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Gov. Branstad's Closing Remarks at Iowa Education Summit


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Michelle Reimers spoke at one of seven town hall meetings Lt. Governor Reynolds and I held around the state in recent weeks -- in Waterloo, Davenport, Sigourney, Boone, Corning, Carroll and Spencer -- where Iowans shared their ideas for improving our schools.

Reimers, a high school Spanish teacher in Ogden, made a point that really hit home: "If just a fraction of these things happen, it's an exciting time to be in education. If none of them happens, it's a huge disappointment."

She's right.

We will let our children and grandchildren down if we fail to provide them with a globally competitive education.

The goal with EVERY change must be raising achievement for all students so they can thrive in an increasingly international marketplace.

That in turn will strengthen Iowa's workforce, from agribusiness and advanced manufacturing to biosciences, clean energy and financial services.

Iowans' commitment to giving children the best possible education is a great tradition.

It stretches back to one-room schoolhouses that once dotted the state.

Now we must provide the right education for the 21st century -- one that secures a prosperous future for our children, even though many jobs they will apply for are yet to be created.

Let's rise to that challenge.

Iowa's slide in the rankings on national tests indicates we need to do better.

We can't afford to be complacent, or intimidated by the work ahead.

Clinging to the current model -- in many ways the same school system that existed in the early 20th century -- will assure many children lose out.

Some other states and many nations around the world know that, and they are transforming their education systems.

They also know it takes time to get results, and they understand they need to continue to improve.

Building on Iowa's strong education foundation will require becoming more selective about who can become a teacher and a principal, and helping teachers be more effective.

This will mean raising academic standards and having good test data and other tools to help students meet these standards.

This will mean being more innovative -- worrying less about seat time and more about how to provide a more personalized education.

This boils down to having high expectations for all children, not just some children.

This CANNOT be just the work of schools. While education must become more challenging, relevant and engaging, schools need far greater support from their communities.

Parents must make sure children realize it is THEIR responsibility to make the most of school.

Business leaders should offer more internships and share more of their knowledge about what's needed to succeed in the real world to help schools design a dynamic curriculum.

Civic organizations and individual Iowans should do more to mentor and tutor youngsters who could use a hand.

At the town hall education meetings, Iowans offered many suggestions for how to improve our schools.

You recommended lengthening the school day or year.

You said college is not right for everyone -- that some students are better served by career training, and that making that choice should not be treated as second rate.

You said, over and over, that teachers need more time to do their jobs well.

At the Iowa Education Summit, we've heard many promising ideas as well.

Experts from around the state, nation and globe came here to discuss how IOWA can create world-class schools.

It has been a great privilege to host this event attended by so many people who care so much about education.

Now the hard work begins. Many Iowans agree change is needed. The big question is what will it look like? What is the right vision for Iowa?

Moving forward, Lt. Governor Reynolds and I will consider the ideas we have heard so far, and we will continue to listen to your suggestions.

We will work to produce draft recommendations for reform this fall.

We will seek Iowans' feedback on that draft before issuing final recommendations for the 2012 Iowa General Assembly to consider.

It will be crucial to reach the broadest possible consensus.

It will also be crucial that the consensus is not watered down by a desire to preserve the status quo.

Let's reach a bold consensus that gives all children in Iowa a world-class education, no matter where they live.

Thank you all for taking part in the summit, and for your help in the months ahead.

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