Every public school district in the state of Iowa has applied for and received a state grant to begin planning for teacher improvement projects. The education reform package that became law this summer also sets aside bonus money for talented teachers who’ll be mentors to other educators, but Department of Education director Brad Buck says January 31st is the deadline for applying for that money. “I think this is one of those concepts in Iowa that makes sense and I think people are ready to engage in the work,” Buck says. “I think we’ll get, actually, more requests for spots than we have spots in the first round.”
There are 346 school districts in Iowa, but the education reform plan is phased in over three years, so only a third of the districts will get the extra money for teachers on contract for the 2014/2015 school year. Another third of schools will get the money the following year and in year three the rest will get it.
Buck says some superintendents have told him they want to wait until that second year — to see what lessons can be learned from the teacher improvement plans of other districts. “They’re not quite yet sure how that would look in a 650-student district, so they’re waiting to see some other 650-student districts do this, talk about their model and then talk about applying that to their local district,” Buck says.
Other administrators tell Buck they want another year to plan to hire substitutes or replacement teachers for the teachers who’ll leave their own classroom to coach other teachers. Under the new education reform law, all public school districts in Iowa would have a new teacher leadership and compensation system in place by the 2016-17 school year.
In the current academic year, each Iowa school district will get at least $5,000 to start meetings among teachers, parents and the community to discuss teacher leadership options.