What an exciting time for education in Iowa! The Iowa Education Summit in July has generated passionate conversation about how to ensure that Iowa’s children have access to the highest quality educational experience.
Iowa educators now have a renewed recognition for the role of high quality training for teachers and administrators, appropriate and meaningful ways to measure what students are learning, and the importance of technology in the classroom—precisely the work of Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs)! Unfortunately, too few people still fully understand how AEAs contribute to education in our state.
Here are just a few examples of the role our agency is playing in your local school or child’s classroom; and more importantly, how we are poised to meet the challenges of developing and sustaining the highest quality education system in Iowa.
According to Cathy Davidson, an education expert and professor at Duke University, 65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet. With this in mind, our students will need classrooms that incorporate online collaboration and the latest technology. Did you know that Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267)—one of Iowa’s nine AEAs—provides Internet access to many local school districts? That AEA 267 purchases access to high quality, password-protected research websites for every student and teacher in the state (known as “Iowa AEA Online”)? Or that our agency leads a number of courses and workshops for educators on using collaborative technology tools, like wikis and blogs, in the classroom?
Because the global economy demands a new kind of worker who relies heavily on using his/her mind for productivity, classrooms must change from the traditional ways we think of teachers sharing knowledge to one in which students create knowledge based on their deep understanding of facts, processes and concepts. (Lynn Erickson, author of Stirring the Head, Heart, and Soul: Redefining Curriculum, Instruction, and Concept-Based Learning). This shift in what is required for our students to be successful will not come without highly trained teachers in the classroom. AEA 267 provides a mentoring program for new teachers in their first year on the job and training for many local teachers in initiatives that will help them re-tool to meet the demands of today’s students. Over 7,000 local educators enrolled in the more than 600 professional development courses provided by AEA 267.
For students with special needs, AEA 267 provides speech and language support, hearing and audiology services, occupational therapy, early childhood services and so much more. The agency also provides critical services and support for teachers in helping students in their classroom whose native language is one other than English. These services level the playing field so that all students have an opportunity to achieve.
The list of ways that AEA 267 supports the children, families and educators of Iowa is much longer than the space this column provides. I encourage you to learn more about how Iowa’s AEAs are playing an active role in the success of education in our state and will be critical partners in the important work to come.
Dr. Roark Horn is the Chief Administrator of Area Education Agency 267, based in Cedar Falls. He can be reached at 319-273-8204. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 66,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.