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According to the National Summer Learning Association, most elementary students lose about two months worth of math and reading skills over the summer break, a problem that is well documented yet plagues parents and educators alike. Brandi Miller is a teacher at Garden Elementary, a school that’s a part of the Des Moines Public School system on the East Side of Des Moines. As a literacy coach, she says she sees first-hand the skills students lose over the summer when they return to school each fall. “We do assessment tests, and we almost always see loss.

Bill Erickson

Social studies doesn't fall under the three Rs in education, and it shows. From school district to school district, the way that history, government, and world culture courses are taught varies dramatically.

Today on Talk of Iowa, we focus on civics education in our state, and talk with some extraordinary teachers.

Rebecca Hale

Shirlin Kingston, a 5th grader from Ames, will represent Iowa at the 26th annual National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C. She leaves Sunday for the East coast and  says the fact that she is homeschooled and gets to spend more time on what interests her has helped her succeed in the competition so far.

If she wins the national bee, she’ll win a trip to the Galapagos Islands, which is exactly the place she’s says she's always wanted to go. “It’s right next to the equator, but they have penguins there” she tells host Ben Kieffer during this River to River interview. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

Each year, the statewide nonprofit organization Iowa Rivers Revival honors a community for its commitment to the river that runs through it. This year the group named Decorah as its River Town of the Year. 

On a cool spring day, fish splash at the trout hatchery in Decorah as a few hearty men in waders angle nearby. Alongside the Upper Iowa River is a multi-use, four season trail. The recreation options are among the reasons Iowa Rivers Revival selected Decorah and the Oneota Valley for this year's award. 

Courtesy of Brian and Lesley Triplett

Our area is home to a host of unique and innovative entrepreneurs.

Bart Cayusa

Homework can be a source of frustration, tears, and sleepless nights. Most kids hate it and parents curse it. Today on Talk of Iowa, how homework has changed since you were a kid and what it has to offer today.

Host Charity Nebbe talks with Joye Walker, K-12 Math Curriculum Coordinator for Iowa City Schools, Haley Moehlis, an English Teacher at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, and Deb Linebarger, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Iowa.

Shawn Cornally / Iowa BIG

Most high school classwork goes unseen after it’s graded, but a group of teachers in Cedar Rapids is trying to change that. Today on River to River - host Ben Kieffer takes a look at Iowa BIG. This group is a project-based school that gets students out of the classroom, working on projects with a lasting impact on the community... projects including investigations on so-called cancer-causing products, gender bias, robotic prosthetics, and wastewater treatment.

Steve Harris

Thanks to new legislation, a definition of dyslexia will now be included in the Iowa Code.  The neurological condition, which often runs in families, causes individuals difficultly with learning to read, write and spell.

The law is the result of strong advocacy from a number of groups, including the parent-lead, grassroots organization Decoding Dyslexia. DD aims to bring attention to educational intervention for dyslexic students.

Ben Stanton/Iowa Public Radio

The brain on this helmet is designed with the idea of protecting your brain from a concussion. Built into it is what amounts to a small computer.  It was designed and programmed by an Iowa student.  

Different LEDs light up depending on how hard the helmet is getting jostled. This project is one of many that students might get involved in through The Big Ideas Group, which is an optional education program through the Cedar Rapids School District.

Clay Masters / IPR

At Meredith Middle School on Des Moines’ northwest side there are more than 30 ways students say hello. The number of languages can change week to week. This school year the Des Moines school district will receive more than 6 million dollars from federal and state funds for ELL services, and will also spend more than a million dollars of its own money. Next year the district plans to have more than 6,000 ELL students.

Alexander Clark House

Knowledge is power and throughout history groups with power have denied it to others by limiting their access to education.  Even in Iowa, always a free state, the barriers to education for African-Americans were high.

Host Charity Nebbe speaks with Richard Breaux of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Kesho Scott of Grinnell College about the history of African-American students at Iowa's universities and colleges.

USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

The poverty rate of black Iowans is more than three times that of whites. For Hispanics, it is more than twice the poverty rate of whites.

John Pemble / IPR

The state cost per student in Iowa’s K-12 public schools is over six thousand dollars per year - increasing steadily over the past couple decades.

The Iowa legislature is supposed to set the amount of state aid for K-12 school budgets more than a year in advance. Schools say they need the budget in advance so they can plan teacher salaries, but republican law makers are hesitant to plan the budget too far ahead.

