Proud of 2016, psyched for 2017
The holiday break provides educators with much needed time to rest, reflect and plan for the year ahead. For many, these activities result in lists and goals – what went well, areas for improvement, and hopes and dreams for the New Year.
As I look back at 2016, I see much to be proud of. First, Iowa cemented its place as the nation’s leader in strengthening the teaching profession by fully implementing the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system. Today, more than 8,000 Iowa teachers hold formal, compensated leadership roles designed to strengthen instruction and improve student learning. As I traveled the state this fall, I witnessed countless examples of a new spirit of collaboration and peer-led learning sweeping across Iowa.
A recently released report by the American Institutes of Research (AIR) validated my observations. The AIR report found that schools that have implemented TLC reported stronger and more frequent collaboration with their colleagues; teachers in TLC schools were more likely to indicate professional development was useful and of high quality; teachers in the first two cohorts indicated TLC is positively affecting their professional structure by improving compensation, creating more leadership opportunities, and helping teachers to feel listened to; and, most teachers and administrators in the first two TLC cohorts reported TLC is helping to improve instruction.
A second celebration for 2016 was the passage of House File 2392, which set a new vision for Iowa students to graduate from high school ready for college and career training. This legislation focuses Iowa on three key tasks: developing an enhanced and more holistic approach to academic and career planning; strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs through modernizing the CTE framework; and instituting a system of regional planning that ensures access to a diverse array of rigorous CTE courses for all Iowa students.
In addition, 2016 was a foundation-laying year for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Iowa Department of Education launched an ambitious effort to listen and incorporate stakeholder priorities as we implement the most significant change in federal education policy in the last 15 years. We heard from nearly 1,000 Iowans through 13 listening tour stops in the spring and fall, an ongoing advisory committee, focus groups with education advocates, work teams focused on specific elements of ESSA and through online feedback.
Finally, in 2016 Iowa again led the country in high school graduation rates and remained the only state with a four-year graduation rate above 90 percent. All Iowans, and educators in particular, should be proud of this achievement.
Yet for each of these successes, there is more work to do. First, while TLC is strengthening the teaching profession, we have yet to see an impact on student achievement. Now that the foundational components of training and support for teacher leaders are in place we are confident this will result in improved student learning through teacher leaders coaching and supporting all teachers.
Second, as we move forward with the implementation of House File 2392, schools, community colleges and area education agencies have a major task ahead in the development of Regional Planning Partnerships. This process will require an unprecedented level of collaboration and coordination to ensure equitable access to CTE programming for all students.
Third, in 2017 the Iowa Department of Education will finalize and submit the state’s ESSA plan to the U.S. Department of Education. In order to ensure this plan will empower schools to meet the needs of their students and lead to improved results, the Department needs to continue to hear from stakeholders. The draft plan will be published in the coming days and we look forward to another statewide information tour and continued input.
Finally, in 2017 Iowa has an opportunity to translate our stellar high school graduation rate into postsecondary success. The Future Ready Iowa Alliance is actively working on recommendations to meet the ambitious goal of 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce having education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. In addition, for the first time Iowans will have information on postsecondary enrollment patterns, remedial course-taking rates, and postsecondary retention and award rates that can be connected to every public high school in Iowa through the new Postsecondary Readiness Reports that will be released later this month.
This account of progress and work ahead is by no means exhaustive. Iowa continues to develop and refine our academic standards and implement aligned assessments; we remain focused on ensuring all students read proficiently by the end of third grade; and we commit to continuing our collaboration with schools as we implement a system of Differentiated Accountability to ensure schools receive the support they need when they need it.
As we enter 2017, I hope you feel refreshed and ready to launch a new round of learning and growth within your school community. I wish you all the best in the year ahead!
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