Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds speak during a forum held at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs Thursday about the state&rsquo;s education reform. The governor and lieutenant governor said the state needs to continue pushing students and find more benefits for teachers to make sure students are ready for the global work force.<span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em> Daily Times Herald photo by Paige Godden</em></span>
Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds speak during a forum held at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs Thursday about the state’s education reform. The governor and lieutenant governor said the state needs to continue pushing students and find more benefits for teachers to make sure students are ready for the global work force. Daily Times Herald photo by Paige Godden
Friday, September 14, 2012

The lieutenant governor says Iowa students have been heading the wrong direction.

Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, at a town-hall meeting on education reform Thursday in Council Bluffs, said Iowa was a top performer on basic-skills tests two decades ago but now the state ranks in the middle of the pack.

She said students have made very little progress during the past 20 years and now Iowa ranks 29th in fourth-grade reading and 25th in eighth-grade math.

“We have 33 percent of Iowa 2010 high school graduates that went into community colleges that needed some kind of remedial help,” Reynolds said. “Just under one-third of Iowa high school students who take the ACT is ready for college coursework across all four benchmarks.”

She said the state’s goal will be to provide every Iowa student a quality education that will allow them to be competitive in a demanding global workforce.

Reynolds said the state won’t be focusing on narrowing in on test scores in math and reading, but instead preparing students to be good and productive citizens.

This goal is going to be accomplished, according to Reynolds, by attracting high-achieving teachers by adding additional leadership responsibilities to schools and better pay.

She said it also makes sense to reward the teachers who work in Iowa’s most-challenging schools.

Gov. Terry Branstad said a major reason Iowa needs to continue on an education reform is because companies can’t afford to come to Iowa to pay its workers if they have below-average skills and knowledge.

He said that it is no longer realistic to think one principal can provide all of the instructional leadership day in and day out.

The principal, Branstad said, is integral to learning but also must manage the building.

“We must rethink the ways we do things,” Branstad said. “We know that principals and teachers work incredibly hard, but we also know the system provides little support to have great student achievement.”

He said the next step teachers need to take is to collaborate with one another.

Branstad said schools need to work on setting academic goals, analyzing data then finding the needs of each student.

The state’s next step will be to review mandates in education.

He said there are some mandates in the Iowa Code that can be eliminated.

Some, Branstad said, are essential such as enrollment counts that are part of the funding formula, but others are not as essential.

He said this could free up a lot of free time for teachers and administrative.

Branstad said the state is also thinking outside of the box.

He suggested that the state could make health care more efficient.

“What if we did a statewide contract for the state, the cities, the counties and the school districts?” Branstad asked. “My feeling is, and especially if we built in some incentives — I think we could probably save a significant amount of money.”

He said he is already trying to get state employees to pay for health care.

Branstad said that if all state employees paid 20 percent of their health-care costs the state would save $100 million per year.