The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

September 5, 2013

Teacher assessment raises concerns

OTTUMWA — It's a sensitive topic: Judging which teachers are doing a good job and which teachers are not.

Three southeast Iowa educators will help seek a statewide system for evaluating Iowa teachers. Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck said 19 Iowans will serve on the council.

Jon Sheldahl, chief administrator at Great Prairie Area Education Agency in Ottumwa; Billy Strickler, a teacher in the Fairfield Community School District; and Joel Illian, a teacher with the Pekin Community School District, are now part of the Council on Educator Development.

According to the Iowa DOE, the council was "established as part of House File 215, the landmark education reform bill adopted by Iowa lawmakers."

"Our main goal is to design a standardized evaluation system that will be used statewide for teachers and administrators," said Stickler on Thursday.

But the idea of the state of Iowa judging educators has caused concern among teachers.

"Tying student performance to teacher pay is a touchy subject for all involved," said Stickler. "With many factors involved in this topic, there is no quick fix."

But why take on more work, more debate and more meetings?

"Something like this doesn't seem like more work," Stickler said. "It is the chance to create a process that will help Iowa reach the national and world standards [we] have been expected to be at."

In recent town hall meetings, Gov. Terry Branstad lamented the loss of Iowa's "top three" ranking on the list of best states for education in the nation.

Wanting to do a good job isn't enough.

Illian said, "The education of our young people is so important that we can't afford to gloss over the aspect of quality. Adults in education who are not doing a good job can have an enormously negative impact in the lives of our young people. Those teachers and administrators need to be told that they aren't doing a good job and given the opportunity to fix it. And if they continue to do a bad job, they need to find a different line of work."

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