Branstad Sets Goal for Raising Student Test Scores

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad delivers his Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By Aaron Hepker

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that he wants Iowa to be in the Top 10 states for standardized reading and math scores by 2019.

Branstad, a Republican, laid out the goal to be top ten in 8th-grade math and 4th-grade reading during a news conference, as he continued to push lawmakers to approve his $187 million education reform plan.

Special Assistant for Education Linda Fandel said those measures were chosen because 4th-grade reading ability indicates whether students are prepared to learn other topics and 8th-grade math skills show readiness for high school math.

Arguing that the state needs "world-class schools," Branstad said Iowa ranked 25th in the nation in 2011 for eighth-grade math and 29th for fourth-grade reading. In 1992, Iowa was 1st and 5th, respectively, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress website.

"Iowa has been slow to put in place significant reforms that many other states have adopted over the last couple of decades," Branstad said. "Results can be seen in national tests."

Branstad said he wants to elevate the scores by giving financial incentives to senior teachers who take on mentoring and leadership roles and by boosting minimum teacher salaries.

"Right now, many of our best students don't even consider going in to teaching," Branstad said.

Lawmakers are reviewing Branstad's proposal in the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-majority Senate. There has been some conflict with Democratic lawmakers who want to first set a general level of funding for next school year, while Branstad wants them to tackle his reform plan first.

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