Great teaching and leadership for Iowa
Make no mistake – interest in the state’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation system is high. To wit:
- 39 school districts representing a third of Iowa’s students are kicking off the system this fall.
- The Iowa Teacher and Principal Leadership Symposium on Monday drew an over-capacity crowd in Ankeny, where about 500 educators and stakeholders packed into an event center.
“This is a challenge that Iowa must take up,” Gov. Terry Branstad told the crowd on the Des Moines Area Community College campus. “It’s clear that no single reform by itself is enough. But there’s broad agreement that great teaching is essential. That’s the main mission of Iowa’s new Teacher Leadership and Compensation system – to better support highly effective teaching in every classroom.”
The Teacher Leadership and Compensation system, known among educators by its acronym TLC, is the nation’s most far-reaching initiative designed ultimately to improve education delivery in the classroom. The foundational elements of TLC include a minimum starting salary for full-time teachers, increased support for new teachers, and new leadership roles for effective teachers.
TLC will be available to all interested districts by the 2016-17 school year. When it’s fully phased in, the system is estimated to cost $150 million annually.
TLC is a critical element in the 2013 education reform package adopted by Iowa lawmakers. The system better utilizes the expertise of top teachers to fine-tune instruction for individual students. It will create the capacity for Iowa’s education system to keep pace with the demands of a knowledge-based, global workforce.
“Unless they are prepared to compete, our children won’t be able to land the jobs that pay well, so they can enjoy a great quality of life,” Branstad said.
The system starts with the person at the head of the classroom.
“For me, it was Lura Seewick, my eighth-grade social studies teacher in Forest City, Iowa,” Branstad said. “She had a passion for her subject, especially for making sure that her students understood their civic responsibilities.
“How can we make sure all Iowa children have teachers like Lura Seewick?”
Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck said he’s met many committed, dedicated educators.
“But great teaching must not be the result of good fortune,” he said. “As a state, we must be intentional about getting a great teacher for every classroom.”
TLC emphasizes “the power of teacher leadership in classroom modeling and coaching, data interpretation and use, and real-time, job-embedded professional development,” Buck said. It also provides “teachers with new career options as well as an alternative to a one-size-fits-all approach in the teaching profession.”
While TLC has gained a lot of interest, education officials acknowledge the process can be intimidating.
“This is a big change process,” said Ryan Wise, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Education. “Anytime when there’s major change, there is also resistance to change.
“It’s important to have a clear vision about what we’re trying to do. It’s about engaging people’s emotions. You’ve heard a lot about data about why TLC is important and how it positively impacts students, and we can talk about it all day, but unless people have an emotional connection, it will fall flat. People have got to see how this will really improve education for kids.”
2014 Teacher of the Year Jane Schmidt agrees that challenges lie ahead.
“School districts are challenged to re-imagine how they deliver instruction, how they collaborate, how assessment data can be used effectively to transform learning in our classrooms,” said Schmidt, a literacy and language arts teacher from Maquoketa. “All educators have a significant responsibility to focus on how we assemble all of these pieces and create a new culture – a re-imagined culture – in our schools.”
Schmidt said Iowa’s education system should replicate the three guiding principles that made the Disneyland parks so successful: imagination, innovation and communication.
“Each of our classrooms and each of our buildings can become an organized Magic Kingdom for all – a place where everyone knows they will be welcomed, feel a sense of belonging, be assured of receiving instruction by highly effective educators with a focus on standards-based learning found in the Iowa Core,” she said. “Key words for building culture include words like active, engaging, rigorous, and authentic. Keeping a focus on the big picture of what we are preparing our students for in the future will help us focus on the magic we can weave for all who enter our doors.”
Guest speaker Ee-Ling Low, a top education official in Singapore, said her country’s ascension to creating a top education system required a holistic approach, from recruiting top students to the teaching profession to ensuring ongoing development.
“Education must be seen as the most important asset to ensure students are getting 21st century skills,” she said.
Attributes of a great teacher, Low said, include inspiration, passion about teaching, deep concern for students, generosity toward mentors, a strong sense of justice and subject-matter expertise.
In addition, teacher candidates are chosen based on their aptitude, attitude and personality.
“We must also inspire a love of lifelong learning,” she said.