Education

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.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

An unassuming laboratory in a basement corner room of the Black Engineering Building at Iowa State has a lofty goal: to make humans better at what they do. Researchers at the ATHENA Lab are working to improve human performance.

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.

Terry Ballard / Flickr

Gleaning the wisdom of those who have come before us is a practice as old as time, but in quoting the geniuses of the past, we often misattribute their wisdom. Pat O'Connor, author of Woe is I, says that a few people in particular get a disproportionate number of quips attributed to them.

"People who are known to be wits, and if they're famous, often an anonymous quote will be pinned on them," says O'Connor. "For example, Twain is often credited with saying, 'Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.' Well no, he didn't say that."

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.      

Alan Levine/flickr

A bill to allow vouchers for some Iowa private school students advanced at the capitol this week.  

The bill faces an uncertain future, but it created a firestorm of protest from advocates for the state’s public schools.  

Private schools are pushing hard for something they call Education Savings Accounts.   The bill would give some low-income families close to six thousand dollars in state funds per child to help defray tuition.   

Jo Naylor

Governor Branstad had harsh words today for Iowa’s public schools who want a penny sales tax extended to benefit school infrastructure projects.

The one-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2029.   Schools use the money to back up bonding for everything from building repairs to technology upgrades.  

The governor wants to extend the tax, but he wants some of the revenue diverted to water quality.

At his weekly news conference, Branstad lashed out against schools for opposing his plan.  

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.    

Des Moines Public Schools

The University of Iowa is announcing a plan that credits Iowa high school students for such things as good grades and community service with eventual scholarship money.

The UI is partnering with 99 Iowa school districts in a pilot program that accumulates up to 12-hundred dollars in what’s called a “micro-scholarship”.                                                      

The UI’s vice president for Student Services, Tom Rocklin, says such things as a “B”-grade in math courses earns $25, $75 for a year’s perfect attendance, and $100 for four-years of a foreign language.

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. 

A member of Iowa’s Board of Regents says Johnson County’s raising of the minimum wage is “out of step with the rest of Iowa”.

Johnson County is incrementally raising the wages to at least $10.10 an hour by 2017, action taken by the County Board of Supervisors.

At today’s Regents meeting in Ames, Regent Larry McKibben of Marshalltown said he’ll oppose extending that to the University of Iowa campus.

“I’m working hard to reduce debt of families and children, and we can’t be an outlier vis-a-vis the other two universities, and I want an answer to that,” he said.

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.  

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.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A growing number of schools across the country are providing more services to make life easier for students who have fallen behind in their coursework. Things like food banks and day-care centers. An alternative high school in Des Moines has become the first in the state to install an on-site dental clinic.

Dental assistant Jenny Hen has just ordered high school junior Dustin Elliott to open wide as she begins a thorough cleaning of his teeth.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Some students at Mount Vernon High School have spent a couple of weeks this month stepping out of their comfort zones. They’ve traveled to nearby Cedar Rapids to meet people they would otherwise not encounter in the hallways of their almost entirely white school.

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 Digital Library / Flickr

From one room country schools to high tech multi-million dollar facilities, schools in Iowa have changed a lot. What goes on inside the schools has changed a lot too.

“Every decade or two we see these large transformations in what the school is asked to do."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe kicks off "Iowa Week: Then and Now" with a look at education in Iowa over the years.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The president of Iowa’s Board of Regents is predicting policy changes that will further limit the manner in which contracts are awarded by the three state universities. Bruce Rastetter's comments come after Iowa State University and the University of Iowa both awarded contracts to individuals with Republican ties without taking bids on the work. 

Rastetter says that the individuals getting the state work are capable and qualified, but without taking bids on the work, "the optics are not pretty." 

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.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The American Association of University Professors says its investigation of Iowa Board of Regents’ process in hiring University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld disserved the people of Iowa.

The AAUP, also a labor union, concludes the Board of Regents designed the presidential search process to prevent any meaningful faculty role in the process, acting in bad faith to other candidates. The report calls it an illusion of an honest search, manipulating to a pre-ordained result.

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.

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.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A small group of students at the University of Dubuque is holding some difficult conversations about race. A new initiative there is designed to get young people thinking about racial differences in order to bring the campus closer together. 

At the start of a three-hour session on a Sunday afternoon, Roger Bonair-Agard reminds the dozen or so students what he expects from them as they begin a series of writing exercises.

Len Matthews / Flickr

In high school, Nick Seymour never saw himself doing stand-up, but once when he got the opportunity to take a class in comedy at Iowa State, he figured it'd be a fun way to spend a semester.

"At the beginning, I didn’t know there’d be a performance associated with it. The teacher shocked us all the first day with that information. Everyone freaked out for awhile."

Photo by John Pemble

The new University of Iowa president, Bruce Harreld, says his biggest challenge in his new job is building trust across the entire UI community. Harreld’s first day was last week. The former IBM Executive faced scrutiny before he was selected for the job for how the search was conducted. Harreld says right now his job is to listen.

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.

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