Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats says it’s time to test Iowa high school seniors to see whether they’re ready to graduate.  Those who fail wouldn’t get a diploma.

“I think there has to be some accountability to that,” Vander Plaat says.  “I mean it’s one thing to have 21st century standards, but if you don’t hold school districts or students accountable to those 21st century standards, I think that’s a concern.”

Vander Plaats says teachers should also be tested. “Proficiency testing for teachers who are actually in the system today or who are coming into the system — we need to know that they’re prepared to teach as well,” Vander Plaats says. 

Vander Plaats also would have some sort of evaluation of a teacher’s skills in the classroom. “Teaching goes way beyond passing a test,” Vander Plaats says.  “There are some people who are gifted at teaching and some people who are not gifted at teaching, even if they can pass a test.” 

Vander Plaats is a business consultant today, but he graduated from college with a teaching degree and taught business classes in Boone High School before moving to the Jefferson school district, where he taught business and coached basketball.  He went on to be a principal at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, then he returned to his hometown and served as the Sheldon High School principal until 1996. 

This past week Vander Plaats called for changes in state law to give “charter schools” more flexibility.  Vander Plaats also promised to change the push for a statewide “core curriculum” for K-12 public schools.  He’d allow school districts to voluntarily adopt those standards rather than requiring schools to do so.