Education

K.a.zenz

Some state lawmakers are saying they’d like to see Iowa’s three state universities consider expanding alcohol sales at sporting events. One of them is State Senator Brian Schoejahn, who chairs the senate’s higher education committee. He says the matter should at least be studied.  But, Iowa State University President Steven Leath says he has zero interest in expanding sales beyond the few private areas where drinking is currently allowed. 

Emily Houston

If you have a high school reunion coming up this summer, are you looking forward to it or dreading it? We know you've thought about it; these questions are the stuff movies are made about, after all! During this hour of Talk of Iowa, we asked for your stories.  

According to Alan Mast, who now lives in Waterloo, it’s worth going. To start this hour, he recounts what he calls “his fairytale.” He reconnected with the woman who is now his wife at a high school reunion.

Carl Wycoff

As outdoor playtime has dwindled for many kids in the United States our understanding of the importance of that time has grown.

"Kids are 71 percent less involved in outdoor activities now than they were ten years ago," says Dr. Stuart Brown, founding director of the National Institute for Play. "To me it's a public health issue. The benefits of play need to be understood both for personal health, brain development, and social competency. We don't somehow see play as being connected to that and yet it is."

FLICKR / TOBIAS LEEGER

A new statewide council wants to find ways to prevent Iowa kids from missing too much school.

The Chronic Absenteeism Advisory Council is made up of 30 members from the Branstad Administration, the legislature, Iowa schools, and non-profits.

Jean Kresse of United Ways of Iowa will sit on the council. She says this is an issue for many children, especially from low-income families.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A class of fifth graders at Saint Anthony Catholic School in Des Moines are reaching a milestone. The students are coming to the end of six years of taking all of their coursework in Spanish. 

The 10- and 11-year olds are native English speakers. They have been completely immersed in a second language since kindergarten. Eleven-year-old Tyler Faris wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he began learning in Spanish at the age of five.

“I felt kind of nervous because it was a whole different language and I barely knew English,” he says.

Jason Staker/HCC

In less than a year, Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo has enrolled more than 550 students in English Language Learning classes.

Family Literacy Coordinator Laura Hidlebaugh says while that number is impressive, what’s more remarkable is that the students come from 38 countries.

“They’re responsible students and parents and community citizens working on becoming U.S. citizens, but from so many different countries," she said. “But within those countries there’s so much diversity in those first languages.” 

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Schools across the U.S. served more than 5 billion meals in the national school lunch program to millions of students last year. Each one of the meals has to meet federal rules for nutrition. Now, those rules are up for debate and Congress could impose changes on the cafeteria.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

  It’s been more than 50 years since Mary Beth Tinker was suspeneded for wearing a black arm band to school in protest of the Vietnam War, leading to the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District.

“It was mighty times,” she says about the case and the controversy surrounding it and the Vietnam war. “And as I tell kids, now we’re living in mighty times again.”

Jared and Corin/flickr

It appears that advocates for rural Iowa schools will again be wrapping up this year’s legislative session without addressing a critical concern.

With more and more school consolidations, students are traveling longer distances to school, resulting in higher transportation costs compared to other districts around the state.    

Sen. Tom Shipley (R-Nodaway) represents students in the Southwest Valley District, what used to be Villisca and Corning schools.

Louis/flickr

Budget writers at the capitol have found a way to squeeze a few million dollars out of the education budget, in order to boost appropriations for the Regents universities. 

Even so, education advocates are calling funding for the schools woefully inadequate. 

Under the budget that now goes to the full House for debate, funding for the three universities will go up by a total of about $6 million, less than a third of their request. 

That amounts to a raise of less than one percent for the University of Iowa and one-point-two percent for Iowa State.

John Pemble

The penny sales tax that funds school infrastructure projects is set to expire in 2029.

On this edition of River to River, Iowa Public Radio Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell hosts a discussion on the history and the future of the penny sales tax. She's joined by the Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, Thomas Ahart, as well as Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D) and Rep. Matt Windschitl (R). 

Jason Parrott/Tri States Public Radio

Oversight committees in the Iowa House and Senate are working on bills to ensure that alleged abuse at a private boarding school in southeast Iowa never happens again.   

Midwest Academy was shut down after a raid by local, state and federal officials.     

At a statehouse hearing, lawmakers grilled representatives of two state agencies about how they might have prevented the alleged abuse.  

Wikimedia Commons

Between typing and texting we are a lot less likely to put pen to paper. What's lost when we don't? 

University of Iowa student Emily Roberts met a 19 year old who lives in Afghanistan online, through a language learning exchange. The two became fast friends. 

"Sultana and I were talking and I was asking her questions so she could practice her English. I asked her what her perfect day was," Roberts says. "She said, 'well, I would wake up in the morning and study physics all day.' I thought that sounded like a terrible day, but that's when I knew I had to try to get her here." 

jubilo haku/flickr

Iowa school districts will not be required to offer at least one high school computer science class under a bill that was scaled back in the Iowa House this week. 

The bill instead creates an advisory committee to make recommendations in time for the 2018-2019 school year. 

