Do we really need a test to measure civics knowledge?

Randy Richardson reports on a proposed Republican solution in search of a problem for Iowa schools. -promoted by desmoinesdem

According to a study by the Council of Great City Schools, a typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade. At least a few of those tests are of dubious value.

Now it appears as though one more test may be required in Iowa schools. GOP State Senator Jerry Behn from Boone introduced Senate File 2341, which would require Iowa students to take and pass a 100 question multiple choice civics test as a requirement for graduation.

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Iowa teachers are feeling the burn(out)

Randy Richardson reviews six factors pushing educators to leave the profession. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I left the classroom in 1996. I still tell people that teaching was the best job I ever had. But after 20 years in the classroom I had simply had enough of coaching, chaperoning every high school dance, teaching six different preps every day, and dealing with unreasonable parents.

Things have changed a lot in the intervening years, and the job of being a teacher has become even more difficult. Recently more than 180 teachers applied for the early retirement incentive offered by the Des Moines Public Schools. So what does cause perfectly capable teachers to suddenly decide to step away from the classroom?

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School vouchers make first Iowa legislative appearance of 2018

Randy Richardson is a former teacher and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The first of what will likely be multiple “school choice” bills appeared last week when Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren introduced Senate File 2091. The bill creates Education Savings Grants, which would be available to certain students attending non-public schools or who are receiving competent private instruction (CPI). Parents or guardians could apply for the grants if:

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Change to Iowa's bargaining law has real impact on these teachers

Randy Richardson was involved with teacher contract negotiations for many years as associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Last year the Iowa legislature passed House File 291. That bill stripped many of the collective bargaining rights that teachers had negotiated with school districts over the past 40 years. While the majority of school districts agreed to extend the existing contract or keep permissive items in those contracts, more than 40 districts stripped all permissive and illegal bargaining items from those documents. Most of those districts agreed to place the permissive items in a new “teacher handbook” that would provide guidance for how employees and school districts interacted. One of those districts was the Howard-Winneshiek (Crestwood) school district in northern Iowa.

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Who benefits from expanding options on teacher retirement plans?

Randy Richardson, retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, shares the backstory on regulations Iowa Republicans weakened during this year’s legislative session. -promoted by desmoinesdem

On December 8, Bleeding Heartland shared a post entitled “Iowa Republicans Found Yet Another Way to Hurt Teachers This Year.” The post outlines the passage of House File 569, a bill that allowed 30 additional vendors to offer 403(b) products to teachers starting this year. GOP State Senator Tim Kraayenbrink, who is also a financial adviser, dismissed Democrats’ claims that the array of investments would be too confusing and allow companies to charge exorbitant fees on teachers’ savings. But is that accurate?

As someone who was very involved in the transition to the Retired Investors Club that is administered by the Department of Administrative Services, I thought it might be a good time to revisit why this all took place.

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Alternative teacher pay plans returning to Iowa

Randy Richardson, a former teacher and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, explains how an alternative to the traditional salary schedule could affect teachers across Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Teachers in Iowa and across the country are typically paid based upon a negotiated salary schedule. This schedule includes a “base salary” for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no previous teaching experience. In addition, the salary schedule includes vertical “steps” that increase pay each year (up to a maximum number of years) as teachers accrue more experience, and horizontal steps that allow teachers to earn more pay based upon getting additional education. These horizontal steps usually include additional pay for academic credit hours beyond a bachelor’s degree and another bump with the earning of advanced degrees (masters and PhD).

In Iowa, teachers usually entered into negotiations every year with the school district to arrive at a new collective bargaining agreement. This agreement included any increases to the base pay and any structural changes to the salary scheduled itself (adding steps or lanes, for instance). Unfortunately for Iowa teachers, this practice is coming to a screeching halt due to significant changes to our collective bargaining law.

Under the new law teachers can only bargain changes to the base salary they receive. The salary schedule itself is now under the complete control of the school district.

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