Iowa’s Area Education Agencies play daily, “behind-the-scenes” role in your child’s education

Those of us who have been employed by Iowa’s Area Education Agency (AEAs) system are used to the puzzled looks we get from neighbors and friends when we say that we work for the Area Education Agency–or “AEA”– system. Despite our best efforts over the last 40 or so years, too few people still truly understand the vital role that we play in helping all of Iowa’s children achieve–mostly because the majority of the time, that role is “behind-the-scenes” in local school districts.

What is an Area Education Agency (AEA)? Here are just a few of the ways that we are serving your community’s students.

  • Frequently, our staff members are the ones leading the professional learning that your child’s teachers are receiving when there are “no school” or “early dismissal” days. Our staff members receive a great deal of training on best practices in teaching and learning and then work directly with local teachers to help those ideas get implemented into the classroom.
  • Your local school district is involved in the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) program which requires that lead teachers have access to high quality professional learning around improving classroom practices. This training likely comes from your local Area Education Agency whose professional learning consultants designed a specialized plan for the schools it serves.
  • Has your school district launched a new reading initiative? Adopted a new assessment? It’s likely that an AEA staff member may have introduced the initiative and is working quietly in the background helping to support classroom teachers with putting new strategies into regular practice.
  • How about the students with special needs in your school district? Those students are regularly seen by AEA professionals who have master’s degrees in key areas like psychology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and more. These professionals work closely with the classroom teacher to identify student-specific targets for growth and help to ensure that progress is being made so that each child can reach his/her maximum potential. However, if you don’t have a child with special needs, you would probably never even know about this important service that impacts over 8,000 children in our area of the state.
  • Step into many classrooms today and you will likely notice a number of students-used materials like play-away books, iPads, robots, and more. Most of these materials are items that school districts could not afford to purchase on their own so the AEA purchases them and loans them out to every school district so that no child goes without the opportunity to learn from them.

These are just a few of the many services provided by your local AEA. Services are funded through a combination of federal-aid and state-aid payments; legislatively controlled property tax; federal, state and private grants; and tuition for classes. Without ongoing support from these sources, the educational experience each child receives in Iowa would not be nearly the same.

Beth Strike, Director of Creative Services

Beth Strike, Director of Creative Services

Beth Strike, APR, is the director of Creative Services with Area Education Agency 267. She can be reached at (800) 542-8375

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Helen Hanson Elementary School honored for breaking education barriers

Helen Hanson Elementary School in Cedar Falls was one of five Iowa schools honored by the State Board of Education for their work to raise achievement among groups of students who traditionally face challenges in the classroom.

The Breaking Barriers to Teaching and Learning Award was created by the State Board of Education. Each year, the award recognizes successful efforts to eliminate achievement gaps. This year’s award-winners were recognized for having the highest proficiency rates statewide in math and reading among a specific subgroup of students, such as students whose first language is not English and students from low-income backgrounds. State assessment results from the last three years were examined to confirm a positive trend for each school.

Helen Hansen Elementary was recognized for its work with students who have special needs and are on an Individualized Education Programs (IEP). Among Hansen’s students on IEPs, 79 percent are proficient in reading and math, compared to a statewide average of 43 percent.

“We commend these schools for their work to demonstrate that students can succeed regardless of their backgrounds,” said State Board of Education Vice President Michael Knedler. “We have work to do as a state to close achievement gaps and improve for the sake of all students, and Iowa has the right roadmap in place to get us there. It includes a comprehensive teacher leadership system, an early literacy initiative, and a coordinated effort to connect students with high-demand, rewarding careers.”

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ESSA public input meeting to be held January 19 at AEA 267

Iowa Department of Education leaders have scheduled January statewide meetings to share Iowa’s state draft plan for meeting requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The statewide public meetings will then run from Jan. 9-19, with Department leaders presenting information about the plan, fielding questions and taking input.

