Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says the “biggest chunk” of the governor’s education reform “blueprint” is gone since Branstad has tabled the idea of a new, four-tiered pay system for teachers. But Gronstal says there are other education reform initiatives legislators can embrace in 2012.
“Making sure the people who go into teacher education programs meet a certain level before you admit them to that,” Gronstal says. “I think improving the curriculum in our higher education institutions — I think all of that stuff is good.”
Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn is open to the idea of an exit exam for high school seniors.
“We have to find out what the employers of the state are looking for and how, when they graduate from high school, they have the appropriate knowledge so that they can become a functional citizen and if they decide to go on to college, then they have the beginnings for that,” Behn says. “Otherwise, I know a lot of young men and women that are going to either DMACC or Iowa State and they’re taking, in essence, high school classes.”
Behn, though, would not immediately require that exit exam for the high school class of 2012.
“I don’t think you can incorporate an exit exam tomorrow,” Behn says. “…You have to start six, eight years ahead of that and say, ‘Now, look. In six years or eight years, we’re going to have this exit exam and we need to teach the appropriate subjects and the appropriate math,’ so that when they get there, they’re prepared to take the exit exam.”
Students already take exams, like the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and Gronstal — the Democratic Leader in the state senate — suggests those test results need to be more carefully scrutinized.
“I think those kinds of tests are potentially very valuable in terms of informing teachers and school administrators and policymakers on what’s missing from this curriculum that’s not getting through to the kids and trying to how to improve that.”
Gronstal says education reform won’t be accomplished in a single year. He points to the state of Massachusetts where students are now scoring at the top of national tests. Gronstal says those results are linked to education reform plans that were begun in 1992.