The committee will address whether schools should include a unit on coding for seventh and eighth graders.  

They’ll also consider whether students should be able to take a computer class to meet a school’s math requirement, and how many new teachers would be required.    

Thomas Life

Reading education has come a long way since the days of Dick, Jane, and Spot, but many children still struggle to become readers. In fact, according to the Iowa Department of Education, nearly one in four public school third-graders did not meet state standards for reading proficiency in either 2014 or 2015. 

Kentucky Country Day

A national survey from 2011 shows that 60 percent of teachers avoid the topic of evolution in their classrooms.

Lrcg2012 / Wikimedia Commons

Since 2000, blind students in Iowa have had the chance to compete to win the Iowa Braille Challenge, a statewide event that's a part of the National Braille Challenge held each year in Los Angeles. 

The event is supposed to encourage blind students to learn braille. Emily Wharton, who is technology director of the Iowa Department of the Blind, says that despite lots of new technology, learning braille is still vital for success. 

Photo Courtesy of WiSE, Iowa State University

The Women in Science and Engineering program at Iowa State University was founded 30 years ago in an effort to funnel more young women toward careers in the sciences. Despite programs and efforts, there are still not enough girls getting excited about STEM.

Reshma Saujani is founder of Girls Who Code and says that’s not because these programs don’t work or because they aren’t well intentioned.

Photo by John Pemble

State education officials say they’ll spend the next 18 months figuring out what a new federal education law requires.  

President Obama signed the law replacing the controversial No Child Left Behind statute.  

The new law is dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

It gives more power back to the states for accountability, teacher evaluations, and how to push poorly performing schools to improve. 

Speaking to the state board of Education, Department of Education Director Ryan Wise says there’s a lot in the bill to digest.

Iowa Department of Education

The Iowa Board of Education today agreed to ease up on a summer school mandate for students who don’t yet read at grade level.

It’s part of a new state law that will affect thousands of 3rd graders starting after the 2016-2017 school year. 

Some Republican lawmakers sought to hold back all 3rd graders not reading at grade level.  In a compromise with Democrats, the law mandates intensive summer instruction instead.  

Phil Wise with the Iowa Department of Education warns students will be held back if they don’t meet the summertime requirements.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

In a small school district in Southeast Iowa, five young women are taking the future of science education into their own hands.

They’ve designed a proposed building addition that would provide room for students to experiment in science, technology, engineering and math.

Design team member Riley McElderry at Cardinal High School in Eldon says the project began by asking some simple questions.

Flickr / much0

Teachers, parents, and students embraced and some cried moments after the Iowa Board of Education voted unanimously to de-accredit and close the Farragut Community School District. This is only the third time the state education board has dissolved a school district. 

MadMaxMarchHere / Wikimedia Commons

  

President William Ruud has been president of the University of Northern Iowa since 2013. He's overseen projects he's proud of like efforts to curb sexual assault and One Is Too Many and a project to promote mental health. He still says the best part of the job is direct interaction with students.

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Tuesday night during the GOP debate, Marco Rubio was quoted saying that our country doesn’t need more philosophers, we need more welders. Kirkwood Community College Professor Scott Samuelson says that while that’s true, those welders can benefit from studying philosophy.

“Our country was built by farmers reading Cicero,” he laughs.

During this hour on Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Samuelson, author of the book “The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone.

Marie/flickr

Holding kids back if they don’t read at grade level by the end of third grade was on the agenda at the statehouse Tuesday. 

Education officials are writing the rules for a 2012 law that gives parents of struggling students a choice:  send them to summer school, or they won’t be promoted to fourth grade.  

Speaking before the Iowa Administrative Rules Review Committee, Department of Education spokesman Phil Wise recalls the education reform bill the legislature passed in 2012.

Myfuture.com / Flickr

Iowa is facing a shortage of middle-skill workers, including those in the fields of nursing, welding, and manufacturing.

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with people pushing for more technical and career training from the high school level onward, including Waterloo Community School District Superintendent Jane Lindaman and Dave Bunting, a longtime educator at Kirkwood Community College.

Univ. of Colorado

Nervous about how your son or daughter will do at the big university?  Now, what if she found this assignment on her syllabus: "Understand Batman as an historically and culturally specific character," with one lecture called "Batman: The Long Halloween."  Or how about this assignment: "Does Harry Potter have a role in shaping your decision-making?"  Or this essay assignment: "Loyalty and Wit: Friendship and the Formation of Dumbledore's Army."

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A group of students in the Des Moines Public Schools are using art and poetry to address some of the nation’s most divisive social issues, such as racial divisions and immigrant rights. It’s in a course called Urban Leadership.

Sixteen-year old Jalesha Johnson has collected her thoughts on the plight of refugees in the form of a poem.

“This is us living the American dream.". she reads. "This is every migrant who never woke up, I wonder if the ships start sinking because they can’t hold all of that hope .”

Penguin Random House

Banker, lecturer and co-author of the new book "A Path Appears; Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity," Sheryl WuDunn, was invited to Des Moines to share her ideas from the front lines of social progress with participants in the "Borlaug Dialogue" of the World Food Prize.

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