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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | OCTOBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Branstad's plan advances science

In my four-year stint as a chemistry lab instructor at an Iowa university, I met students with varying career aspirations and skill levels. My most skilled students wanted to be doctors, research scientists, and pharmacists — careers that often come with six-figure starting salaries. Few of these students majored in education, a career with a base salary of around $28,000. This outcome is not a coincidence. In fact, I left my own job as a lab instructor not because I didn't like teaching but because, with a salary of $25,000 a year, it was not a financially sustainable career choice. I am now in law school. I can personally attest to the idea that low teacher salaries incentivize "those who can" to "do" instead of teach.

At the same time that strong science students are opting out of teaching careers, Iowa has become one of 20 states that will lead the development of the Next Generation Science Standards — a program focused on developing national science standards to make American students more competitive with their international counterparts in math, science, and engineering.

In order to actually meet these new science standards, Iowa will need strong science teachers. Gov. Terry Branstad's proposed reform of the teachers' pay system addresses this problem head-on. It offer a financial incentive (albeit still small) for students who could have otherwise become doctors to become teachers by raising the base pay of teachers to $40,000 and by creating a tiered system that provides an opportunity for career advancement. If Iowa is serious about increasing student achievement in math and science, reform such as that suggested in Branstad's plan is imperative. The $100 million to $200 million required to implement this plan will be an investment in our state's future that will pay dividends.

Laura Elliott
ISU alum


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