A controversial bill to require statewide performance standards for all Iowa K-12 students got its first airing in the Iowa House today. Business leaders are demanding that the state adopt new rigorous standards or end up in court. The house bill mandates new content and performance standards, and new tests to measure achievement by the year 2010. Dave Roederer of the Iowa Chamber Alliance says Iowa kids aren’t bringing the needed skills to the workplace.
Roederer says: “Folks, something isn’t working. Something isn’t working right. We’re not getting the quality of people that we’re going to need.” A bill to mandate a statewide curriculum for schools is also making its way through the Senate. Roederer says the Senate bill that mandates a new core curriculum statewide isn’t enough.
“From our perspective, it’s the outcomes. It’s the standards,” Roederer says, “we want to be able to say that when a kid graduates from a high school in Iowa that they have these following skill sets. And if they don’t have these following skill sets then they’re not going to progress and get a diploma for it.”
The bill has bipartisan support. But the Iowa State Education Association has concerns. Their spokesman Jon Studer said federal law already forces teachers to focus too much on tests. Studer says, “We believe the performance standards with the additional assessments, we’ve seen No Child Left Behind where the focus came off teaching and moved to the assessment.”
The ISEA supports instead mandating the new statewide core curriculum to get more rigor into the classroom. The Iowa Department of Education defended its standards and benchmarks, but lawmakers said the department’s rules do not qualify as statewide content and performance standards.