By Dr. Roark Horn, AEA 267 Chief Administrator.
Iowa’s Area Education Agency (AEA) system turns 40 this year, and there is much to celebrate! Legislation that originally established AEAs in 1975 required them to provide instructional and supportive special education and educational media services to the state’s school districts. For the most part that vision has held true, but because the way we educate students has greatly evolved over that time, the AEA system has also evolved to help meet district needs. In fact, a good case could be made that teaching and learning has improved over time as a direct result of the partnership and collaboration between Iowa school districts, the AEA system, Iowa’s Department of Education, and the resources provided by Iowa lawmakers.
However, as has been widely publicized, in recent years other states have used the educational model first born in Iowa to meet and even surpass the achievement of Iowa’s students when measured in national testing. When that happens, it causes the educational community to reflect and take action on next steps to help Iowa’s children to remain globally competitive.
Once again, Iowa’s AEAs are helping to lead this effort with the vision set forth in The New Compact, a document written by the AEAs promising a pledge of co-ownership with local districts and the state’s Department of Education for student learning goals. Working with these entities, an overarching goal has been established that by 2018, every child in Iowa who graduates will be fully prepared for success in post-secondary studies, a career, and citizenship; in other words, prepared for life.
How will this be accomplished? All of the groups mentioned above are committed to ensuring that, working together, every child is proficient in reading by the end of third grade, that every child has the math skills needed to succeed, that gaps in learning between students are greatly reduced to the point of being eliminated, and that students score highly on measures that will indicate post-secondary success.
The role of the AEA system in this ambitious, yet achievable goal is to ensure districts have access and support for evidence-based best practices, that Iowa’s academic standards are fully implemented in each classroom, that resources will be focused on those strategies that are proven to make the biggest impact, and that we will work together as a system to provide all of this in the most effective and efficient means possible.
Because all of the key educational entities and Iowa lawmakers are working collaboratively and providing direction, focus, and resources, Iowa’s students are already on the path to accomplishing this goal. As the state’s educational reform efforts continue to take shape and evolve, there is great reason for optimism that this generation and future generations of all of Iowa’s students will have everything they need for success. Iowa’s AEAs are proud to be a key part of this work!