Teacher prep will be key to education reform, Branstad says

More training needed for state's future educators

Gov. Terry Branstad will make teacher preparation a key component of his 2013 education reform package.

“I know there’s some fear and trepidation about this,” Branstad told members of the Iowa State Board of Education on Tuesday.

The governor and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds met with the board for about an hour to discuss the board’s policy priorities for 2012-13 and how that melds with Branstad’s policy hopes for the coming legislative session.

Many of the priorities the board shared are ones it has held for years: close the achievement gap, increase the integration of technology and online learning opportunities and move toward competency-based education.

This year, the board added “improve teacher and leader preparation” as an additional priority.

Board Vice President Charlie Edwards said the board thought it was important that the state review current standards for teacher certification, study best practices from other states and look at better methods for teacher program accountability, standards, recruitment and performance assessment.

“We don’t look at this as being punitive,” Edwards said. “We’re not looking to cast the first stone.”

Branstad, who holds a law degree from Drake University and was once president of Des Moines University Medical College, said lawyers are not required to practice law before becoming attorneys, but medical students have a residency period before they become full-fledged doctors.

“I think (medical residency) is a much better model,” he said.

In Iowa, future teachers are required to have 14 weeks of student teaching before they can work in a classroom on their own. Branstad was not specific on how much more training he thinks teachers should have before they can enter the classroom, but he wants to look at examples from other states.

Any changes in what the state requires for prospective teachers would likely involve discussions with both the teachers’ union and the various public and private schools that run teacher colleges.

“Just like all of his proposals, we’d have to look at how they affect the classroom and if they are good for the students,” said Jean Hessburg, spokeswoman for the Iowa State Education Association. “Is this a proposal that’s been well thought out? We’d like see it when they have something.”

Board member Mike Mays, a former state lawmaker who joined the board this year, said more time in the classroom makes obvious sense.

“If you want to play basketball, should you get in the gym?” he said. “Well, duh.”(NOTE: The original version of this story included incorrect information regarding the student teaching requirement for future teachers in Iowa.)

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