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Superintendent Update November

Posted November 06, 2012 in Community Blogs, Norwalk

Simply watching the local news and scanning the papers will tell you that education is a huge topic in this election year.   Everyone is the education president, the education governor, the education legislator, etc.  That cyclical interest in education has deep historical roots and is quite predictable.  Often, it leads nowhere.     However, Iowa’s educational ranking among the states is being challenged.  Data is mounting that Iowa has not kept up with other states in terms of student achievement and the driving force behind student achievement; teachers.  Iowa has not kept pace with teacher preparation, time for ongoing professional development, and retention of our best and brightest teachers.

Over the last year, you began to feel interest coalesce and we actually see recommendations for legislation.   Several task forces are at work designing a change process for Iowa.   As superintendent, I have multiple obligations to represent our district in these conversations, work to understand the nature and impact of the changes and communicate these proposals to my district.  Norwalk has outpaced the state’s growth in standardized test scores in every core area over the last ten years.   However, even Norwalk is beginning to see a slowdown in our academic growth rate.  That slowdown is a visible marker that Norwalk achievement is ready for an “educational boost”, just like the rest of Iowa.

The recommendations of the “Governor’s Taskforces” is hot topic right now.  Here is the report on Teacher Leadership and Compensation.  The recommendation can be found at:

A summary of the Leadership and Compensation Taskforce

  1. Create and fund multiple, meaningful and well-designed career pathway opportunities open to all teachers in Iowa.
  2. Establish a pathway that utilizes the wisdom and expertise of educators who are not currently practicing, including retired teachers.
  3. Review existing allocations and use these funds strategically to enhance teacher compensation and create leadership opportunities.
  4. Appropriate new money for the explicit purposes of raising base pay to a competitive level and creating additional leadership opportunities for teachers.
  5. Establish a Commission on Educator Leadership and Compensation to ensure consistent and successful implementation.
  6. Collaborate with districts implementing a mechanism for piloting peer assistance and coaching programs.
  7. Incentivize teachers to teach in locally and state-defined hard-to-staff subjects and high-need schools.
  8. Build upon existing policy and statute, and provide adequate, sustained funding and implementation support for teacher leadership.
  9. Set the boundaries of the system, but allow districts to customize.
  10. Provide time for local planning and implementation inclusive of teachers in the decision-making process.
  11. Require districts to implement professional development structures aligned with the Iowa Professional Development Model that support each career pathway, and utilize teacher leaders to ensure continuous collaboration on student growth.
  12. Coordinate the development of teacher leadership pathways with teacher preparation programs.
  13. Create a residency year for entry into the teaching profession to build a more seamless transition from teacher preparation to practice/employment.

In a nutshell, the profession will become tiered with more teachers holding leadership roles in the complex task of moving student achievement.  In Norwalk, teachers are preparing for those challenges as they engage in building improvement teams, building assistance teams, teacher quality committees, curriculum committees, technology cadres and many others.  Norwalk would not have a history of academic growth without teacher’s deep involvement.  But, as the task of continuous improvement gets increasingly more time consuming, teachers need more time for leadership, modeling good teaching, mentoring and implementation of best practices.   Such time and training does not exist in sufficient quantity now.  That must change.  New legislation will hopefully assist in solving some of those problems.

     Three other task forces have created recommendation involving instructional time, administration evaluation and teaching standards and evaluation.  The entire text of recommendations is available at:

A synopsis of each follows:

Instructional Time Task Force

The Instructional Time Task Force was created to study issues such as the school start date, the length of the school day and school year, and after-school programming. Among the recommendations:

  1. Local school districts should continue to set the length of the school day for their students. However, Iowa should encourage extended time opportunities through after-school programs and support school districts that commit to innovative efforts.
  2. State lawmakers should require Iowa schools to meet a minimum of 1,080 hours of instructional time for each school year beginning with the 2014-15 academic year to allow for more effective use of instructional time.
  3. Current law regarding the school-year start date needs clarity, definition, or change. State lawmakers and the Governor must make a decision on the issue that best benefits Iowa’s students.

Administrator Evaluation Task Force

The Administrator Evaluation Task Force was created to study evaluation practices for Iowa school administrators and to develop recommendations for a statewide system.
Among the recommendations:

  1. Create, implement, and sustain a research-based rubric administrator effectiveness system that incorporates ongoing and formative tools and processes to promote continuous improvement of the administrator, the school, and the school system.
  2. Enhance and maintain professional supports for administrators performing at different levels of experience, and build the human and social capital within the system that will support their growth over time.
  3. Develop, execute, and maintain a research and development component tied to the administrator effectiveness system with the purpose of evaluating, making system improvements, and informing stakeholders.

Teaching Standards and Teacher Evaluation Task Force

The Teaching Standards and Teacher Evaluation Task Force was created to recommend ways to improve the Iowa teaching standards and evaluations of the state’s teachers.
Among the recommendations:

  1. Revise the current Iowa Teaching Standards to align pre-service with PK-12 teaching, to be based on best practice and nationally accepted standards, and to address knowledge, skill, performance, and dispositions.
  2. Develop an improved teacher evaluation system to replace the existing evaluation system for teachers.  Include a researched-based rubric that differentiates each level of teaching performance and ensures a consistent implementation statewide.  Make training and professional development an integral component of the system.
  3. The Iowa Legislature will require a work group to identify standards and create an improved teacher evaluation system to be implemented with fidelity statewide in an effort to create effective teachers as part of a system of development.

Two other state task forces will continue to work on recommendations. A final report from the Task Force on Early Childhood Assessment is due Nov. 15, while the Competency-Based Instruction Task Force’s preliminary report is due Jan. 15.  Hold onto your hats, there is much change in the wind!

Denny Wulf

Norwalk Superintendent

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