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Iowa Gov. Unveils Blueprint for Teaching, Online Education

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is the latest state leader to come forward with his own ambitious plan to change education policy, one that would make dramatic changes to how teachers advance in the field and are compensated for their work.

The Republican governor, who returned to office last year after previously serving in the post from 1983 to 1999, unveiled a detailed proposal for a system to pay teachers on four tiers, and offer a bump in pay for beginning educators.

The model would establish four levels—apprentice, career, mentor, and master—for teachers and give pay raises for those who move up.

Teachers could earn extra money by agreeing to work in programs that have longer school days or longer school years. (A similar type of reward is being offered in a very different educational environment, the Chicago public schools, at the direction of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat.)

The governor traced many of the ideas to an education summit that he and other state officials hosted during the summer, which drew guests such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Branstad is a fan of Christie's) and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Most of the proposals would require legislative approval, Tim Albrecht, Branstad's spokesman, said in an e-mail. He did not have an estimate of the cost of the plan, yet, saying that such estimates would come together after a "consensus on policy" is reached.

Branstad also says he wants to provide value-added measures for "all schools, grades, and educators," with measures that take into account both students' backgrounds and gains in achievement.

At a time when states are exploring new online options—and the quality of some online programs is being called into question—the Iowa governor wants to create a state clearinghouse of online courses and make sure there are licensed educators capable of teaching them.

Branstad says he also intends to have Iowa, like many other states, apply for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act. He vows to work with "key education groups and leaders" to design a new statewide accountability system.

One key education group, the Iowa State Education Association, offered a muted response to Branstad's ideas.

The union "strongly believes that any education agenda needs to put students at the center of reform," the group's president, Chris Bern, said in a statement. "The details of any 'blueprint' are essential. Like all Iowans interested in the future of our great state, we still await a clear vision of how to move these ideas forward, how to fund them, and what the real application of these plans would be."

The debate over Branstad's plan now moves to the realm of public opinion, and the legislature.

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