A task force of Iowa teachers and administrators has begun meeting to discuss ways to retain the best teachers and raise teacher pay. Iowa Department of Education director Jason Glass says most teachers who want to grow professionally take “exit ramps” out of the classroom and become a school administrator — or leave the professional entirely.

“Education research clearly indicates what anyone who’s ever spent a minute in a classroom already knows, that there are differences in teacher quality and that these differences have an impact on student learning,” Glass says. “The ability of our education system to raise and sustain high levels of student learning is inextricably linked to our ability to raise and sustain high levels of educator quality.”

During a recent task force meeting, some members of the group lamented that the best athletes are recruited out of high school, but there’s little effort to lure the best students into the teaching profession. Glass says giving teachers more leadership opportunities inside their schools will help raise the status of the profession.

“By empowering and supporting educators and building teams focused on instruction in every school in Iowa, we take important steps that are in line with high-performing school systems around the globe,” Glass says, “to appropriately honor the teaching profession and more effectively use the best educators we have to grow other great educators.”

On August 3 Governor Branstad will convene a one-day symposium focused on ways principals and teachers can collaborate. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds notes both she and the governor have daughters who are teachers.

“We know first-hand how incredibly hard our teachers work to make sure that our students succeed,” Reynolds says. “We also realize that growing expectations for students place even more demands on teachers without always providing teachers with the support they need to meet those demands.”

Reynolds and Branstad held town hall meetings around the state this winter and spring to tout a series of education reform ideas, and the governor said last week he’ll put on a “full court press” to build public support for education reform ideas he hopes to get the legislature to embrace in 2013.