National education standards were the focus of the discussion at Governor Terry Branstad’s education roundtable with teachers Wednesday at the statehouse. The state has signed up for a developing set of national standards that’s called “Common Core.” The governor told the panel 20 years ago the state opted against standardized instruction and testing in favor of local control.
Branstad says the state became complacent while other states , southern states that were poor in eduction and other parts of the country got aggressive. He says the state “king of missed the boat there” and now we’re playing catchup. The state adopted a core curriculum a few years ago that puts certain requirements on students before they can graduate.
Branstad says it isn’t rigorous enough. Jon Ericksen of the American College Testing program says getting an agreement on new national standards may be tough, since they may involve controversial tests such as high school exit exams. He says the state looks to be heading that way.
“With Iowa’s move to adopt the common standards the next logical piece as was discussed here is having a common assessment, somewhere in 2014 and beyond,” Erickson said, “it would all be aligned and it would accomplish that idea of an exit test.”
Those on the panel seemed to respond favorably to the idea. Principal Financial Group senior vice-president, Mary O’Keefe says new employees are coming to the job unprepared. “We are seeing weaker written communication skills certainly coming out of applicants, there have to be some basic skills that people come out with,” O’Keefe says, “I think having the appropriate assessments in school reform is going to have to happen.”
In Mount Pleasant schools, they’re already experimenting with the new national curriculum. Middle school math teacher April Pfort says she likes the fact that it’s equitable for all of our students, that in any second grade in Iowa they’re learning the same thing they are learning in the rest of the country.
Governor Branstad says it’s too early to tell how much of the new program will require the legislature to sign on. “We don’t know for sure yet. That’s what we’re going to spend the rest of the summer and the fall working on,” Branstad says, ” I think this will be one of the big items that we’ll wanna be debating next year.” The new program of national standards will likely get more discussion when the governor holds his Iowa education summit.