Education

A suburban Des Moines school district says it will resume tomorrow after it canceled classes today due to threatening text messages that were anonymously sent to a number of students and parents.

The texts were received last night from a number with a 818 area code, which is used in Los Angeles County, CA.

Image courtesy of the University of Iowa After Class

A new honors seminar at the University of Iowa entitled "The Green Room" is more than just a class. It's a community-wide educational experiment. In addition to the 80 students participating, The Green Room has expanded its reach to hundreds of community members. 

Dave Gould, an administrator for the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa, is behind The Green Room.

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The first test of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law concluded yesterday, with recertification votes ending for 13 Iowa schools and community colleges.   

When ballots were all counted, bargaining units in all 13 schools were recertified with nearly 1300 teachers and faculty overwhelmingly endorsing their union representation.

The new law set a high bar for teachers to continue to be represented by unions.   In the end more than 1100 yes votes were cast, with only 27 teachers voting no.  

Iowa State University
Wikimedia Commons

Iowa’s public universities are asking the state for a $12 million funding increase next fiscal year. The additional money would be committed to resident undergraduate student financial aid.

The request is intended to help with some of the tuition increases that Iowa’s public universities proposed this summer. State-level cuts to higher education funding triggered those proposals.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Teachers in some Iowa school districts and community colleges will find out this week whether they will continue to be represented by a union.  

It’s part of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law that makes it harder for public sector unions to operate in the state.    

Wartburg College

After 166 years of offering only undergraduate degrees in the liberal arts, Wartburg College is beginning a master’s program in 2018. The first graduate-level degree for the school in Waverly will be in music therapy.

Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers

Students at Grinnell College are looking to expand the reach of the nation’s only independent undergraduate student workers union. They want the labor organization representing dining hall workers to cover all student workers on campus.

The Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers has negotiated contracts for undergraduate dining hall workers since the spring of 2015. In that time, it says wages have increased 12 percent. A spokesman for the union, Carter Howe, says now is the time to represent all student workers on Grinnell’s campus.

Jeff Peterson / Flickr

Iowa Public Radio is airing several American Public Media documentaries in place of River to River, in the brief absence of the show's host, Ben Kieffer.

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alamosbasement/flickr

Iowa has submitted a new school accountability plan to the federal government as part of replacing the No Child Left Behind Act.

Iowa’s proposed plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act—passed in 2015—includes state-specific academic goals and methods of supporting struggling schools.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Grand View University on the east side of Des Moines is launching an effort to better connect with the school’s surrounding neighborhoods. The project is the result of dozens of meetings with community leaders over the past year.

The initiative is being called the Views Forward Project. Grand View will work with four of the Capital City’s oldest neighborhoods – Highland Park, Union Park, Capitol Park and Martin Luther King, Jr., Park. The pastor at Union Park Baptist Church, Wes Foster, says the ultimate goal is east side pride.

Grand View University

A five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education is coming to Grand View University in Des Moines to train English Language Learner instructors. Grand View will be working with six school districts across the state.

Kirkwood Community College

Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids is experiencing a surge in the number of students enrolled in its high school completion programs. The school is putting out a call for volunteer tutors to help manage the load.

The overall number of students served by the programs has increased by 4.6 percent in the past year. This includes higher enrollments of those seeking high school equivalency diplomas and ESL students. The director of the programs, Marcel Kielkucki, says most are trying to improve their standing in a strong economy.

Dean Borg/IPR

The Iowa Board of Regents hopes to persuade Iowa legislators to substantially increase state appropriations to the three state universities, but is developing its own plan for halting what regents contend is underfunding.

Referring to the Legislature, Regent Larry McKibben, a former state senator now heading a regents committee on tuition said, “I’m not going to sit around and worry about what they’re going to do in January. I’m going to lead a project that makes change.”  McKibben says he considers the current regents board a “change agent.”  He said he doesn’t know the outcome.

Iowa State University news service

Iowa State University is using a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to lead an initiative aimed at drawing more students of color into mathematics. Assistant math professor Michael Young will oversee the effort. He says few blacks and Hispanics are attracted to mathematics because they don’t see anyone who looks like them in the field.

“I went through college and graduate school, almost 10 years of schooling, and I never saw a black mathematician,” he says.

Young is looking to change what he sees in his own classroom.

Kim Whitley-Gaynor / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode

The 2017 Iowa Teacher of the Year, Shelley Vroegh, often cites an article written for new teachers that compares teachers to marigolds. She says that if you plant marigolds near vegetables, they are going to make those vegetables thrive. She adds that it's important for teachers to ask themselves what qualities are going to help other teachers thrive.

