Iowa receives an overall grade of ‘D’ from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The state receives failing marks across the board for its policies related to delivering well-prepared teachers, expanding the teaching pool, identifying and retaining effective teachers, and firing ineffective teachers.

Iowa lawmakers are trying to improve but many reforms remain contentious.

House File 2380 would require teachers be evaluated annually, instead of every three years, and that student learning be a “strong consideration” in those evaluations. In contrast, Senate File 2284 would create a teacher quality committee, and teachers have some form of review annually. Every three years an administrator would conduct the review, and in the other two years a peer review would occur. The results those reviews, however, cannot affect a teacher’s employment status.

The teachers union, the Iowa State Education Association, supports the Senate bill but not the House bill. “Unfortunately, I think the Senate bill is a much-watered-down version,” countered Gov. Terry Branstad. “We want bold reform.” That’s important since Iowa is well below the national average when it comes to dismissing teachers based on poor performance.

Nationwide, 1.4 percent of non-tenured teachers and 3 percent of tenured teachers are dismissed for poor performance annually, compared to one-tenth of one percent of Iowa’s of non-tenured teachers and 1.4 percent of the state’s tenured teachers.

For bold reform based on best practices, Iowa should look to other states. Currently, 22 states require annual evaluations of veteran teachers (figure 75). Student achievement growth is a required component of teacher evaluations in 12 states (figure 69), five states require student achievement growth be a significant evaluation factor (figure 69), and seven states require teacher evaluations include objective evidence of student learning (figure 69). Rhode Island ranks highest for identifying teacher effectiveness, requiring annual evaluations based primarily on evidence of student learning. Colorado, Illinois, and Oklahoma also earn top marks in exiting ineffective teachers by tying classroom effectiveness to ongoing employment and basing layoffs on performance, not seniority.

Given the divergence between teacher and other reform plans offered by the Governor and the House, on the one hand, and the Senate on the other, reaching a tenable compromise could be challenging.