Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack and his Republican challenger, Doug Gross, are quibbling about the test scores of Iowa schoolkids. Vilsack says the most-recent data shows fifth and 11th graders are doing better at math and reading. He says the support given to educators is reflected in better test scores. Vilsack says the class-size-reduction initiative he launched when he was first elected is now paying off. Vilsack says school officials have also been forced to be more accountable to the public, since general test score results are made public. He says it’s a collective effort and the community has become more engaged. Vilsack went to a Des Moines elementary school to release the latest test score data to the media. Gross went to a Des Moines high school campus to discuss his education goals, and attack Vilsack’s record on education. Gross offers a different assessment than Vilsack, saying he’s reviewed data and concluded scores on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills are down in grades three through eight during Vilsack’s tenure. Gross says it’s time to rework the formula which distributes state aid to schools to ensure equality for rural and urban students. He says the goal should be to make sure that every child had access to quality education, wherever they grow up. Gross also says he’ll ensure that teacher salaries, now ranked 33rd in the country, are raised to the national average — a commitment he says would probably cost the state a quarter of a billion dollars over four years. He says there’s nothing more important than having good teachers. Gross says if he’s elected, he’ll also order a review of state education mandates and encourage schools to end “social promotion” which sends kids on to the next grade even though they’ve not exhibited the necessary skills.
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