Members of the Education Committee in the Iowa House got to work last night on Governor Branstad’s comprehensive ten-year education reform plan. Both Republicans and Democrats voiced objections to the portion of the proposal that calls for evaluating teachers every year.
Department of Education Director, Jason Glass, says the current standard of evaluating teachers every three years falls way short. “I fundamentally do not believe that for a veteran educator three times in a decade is anywhere near a timely, reasonable feedback for improvement,” Glass said.
But legislators on the education panel said schools lack the resources for the yearly assessments. Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, is a classroom teacher.
“Director Glass, I don’t have a problem with yearly evaluations and I don’t think most teachers would either,” Mascher said. “I do think there is a cost and I think you have to be realistic about that.” Glass cited a Colorado district where teachers are evaluated every month with less funding than Iowa schools have.
Representative Greg Forristal, a Republican from Macedonia, said schools might have to make other drastic cuts in order to pay for more teacher evaluations. “What if a schoolboard comes to you and says you can do this program or cut five classroom teachers and increase the size of elementary classes,” Forristal asked.
Glass replied, “I’m not sure that’s a dichotomy that I would accept.” House members also questioned another part of the plan, letting students advance once they’ve mastered the material, instead of occupying that classroom seat for the rest of the year.
The House committee got through four of the education bill’s 25 sections in two hours. The next work session is scheduled for Monday and will open with public comment where principals themselves may speak out. That session may focus on a potentially even more controversial part of the governor’s plan — taking student test scores into account as part of that annual teacher evaluation.