The article also talks about how walnut trees are poisonous and you don't want to plant near them.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

The state’s largest teachers union is reaching out to teachers and other employees in 14 Iowa school districts and community colleges where critical recertification votes will take place next month.  

The voting is mandated by Iowa’s new collective bargaining law that went into effect this year.        

For all public sector workers including teachers, the new law requires regular votes to stay unionized which used to be automatic.

Daniel Go/Flickr

Students returned to school this week at Des Moines Public Schools, and it’s the first year the district offers all elementary school students breakfast at no charge.

desks
alamosbasement/flickr

Early voting is underway on a $191.5 million bond question for the Iowa City Community School District.

It is considered the largest K-12 bond in state history, and it is supposed to fund the district’s "Facilities Master Plan."

Kate Moreland is a parent who has been advocating for the bond. She says she is excited for all the schools to be made accessible for students with disabilities, and for the installation of air conditioning.

Student Voice

A group of students is gathering in Des Moines to talk about the future of education. They want to be part of the conversation about educational priorities.          

A nonprofit called the Iowa Student Learning Institute is behind the meeting among students, community leaders and legislators. Ian Coon co-founded the institute when he was in high school. Now a sophomore at Wartburg College, Coon says students need to be included when talk turns to education.

Flickr / Max Goldberg

Iowa’s governor says proposed undergraduate tuition increases at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University are too much. 

The schools in Iowa City and Ames are suggesting they raise costs by at least 7 percent annually for the next five years. These increases would mean that by 2022, tuition at UI and ISU would be more than 40 percent higher compared to what students currently pay.

The state Board of Regents asked the schools to look at tuition costs after the state cut funding by more than $30 million due to a statewide budget shortfall. 

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Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The University of Iowa is proposing a 7.08 percent tuition increase in each of the next five years. The school presented its plan Monday to the Board of Regents’ Tuition Task Force.

Drake University

Fifty students of color from the Des Moines public schools are on Drake University’s campus this week preparing for college. It’s an effort to draw more minorities into higher education.

Joyce Russell, IPR

The Iowa Board of Regents is approving the fiscal 2018 budgets for the three state universities. But before doing so, board members heard from the schools’ presidents about how cutbacks in state support are hampering their efforts to stay competitive. At Iowa State, faculty and staff salaries are frozen. At UNI, some adjunct faculty have been let go. Regent President Michael Richards says each school has its own challenges.

“I think we’re open to looking at what each university needs to move forward and keep progressing,” he says.

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Jim Araos / U.S. Air Force

Iowa is rolling out new guidelines for supporting students as they recover from concussions.

Maggie Ferguson is the brain injury and disability program manager at the Iowa Department of Public Health. She says past concussion policies were focused on high school student-athletes and how long they should rest before playing sports again.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa State University and Des Moines Area Community College are joining together to create what they call the Iowa Cyber Hub. Its aim is to increase the number of professionals working in the field of cyber-security.

ISU computer engineering professor Doug Jacobson will lead the effort known as the Iowa Cyber Hub.

“In this globally interconnected world, Iowans are not immune to these cyber-attacks," he says. "Cyber-security can only be solved with people and education. We need to grow local talent and we need to increase the cyber workforce.”

University of Northern Iowa

University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook is relatively new to the job, and he joins River to River host Ben Kieffer to talk about higher education and priorities at UNI.  He says his school will continue to have a high percentage of Iowa residents attending.  Nook says about 85%-90% of UNI’s students are from Iowa, though he's open to admitting more out-of-state students.  

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Schools in rural school districts often don’t have the budget or the teachers to offer students all of the courses they would like to take. One rural district in a Missouri county decided to offer credit for online classes in an effort to give its students the educational opportunities it can’t otherwise afford.

Grand View University

Grand View University in Des Moines is setting aside some grant money to establish an emergency fund for students. Administrators say the cash could be the difference between staying in school and leaving.

The school on the city’s east side is receiving $210,000 from Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation to establish the fund. Grand View provost Carl Moses says the money is meant for students who are faced with unexpected expenses when they are already struggling to make ends meet.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Drake University is officially opening a renovated building to house its occupational therapy doctorate program. It will be a place where students learn and patients are helped to recover.

A former bookstore has been converted into the home of Drake’s year-old doctorate program in occupational therapy. In addition to classrooms, it features a four-room apartment and a streetscape, complete with an automobile. A member of the first class of students in the program, Maddy Nave, says the caregivers of people with ALS recently came to the building for training.

Flickr / jess2284

Iowa ranks fifth nationally in overall child wellbeing in this year’s Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book. But there's still room for improvement.

As a senior associate and fiscal director for the Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center, Mike Crawford works with the Casey Foundation on its annual report. He says that while Iowa compares very well to other states, when Iowa is compared to itself the picture is less optimistic.

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