PreK-12 schools

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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.

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.    

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.  

C. J. Sorg/flickr

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.

Russell/IPR

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.

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.

FLICKR / TOBIAS LEEGER

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.

Fighting Chance Solutions

Since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been more than 70 shootings in schools around the country. Just this week, there was another at Reynolds High School in Oregon.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Charity Nebbe

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

Classroom Creatures

Nov 21, 2013
IPR's Pat Blank

A Wartburg College professor hopes to bring biology classrooms back to life. Michael Bechtel says students should be studying living creatures not ones that are dead and floating in formaldehyde. He's been growing a collection of snakes, frogs, tortoises and others for about 19 years. He's sharing them in his college classroom and beyond.

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