Branstad’s education reform plan causes conflict

Kiana Roppe

Gov. Terry Branstad has created a plan to reform teacher preparation in Iowa by implementing tougher standards and higher selectivity, with the hope of creating teachers who are better able to compete globally.

While most Iowans agree with the goal, there is some controversy surrounding the proposed minimum GPA of 3.0.

Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, helped create the plan on the basis that there are five parts that make up an excellent teacher: the ability to connect with students on a personal level, caring for their students, believing that they are working to improve a child’s life, mastering the content that they are teaching, and retaining the ability to teach in a variety of ways so that all children have the opportunity to learn.

“A 3.0 GPA is a rough measure of content knowledge, pure cognitive ability and perseverance,” Glass said. “Currently we are taking a risk [by allowing anyone to teach] and putting it on our children.”

The goal of the reform plan is to produce teachers who have all of the traits listed above, as well as the aptitude to reflect success in the test scores of their students. Glass believes that selectivity is needed to create better teachers and that a 3.0 GPA is a good measure for how a student will perform after graduation.

David Whaley, associate dean of teacher education in the College of Human Sciences, with this assessment.

“We don’t know that a 3.0 is the right expectation,” Whaley said.

Currently, Iowa State has a 2.5 minimum GPA for students entering the teacher education programs and they must maintain that GPA through their education. Information provided by the College of Human Sciences states that “two of the five most recent Iowa Teachers of the Year are Iowa State University alumni,” demonstrating that current requirements are able to produce quality teachers.

Due to the current success of Iowa State’s teacher preparation programs and the lack of research and evidence proving the correlation between GPA and excellence in teaching, Whaley does not believe that the 3.0 minimum GPA is needed.

He hopes that if the GPA is mandated, there is a clause put in place to allow experts at the school to make exceptions for a student who is believed to be a good teaching candidate but who is unable to maintain the required GPA.

“The most effective teachers today lead students down the path of learning,” Whaley said.

With this new plan, students may wonder how this will affect them.

“Overall, I think progress is being made and they are on the right track,” said Kendra Carlson, senior in family and consumer sciences education and studies at Iowa State. “While I may not think that an exam or GPA standard would make much of a difference, I do not think it will cause harm.”

Current ISU students in the program will most likely be able to graduate with the requirements set forth at their admission to the program. Therefore, the GPA requirement should not affect them.

It will, however, affect students entering the program in the coming years. Students who want to gain a teaching degree in Iowa face the possibility that all areas will need to take and pass an “exit exam” that would test content mastery before they are able to graduate and begin teaching.

The changes may challenge students but, as Carlson said, “The overall goal is to make our students the very best and to make our teachers the very best.”