ESSA, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and will be fully implemented starting in the 2017-18 school year, provides a more reasonable balance between the role of states and the federal government in accountability for the success of all children. State plans must address academic standards, assessments, school and district accountability, and support for struggling schools. The Department has sought input on the development of Iowa’s ESSA draft plan this fall through a state advisory committee, statewide public input meetings, and focus groups.

The public meeting will be held at AEA 267 in Marshalltown on January 19 with participants at the Cedar Falls and Clear Lake sites participating remotely using video conferencing. Meeting details are as follows:

THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 5 – 7 P.M.

 Meeting location:

Area Education Agency 267
Conference Rooms A, B, & C
909 South 12th Street
Marshalltown, Iowa

Satellite sites:

Area Education Agency 267
Conference Center, Rooms B & C
3712 Cedar Heights Drive
Cedar Falls, Iowa

Area Education Agency 267
Conference Room A
9184 265th Street (Mason City Airport Grounds)
Clear Lake, Iowa

For more information on Iowa’s plans to meet the Every Student Succeeds Act, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s websiteIowans also can submit questions and feedback by sending an email to essa@iowa.gov.

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Input sought on draft social studies standards

Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise announced he’s seeking input from Iowans on a draft of proposed statewide social studies standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Wise announced an online survey open through Jan. 9 and public forums in January to seek feedback on the draft standards. 

The draft represents the first statewide effort to update Iowa’s social studies standards, which were adopted in 2008. Iowa’s academic standards are the subject of ongoing review as part of the Governor’s Executive Order 83.

“Standards are about setting consistent, rigorous learning goals statewide and leaving decisions about curriculum and teaching to local school administrators and teachers,” Wise said. “If our goal is to make sure Iowa students are ready for college and career training after high school, we must have clear, consistent statewide standards that are right for our state. That’s why public input is such a critical part of this review process.”

The proposed social studies standards were written earlier this year by a team of Iowa educators and leaders. The draft standards are now subject to review by the Social Studies Standards Review Team, which will take into consideration public feedback. The team’s final recommendations are expected to go to the State Board of Education in the spring.

Iowans can take the online survey or provide feedback at three public forums, either in person at three different sites across the state or remotely from satellite sites using video conferencing. The public forum sites and details are as follows:

MONDAY, JAN. 9, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Meeting location:

Heartland Area Education Agency
6500 Corporate Drive, Johnston
Room 152B

Satellite sites:

Northwest Area Education Agency
1520 Morningside Ave., Sioux City
Room 206

Keystone Area Education Agency
2310 Chaney Road, Dubuque
Room 1A

THURSDAY, JAN. 12, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Meeting location:

Grant Wood Area Education Agency
4401 Sixth St. SW, Cedar Rapids
Autumn, Sone, and Revere Rooms

Satellite sites:

Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency
500 NE Sixth St., Pocahontas
North & South Twin Lakes Room

Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency
729 21st St., Bettendorf
Muscatine and Scott Rooms

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 25, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Meeting location:

Green Hills Area Education Agency
24997 Highway 92, Council Bluffs
Halverson Conference Room

Satellite sites:

Great Prairie Area Education Agency
3601 West Ave., Burlington
Room B

AEA 267
909 S. 12th St., Marshalltown
Room B

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AEA 267 board member honored for excellence

AEA 267 board member Richard Vande Kieft

AEA 267 board member Richard Vande Kieft

AEA 267 board member Richard Vande Kieft was honored with an Award of Achievement at the Iowa Association of School Boards’ (IASB) 71st Annual Convention on Nov. 17th. The IASB Better Boardsmanship Awards Program highlights board members who have put forth extra time and energy to strengthen their boardsmanship abilities.

IASB offers a range of activities that board members can participate in to earn credits for this award. These activities include IASB learning events in person and online, as well as advocating with legislators or sitting on board-appointed committees.

IASB Board President Amy Jurrens commended Mr. Vande Kieft for his hard work. “These board members have shown dedication and commitment to professional growth, to ensure they are prepared to make a difference at the board table and for students,” Jurrens said.

Please join us in congratulating Mr. Vande Kieft on this acclaimed award!

 

 

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