Governor Tom Vilsack says he’s not surprised more Iowa schools have failed to meet federal achievement standards outlined in the “No Child Left Behind” law. “I fully expected given the parameters of No Child Left Behind that we will have school districts that may have improved for a single year but in order to get off the list you’ve got to improve two consecutive years,” Vilsack says. “So, if you took off the list the school districts that have, in fact, improved since last year the list might be less than it was the year before.” Ninety-four Iowa public schools and 14 school districts are on the fed’s “watch” list. That’s up from 66 schools and nine districts last year. Twelve of the Iowa schools face federal sanctions because of the status report. The governor says if you look at the flip side, 96 percent of Iowa school districts meet or exceed the student achievement goals outlined in the federal law. Vilsack says that’s much better than nearly every other state. But Vilsack is calling for reform. “We have a lot of work that needs to be done in education in order for us to maintain the edge that we have in order for us to make sure our youngsters are prepared for a very, very competitive worlds,” Vilsack says.Vilsack visited colleges in Sioux City and Council Bluffs earlier today (Wednesday) to talk about the changes he’s seeking, including his call for considering a longer school year. Vilsack says he’s delivering his message especially to the education community for a reason. “I think it’s important for people in education to understand that they are constantly going to be asked to change, to transform, to continue to improve,” Vilsack says. “We cannot ever be satisfied with the status quo.” The governor says other countries are expecting more of their students and it’s time for Iowa schools to think about competing against kids in India and China rather than Minnesota and Illinois. “The first group of folks who need to understand this are educators,” Vilsack says. “The fact that we’re asking them to continue to do more and to improve isn’t a reflection of a criticism, it’s just a reality in the world today.” Some school boards have initiated discussions about a longer school year, but have already met some resistance. Vilsack says while people may have “fond memories” of vacation days, it’s time to better prepare students for the global competition they’ll face in the workplace. “If our football team knew that the other team was practicing two weeks longer than we were or preparing for a game more effectively, I’m sure we wouldn’t have any hesitation in suggesting to our coaches that they spend a little more time getting the kids prepared,” Vilsack says. “I don’t see any reason why that same concept doesn’t apply to learning, in fact I think it’s more important in that context.” Vilsack says the state needs to commit more to early childhood education to ensure kids are prepared for school and he says the state must spend more on teacher pay. However, the governor isn’t yet offering specific proposals outlining exactly how much more he believes the state should spend.
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