • Widen the pathway for starting charter schools
  • Give school districts greater flexibility to meet state requirements

Source: Governor’s office; Iowa Department of Education

Today’s release comes almost six months after the close of the two-day Iowa Education Summit where Branstad, his top education adviser Linda Fandel and Department of Education Director Jason Glass played host to more than 60 speakers and 1,600 attendees.

Branstad education plan

Work on the plan began in earnest following the summit. In October, Glass and Fandel released an “education blueprint” which was essentially a list of program ideas without costs attached.

The governor, Fandel, Glass and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds then crisscrossed the state for a series of town hall meetings and speaking engagements to sell the plan.

In November the governor announced that he would pursue a change to the teacher’s compensation structure, which was expected to be one of the most controversial and costly parts of the reform package, for this year.

Instead, the plan announced Friday calls for a task force to study teacher leadership and compensation for a year. The plan also calls for a separate task force to study the length of the school day and school year.

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