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Great Public Schools Criteria for Iowa

Great Public Schools Criteria refers to the seven elements needed for closing the achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students. The seven elements are: (1) readiness to learn, (2) high expectations, (3) quality conditions, (4) qualified staff, (5) accountability, (6) parental involvement, and (7) funding.

Read more below about the Great Public Schools Criteria in Iowa.

Readiness to Learn

Iowa has what the state calls Early ACCESS program. It is a partnership between families with young children (birth to age three) and providers from Iowa's Departments of Education, Public Health, Human Services, and the Child Health Specialty Clinics. The program's aim is to bring families and staff of these state departments so that they can work together in identifying, coordinating, and providing needed services and resources that will help the family assist their infant or toddle to grow and develop.

Families and providers work together to identify and address specific family concerns and priorities as they relate to the child’s overall growth and development. Broader family needs and concerns are also addressed by locating appropriate supportive/resources or services in the local community. All services to the child are provided in the child’s natural environment including the home and other community settings where the children of the same age without disabilities participate.

To receive services through the Early ACCESS program, an infant or toddler under the age of three must have a condition or disability that is known to have a high probability of later delays if early intervention services were not provided OR is already experiencing a 25 percent delay in one or more areas of growth or development.

There are no costs to families for service coordination activities.

Iowa Department of Education

Full-day Kindergarten. State Policy: A definition of the minimum number of hours for full-day kindergarten is not specified in Iowa state statutes. Districts are not required to offer full-day kindergarten and children are not required to attend. Iowa provides more funding for full-day kindergarten than for half–day kindergarten.
(Education Commission of the States [ECS] Kindergarten Database, 2007)

Quality Conditions

Class Size
. Legal Basis: IOWA CODE ANN. § 256D.1. Enacted 1999.

The statute provides monies for an early intervention block grant program aimed at providing resources to reduce class size.

Current Average Elementary School Class Size: 20.1


School funding systems must provide adequate, equitable and sustainable funding. Making taxes fair and eliminating inefficient and ineffective business subsidies are essential prerequisites to achieving adequacy, equity, and stability in school funding. ESEA programs should be fully funded at their authorized levels.
Iowa's school funding tax structure is hurt by tax giveaways to corporations. (PDF, 62 pp) (NEA, 2003)

Recruitment and Retention

Iowa has state policies that support differentiated compensation, hard-to-staff schools, differentiated pay for rural schools, minority teachers, induction, maximum class size, and classroom discipline. In addition, there are policies supporting teacher retention, rights of tenure, teacher recognition programs, and sabbatical programs

State-Level Differentiated Teacher Compensation Program: The Institute for Tomorrow's Workforce (ITW) is directed to propose a design for a pay-for-performance program and conduct a study of the design as set forth in Section 27 of House File 2792, 2006 session. The study shall measure the cost and effectiveness in raising student achievement of a compensation system that provides financial incentives based on student performance.
Executive Order 48 —June 2006—Not available online

Differentiated Pay for Hard-to-Staff Schools:  To ensure that school districts in all areas of the state have the ability to attract highly qualified teachers, it is the intent of the general assembly to encourage school districts to establish teacher compensation opportunities that recognize the need for geographic or other locally determined wage differentials and provide incentives for traditionally hard-to-staff schools and subject-area shortages. State assistance is provided to allow school districts to add a market factor to teacher salaries paid by the school districts.
ICA §284.11—HF 2792 Enrolled 2006 session

For Minority Teachers: A school district shall be paid annually, from moneys allocated for market factor salaries, an amount to create market factor incentives for classroom teachers in the school district. Market factor incentives may include but are not limited to, improving salaries due to geographic differences, recruitment and retention needs of the school district in such areas as hard-to-staff schools, subject-area shortages or improving the racial or ethnic diversity on local teaching staffs. The school district shall have the sole discretion to award funds received by the school district to classroom teachers on an annual basis. The funds shall supplement, but not supplant, wages and salaries paid as a result of a collective bargaining agreement or as a result of funds appropriated elsewhere.
ICA §284.11-HF 2792 Enrolled 2006 session

