Congressman Loebsack talks education priorities in Ottumwa

Congressman Loebsack talks to parents, teachers and school administrators about education priorities in Iowa.

Education was the buzzword Friday as Congressman Dave Loebsack visited Liberty Elementary.

The congressman met with parents, teachers and administrators as part of his "Our Schools, Our Future" tour across Iowa's second congressional district. Much of the conversation focused around No Child Left Behind. Loebsack stressed that the legislation needs to be re-authorized, but not without reform.

The goal of NCLB is still relevant, but implementation in districts across the country can't be one size fits all. For example, many students in the Ottumwa School District have made significant strides in areas like reading and math. However, if they're still behind NCLB standards, that personal achievement is not recognized.

Many of the teachers at Friday's meeting agreed there needs to be a more appropriate way to measure accountability.

"There has to be other ways, we mentioned, for example, growth models, to make sure that while we're holding folks accountable, and these educators want to be accountable and they want to educate these students, we all wan the same thing, but that we do it in a way that works," Congressman Loebsack said. "And we do it not only in a way that works for the teachers and administrators, schools, but that are right for the community and most really importantly that they're right for the students."

Ottumwa Superintendent Davis Eidahl provided a few statistics that show the improvement students in Ottumwa have made over the past few years. For example, a new literacy program has improved reading rates in kindergarten classes and the district now has a graduation rate that meets the state's rate for the first time in years. Congressman Loebsack told KTVO he was impressed by these statistics and said Ottumwa is doing all the right things when it comes to student achievement.

Nutrition in school lunches was another topic discussed Friday morning. The concept of more nutritious food for Iowa's students is obviously a good one, but teachers have seen examples of kids eating less healthy than they did before these changes, simply because they don't like the food provided or they can't get used to the changes.

Congressman Loebsack said this is a program to be flexible and patient with, to ensure that it is the most effective it can be.