Dems: Great teachers are key to student achievement

August 23, 2015

Iowa is among the first states to create a teacher leadership system designed to boost student achievement, increase teaching expertise and raise the status of the teaching profession.

Research shows a correlation between a school’s ability to keep good teachers and student achievement. Iowa’s 2013 Education Reform initiative rewards effective teachers with more responsibility and higher pay, attracts promising new teachers with competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement, and encourages greater collaboration among all educators.

Under the Teacher Leadership & Compensation System, 25 percent of teachers will take on new leadership roles—including serving as instructional coaches and mentors—to improve the classroom experience. Districts that apply to start teacher leadership systems must set goals, establish minimum teacher salaries, mentor new teachers and have a rigorous selection process for leadership roles.

Teacher leadership systems are being phased in over three years, with the goal of all Iowa school districts participating on a voluntary basis by 2016-17.

The Iowa Legislature approved $50 million for the first year of the program and $100 million for the second year. The third year will see a $150 million investment. Money for teacher leaders, however, was never intended to supplant other K-12 educational funding.

The Teacher Leadership & Compensation System and other targeted investments in STEM, building strong reading skills and providing more learning opportunities through online schools are great tools. However, they are not a replacement for basic school funding from the state. If we don’t provide adequate dollars to support the daily needs of our schools, they will have more students and less staff.

For example, one Iowa district will have to make about $300,000 in cuts with the minimal school funding approved for this fall. That will significantly diminish the impact of the $340,000 the district will receive in teacher leader grants.

We must provide a strong foundation for schools to build upon. That way, the teacher leadership program can effectively prepare our students for higher education, worker training and good jobs in a competitive global economy.

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