PreK-12 schools

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Michelle Droe is the music teacher at Lincoln Elementary in Cedar Falls, Iowa. For a long time her students and colleagues have known that she’s a remarkable teacher, but now she’s receiving national recognition for her work. She’s a semi-finalist for a music educator Grammy award.

One special exercise Droe does involves sixth grade students pretending to be street musicians.  They work with a partner or come up with a performance on their own. 

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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.  

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.    

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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.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Voters head to the polls across Iowa Tuesday to elect local school boards and many candidates are running for office for the first time. 

Last spring, the Ready to Run campaign training program sponsored by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Woman and Politics at Iowa State University attracted 172 people, more than double the next-highest enrollment. Iowa State political science professor Dianne Bystrom says some of them will be on local school board ballots.

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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.

Sandy Dyas Photography

Susan Becker was having a tough time.  Her mother had recently died.  She started feeling like she had made wrong decisions. She wasn't motivated.  She decided there needed to be a change.

She got a job as a lunch lady in Bellevue in northeast Iowa, and she was managing a staff that was many years older than her.  It was challenging, and ultimately it was enjoyable, meaningful, and sparked a renewed outlook on her life.  

"These ladies, what they considered their job...it was service with love."

Bryan McDonald/flickr

The Iowa Department of Public Health is advising families about a new vaccination requirement for students going back to school next month.  

Under a new state law, meningitis vaccine will be required for students entering 7th and 12th grades for the 2017-2018 school year. 

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University of Iowa researchers have found cancer-causing chemicals in some older Iowa schools.

Children may be exposed to airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in schools built between 1950 and the mid-1970s. PCBs were banned in 1979.

Keri Hornbuckle, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, says the researchers expected to find higher levels of airborne PCBs outside of schools.

Bryan McDonald/flickr

Democrats in the Iowa Senate delayed action for six hours yesterday on a bill setting basic state school aid for next year, trying to stop what they say will severely underfund K-12 education.

Republicans in the House and Senate propose just over one-percent increase for schools.  

School officials have said they need at least four percent to avoid larger class sizes or layoffs.

The bill is on the fast track, clearing committees in both chambers yesterday, and now headed for votes in the House and Senate as early as this week.  

Bryan Thompson for Harvest Public Media

School lunch has long been a target of jokes. Those jokes turned to complaints from students and parents alike in 2012 when new congressionally mandated nutrition standards took effect.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A now five-year effort to beef up science and technology education in Iowa schools is paying off, according to a study by Iowa’s three Regents universities. The program is known by the acronym "STEM," which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Backers say boosting STEM fields will help Iowa companies find employees for good-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing, information technology, and other fields. STEM Advisory Council Director Jeff Weld says the results so far are encouraging. 

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.

Joyce Russell/IPR

It will be another year before Iowa schools will be required to offer mandatory summer school for third graders not reading at grade level, under a preliminary education budget unveiled at the capitol today.

Lawmakers of both parties say there’s not enough money to start the program as scheduled in 2017.   

Under the proposed budget, schools will now have until 2018 to offer summer help to struggling third graders and to require children to repeat the grade if they don’t attend.      

Bryan McDonald/flickr

More than a year later than required by state law, negotiators in the Iowa House and Senate have agreed to a two-point-two-five percent increase in basic state aid for K-12 schools next year.  

Democrats say that’s the “best they can do” with a divided legislature.  The compromise is about 80 million dollars less than the 4 percent increase Democrats approved, but Republicans say schools will receive 87 percent of all new state revenue next year.   

Tom Narak with the School Administrators of Iowa calls the compromise obviously inadequate.

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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.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

Democrats in the Iowa House today banded together to try to take down Governor Branstad’s bill to use  some future school infrastructure funds for water quality instead.  

But Republicans prevailed and the bill remains eligible for debate.  

Years ago, county by county, voters agreed to pay an extra penny of sales tax for school infrastructure.  That tax is about to expire.   Governor Branstad wants to extend it and use some of the growth for water quality.    

Riverside Democrat Sally Stutsman says taking the money away from schools reneges on a promise to voters.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Some third graders who can’t read at grade level would get help this summer under a pilot project the Branstad administration announced today.  

The project will help prepare the state for next year, when struggling students will attend summer school, or be required to repeat third grade.    

It’s part of a compromise struck in 2012.     Some GOP lawmakers wanted to keep back all third graders  not reading at grade level.     The compromise instead requires summer school if a student wants to advance to fourth grade.  

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A Senate panel today approved legislation they say is needed to minimize injury for high school athletes who suffer concussions at school-sponsored events.      

The bill would require a professional trainer to evaluate injured players at all varsity competitions in so-called collision sports, including football, soccer, and wrestling.

Backers say the bill would make it harder for coaches to put an injured player back in the game without proper rest or evaluation

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.

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Educators from the Council Bluffs School District joined the governor at his weekly news conference today with an enthusiastic report on the first year of Iowa’s new Teacher Leadership and Compensation Program, known as TLC.  

Eventually schools will get 150 million dollars a year to promote teachers from the classroom into mentoring roles. 

Superintendent Martha Bruckner says the mentors are helping both new and experienced teachers.

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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.

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The state legislature yesterday sent a bill to Gov. Terry Branstad setting August 23 as the earliest date students can go back to class. The bill attempts to balance the interests of Iowa K-12 education and the state's tourism industry. Not everyone is pleased.

Lisa Riggs is president of the Travel Federation of Iowa and general manager of the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn. The windmill was shipped from Denmark to the west-central Iowa town in 1975.

reflexblue / Flickr

Cyd Zeigler said the idea for Outsports.com came from the simple desire to talk about sports with other gay men.

Sprouts and Scholars

Sep 26, 2014
Courtesy photo

  The student organization Sprouts and Scholars at Davenport Central High School has planted an organic vegetable garden and is now harvesting their first crops.  They are enjoying a bumper crop of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and onions. The group secured grants from both Hy-Vee and Lowe's to help offset the cost of the project. As they've discovered, part of the reward of having a garden is being able to share the bounty with others. So they've allowed the cafeteria staff to have the ingredients for salsa and soup and they recently presented Mayor Bill Gluba with a basket of tomatoes.

William R. Goodwin / Wikimedia Commons

Most of us have filled in those tiny rows of bubbles with a No. 2 pencil. But who creates standardized tests? Who tests them? And why do we have to use a No. 2 pencil in the first place?

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

One week from today (Sept. 12), a commemoration begins for the song most-identified with America. It’s the bicentennial of the Star-Spangled Banner and Iowans are getting ready for the nationwide observance. IPR’s Rick Fredericksen has the story, with a technical assist from John Pemble.

The school year has begun once again, and students heading back to Iowa’s largest school district may notice a difference in the way they are graded.

Wikimedia Commons

One in five women are sexually assaulted during college. In the fight to combat that trend, peer-to-peer mentorship can make a difference.

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