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OUR OPINION: All Iowans should keep open mind on education reform

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Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass

Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass meets with students at Irving Elementary School in Sioux City in April 2011. Glass starts a new job July 1 as superintendent of Eagle County, Colo., schools.

At this point, we are not prepared to say we will support in its entirety the blueprint for reform of education created by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's administration, but we do support his emphasis on reform and will be open-minded to what's in the plan.

We hope for the same approach from Iowans in general, including those who work in the profession of education.

The administration will present its comprehensive plan for reform on Monday, but in recent weeks Iowans have gotten hints of what might be included.

For example, Branstad and Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass have talked of support for changes to the way teachers are paid, changes in seniority rules for teachers, a requirement all high school students take the ACT exam and student exit exams before graduation.

We aren't necessarily sold on all of these ideas. Still, we continue to be impressed with the work of Glass, who applies creativeness and innovation to the challenging task of ending what U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls "stagnation" in Iowa's public school system and preparing and positioning our schools and students for the future.

Education reform isn't about looking back and casting blame, it's about looking ahead and getting better. In order to achieve the goal to which all Iowans should aspire of having "world-class schools" in our state, more will and should be asked of all of us - education leaders, school administrators, teachers, parents and students.

Change can be difficult, even painful, but change can be exciting, too. By elevating education reform to a high-profile priority in Iowa and focusing attention on it, the Branstad administration has created an atmosphere in which something special can happen. Some unfortunate signs of status quo entrenchment already have emerged in the discussion, but by and large we believe Iowans in general support the kind of robust, reasoned debate the subject deserves.

Reform of our public schools will be the signature issue for the Legislature in 2012, and the framework for this debate comes into sharper focus starting Monday. As Branstad begins building the case for his reform blueprint across the state this week, we encourage all Iowans to become engaged in the issue and to listen to and consider the governor's plan in honest, good-faith fashion.


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