Thomas Favre-Bulle

In the first half of this program, host Ben Kieffer talks with two members of the new Iowa Department of Education commission charged with strengthening the core curriculum.  Guests are D.T. Magee, the Executive Director of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, and Tom Downs, Executive Director of the Iowa Association of School Boards.

In the second half, hear about new attention given to sexual assault, doubling of propane prices, and what is behind the latest cold weather.

Angie Harms

Listen back to Talk of Iowa's conversation on middle childhood. Middle childhood is the time between toddler-hood and the teen years. It’s a point in development when kids transition into a concrete way of thinking that's more categorical and less emotionally volatile.  Host Charity Nebbe talks with an anthropologist, pediatrician and counselor about what's going on inside those growing bodies and minds.

Charity Nebbe

Host Charity Nebbe celebrates acts of kindness by interviewing the people whose lives have been positively affected by others.

Second-Chance Diploma: Examining the GED

Nov 29, 2013
Aaron Escobar

Today's workers need more education and skills than ever before. But 39 million adults in the United States don't have even the most basic credential: a high school diploma. Many hope their ticket to a better job is passing a test called the GED. But critics say the test is too easy and hardly the equivalent of a high school education. This program documents how the GED – originally designed to help World War II veterans go to college – became the fallback option for millions of high school dropouts.

Raising Girls

Oct 10, 2013
Joe Lencioni

From Cinderella to Miley Cyrus our girls grow up in an environment rich in images of femininity.  Host Charity Nebbe gets insight into the challenges and dangers girls face as they grow and how the media influences their development.

One day in 1968, the day after the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, Jane Elliott, a teacher in the small town of Riceville, divided her third-grade class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups…and gave them a lesson in discrimination. 

Iowa Department of Education

As the Iowa Department of Education releases its annual State Report Card, officials say they should be graded differently.

Sarah McCammon / IPR

 It's back to school season in Iowa. IPR's Clay Masters talks education economics with Sarah McCammon while she finishes up her assignment for Marketplace this summer covering business and economics news. They discuss the increasing costs for teachers and parents to pay for public school and a report by the US Department of Education found colleges giving bigger grants to wealthier kids. 

Jeremy Wilburn / flickr

How sexually active is your teen? It turns out that 34% of Iowa high school students are currently sexually active. So what do you know about the sex-ed being taught at your kids’ school?

In the first part of our program, host Ben Kieffer learns about a nationally recognized sex education program that many Iowa schools use, which focuses on the financial impact of having a child. Then we broaden the discussion to find out what’s being taught in Iowa’s public schools and Catholic schools. What’s appropriate? What’s effective at preventing teen pregnancy?

Shawn Cornally / Iowa BIG

A small group of teachers in Cedar Rapids is trying a new way to inspire students to learn, by getting them out of the classroom and working on projects with community mentors. As Iowa Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren reports, the Big Ideas Group is wrapping up a summer pilot program, and will become an option for students across the district this Fall.

To get an idea of how this works, take 12th grader McKenna Cole, who—at a weekly meeting, explains to her fellow students why she’s working with a wastewater treatment plant to test how poplar trees can filter water.

Patrick Domingo / Getty Images

This week IPR's Clay Masters checks in with Sarah McCammon, who's on assignment with Marketplace, about issues regarding paying for college.

IPR would like to know what business issues are important to you, join our IPR Insight Network and lend your expertise and experience to our reporting.  

Credit MaST Charter Community School / mastcharter / Flickr

Children are very observant… they notice differences in skin colors, hair, clothes, ways of talking...  Host Charity Nebbe discusses how children learn about race and how parents can teach their children about race and ethnicity with Erin Winkler, associate professor of Africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Madeleine Rogin, a kindergarten teacher and

Today on River To River, host Ben Kieffer sits down with Iowans to discuss the news items of the week. He talks with teacher and administrator at Grundy Center Community Schools, Ann Lebo, about the education reform signed by Governor Branstad.

Iowa American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director, Ben Stone, joins the conversation to talk about the NSA phone record collection, the drone ban by Iowa City Council Members, and a recent ACLU report on racial disparity in marijuana arrests.

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa lawmakers are returning to Des Moines for a third week of overtime. The session was scheduled to wrap up May 3, but legislators continue to negotiate education reform, property taxes, Medicaid expansion, and other key issues.

Photo by John Pemble
Photo by John Pemble

As Iowa lawmakers go into overtime, IPR's Sarah McCammon and Joyce Russell discuss what's left to hash out at the statehouse.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell joins Sarah McCammon for an update on legislative news.