Induction Policies: The beginning teacher mentoring and induction plan shall at a minimum, provide for a two-year sequence of induction program content and activities to support the Iowa teaching standards and beginning teacher professional and personal needs; mentor training that includes, at a minimum, skills of classroom demonstration and coaching and district expectations for beginning teacher competence on Iowa teaching standards; placement of mentor and beginning teachers; the process for dissolving mentor and beginning teacher partnerships; district organizational support for release time for mentors and beginning teachers; structure for mentor selection and assignment to beginning teachers; a district facilitator; and program evaluation.
ICA §284.5—as amended by HF 2792 (2006 session)
IAC 281-83.3 (284)

Maximum Class Size Policies: The Iowa early intervention block grant program was established within the department of education. The program's goals for kindergarten through grade three are to provide the resources needed to reduce class sizes in basic skills instruction to the state goal of 17 students for every one teacher; provide direction and resources for early intervention efforts by school districts to achieve a higher level of student success in the basic skills, especially reading skills and increase communication and accountability regarding student performance.
IAC §256D.1

Classroom Discipline Policies: A school employee who, in the reasonable course of the employee's employment responsibilities, comes into physical contact with a student shall be granted immunity from any civil or criminal liability which might otherwise be incurred or imposed as a result of such physical contact, if the physical contact is reasonable under the circumstances and involves the following: encouraging, supporting or disciplining the student; protecting the employee, the student or other students; obtaining possession of a weapon or other dangerous object within a student's control; protecting employee, student or school property; quelling a disturbance or preventing an act threatening physical harm to any person; removing a disruptive student from class or any area of the school premises, or from school-sponsored activities off school premises; preventing a student from the self-infliction of harm; self-defense; and any other legitimate educational activity.
ICA §280.21

Statewide Retention Related Policies: Each school or district shall support the development and implementation of the individual teacher career development plan for teachers other than beginning teachers. The purpose of the individual plan is to promote individual and collective professional development. At a minimum, the goals for an individual teacher career development plan must be based on the relevant Iowa teaching standards that support the student achievement goals of the attendance center and school district as outlined in the comprehensive school improvement plan, and the needs of the teacher. The learning opportunities provided to meet the goals of the individual teacher plan include individual study and collaborative study of district-determined content to the extent possible. The individual plan shall be developed by the teacher in collaboration with the teacher's evaluator. An annual meeting shall be held between the teacher's evaluator and the teacher to review the goals and refine the plan.
IAC 281-83.6 (284)

Rights of Tenure: A teacher may be discharged at any time during the contract year for just cause. The superintendent or the superintendent's designee, shall notify the teacher immediately that the superintendent will recommend in writing to the board at a regular or special meeting of the board held not more than 15 days after notification has been given to the teacher that the teacher's continuing contract be terminated effective immediately following a decision of the board.
ICA §279.27 and §279.15

Teacher Recognition Programs or Policies: The Iowa Department of Education recognizes the Teacher of the Year as someone who motivates, challenges and inspires excellence. Someone respected by students and peers who makes learning truly exciting. A dedicated professional who helps nurture hidden talents and abilities, is a creative, caring individual who takes teaching beyond textbooks and blackboards and is an exceptional teacher who, child by child, is helping to redefine American education.
DOE Teacher of the Year

Pension Portability Policies: An employee may actively participate in the Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System (IPERS) and another retirement system supported by public funds if the person does not receive credit under both IPERS and such other retirement system for any position held.
IAC 495-5.3 (97B)

Sabbatical Policies:  A teacher with at least seven years of teaching experience may submit an application for a sabbatical to the department of education not later than November 1 of the preceding school year. A teacher's application shall include a plan for the use of the period of the sabbatical, including, but not limited to, additional education, use of a fellowship, conducting of research, writing relating to a particular subject area or other activities relating to an enhancement of teaching skills. The teacher's plan must be accompanied by the written approval of the superintendent of the school district and a statement by the superintendent describing the benefits of the sabbatical to the school district.
ICA §256.21