Hunt: Iowa’s education system must change if the state wants to be a leader
July 25, 2011
Iowa must change its entire education system if it wants to be a world leader in education, former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt Jr. said Monday during the state’s education summit.
That change should include raising classroom standards, investing in early education programs, strengthening the leadership at schools, and increasing community involvement in education, said Hunt, who is also the chairman of the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy.
“The issue for you is how you do make your schools more effective, and I know you can do it,” said Hunt, whose wife graduated from an Iowa school in Jasper County. “There is no state in America today that is focusing on improving its schools like you all are doing here in Iowa.”
Iowa’s main focus in reforming education and restoring its standing as an educational leader needs to be improving teaching. That includes strengthening teacher preparation programs, providing new teachers with good mentors, using targeted professional development and improving teacher evaluations, Hunt said.
Education leaders need to develop a statewide evaluation system that judges teachers based on student achievement and classroom observations, as well as student input. Schools should then use the evaluations in determining teacher pay, he said.
“It’s about really thoroughly changing schools and improving them,” Hunt said. “You can’t have great schools if political leaders are constantly fighting with teachers. Teaching is the most important and toughest job in the world. We need to work with teachers and we need to respect them. We need to help them be their very best.”
Work is also required to bolster early childhood education in the state, Hunt said. Most brain development happens by age 3, and states need to ensure that there is a focus on providing those children the best educational opportunities possible.
Specifically, they need to focus on improving parenting skills, providing high quality caregivers and addressing health issues, he said.
He urged participants at the summit to make Iowa a leader in early childhood education.
“It is the best money you will spend,” Hunt said.
Finally, Iowa needs to work with other states to develop tests that will measure whether students are learning what’s expected of them. Iowa was one of 44 states to adopt a set of common core standards and is in the process of infusing them with the Iowa Core Curriculum. States have yet to determine a way to measure student learning, Hunt said.
“The people of Iowa need to devise the change, support it and work together to make it happen,” Hunt said.