Education

Dean Borg/IPR

Fall enrollment at Iowa State University’s is up 1.9 percent over last fall’s record.  With 36,660 students this year, ISU is again the largest of the state’s three public universities. 

The University of Iowa is reporting enrollment of 33,334 this fall, also up from last year’s figure. 

At the University of Northern Iowa, total enrollment for the fall semester at 11,905 -- 95 short of its goal of 12,000 students.  This includes 2,000 freshmen, the largest UNI freshman class since 2008.

Iowa Women's Archives, Shirley Briggs Papers

The University of Iowa is proposing naming a new residence hall in honor of an African American graduate who couldn’t live in the dorms because she is black.

Elizabeth Catlett received a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the UI in 1940.

While attending as a graduate student, Catlett lived off campus.   The UI’s dormitories weren’t open to African American students until Betty Jean Arnett desegregated Currier Hall in 1945.

Catlett went on to be a renowned artist, and now supports a scholarship for African American or Latino students majoring in printmaking.

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. 

Rob Dillard

A 30-member advisory council looking into chronic absenteeism in Iowa schools held its first meeting Tuesday. The problem of students missing class is especially prevalent in the early grades.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days. A report issued in April by the Child and Family Policy Center indicates nine percent of Iowa’s kindergartners fit this pattern. A special assistant for education in the governor’s office, Linda Fandel, says this leaves them far behind when it comes to reading.

ISU Department of Housing

Students at Iowa’s three public universities begin moving into residence halls this week and in some cases, there’s more demand for housing than there are rooms.  Iowa State University says it had to turn away many returning students who wanted on-campus housing to make sure it had enough room for freshmen students, who move in on Tuesday. When the housing application period opened up last spring, a limited number of spots for returning students filled quickly and the remaining students were wait-listed.

Joyce Russell/IPR
Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is urging the administrators who oversee spending for Iowa’s Regents universities to keep a close eye on their budgets, after reports of large salaries at the Regents administrative offices.   

Due to the salary for the board’s executive director and other expenses, over $3.5 million will come from the universities themselves to keep the board office running.   

Branstad says the cost of running the board should stay as reasonable as possible.

Civil rights education tends to focus on the past, but if recent events have taught us anything, it's that the work of the civil rights movement isn't finished.

Some teachers in Iowa are working to change the way that we talk about the civil rights movement, and to change the details we include about what happened. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Three Iowa school districts will test out a new program to provide first responders with better information in the event of a school shooting or other emergency.   

The program is dubbed WISE, for Wi-Fi Internet for School Emergencies.

Under the pilot project, a dedicated wi-fi network will link law enforcement officials with school surveillance cameras in Marshalltown, Norwalk, and Martensdale-Saint Mary's Community Schools.  

Dean Borg/IPR

Regents President Bruce Rastetter says the board wants the universities to develop two-year budgets, hoping the Iowa legislators will reciprocate with more appropriation predictability. “And that’s what we’ve asked the universities to think about in terms of their needs so we can be more forward looking for parents and their students on what tuition may look like over the course of two and three years out rather than just year by year,” he said. Rastetter also said Iowa State President Steven Leath and Iowa’s Bruce Herrald asked that their salaries not be increased, so the Regents postponed

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.

Iowa Public Television

Dan Wardell always wanted to host his own kids TV show, and now his dream is coming true. Iowa Public Television will air its new show, Kids Clubhouse, hosted by Wardell and co-host Abby Brown, for the first time this Friday at 7 a.m. as the start of a ten week series.  

On this episode of Talk of Iowa Charity Nebbe speaks with Wardell and Brown, along with the show’s Senior Producer and Director Deb Herbold about their new show.   It's a rarity indeed that any local or regional station or network is starting a new children's program in this day and age.

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.

AIB College of Business

A Des Moines school that has trained people to enter the business world for 95 years holds its final graduation ceremonies Sunday.

The American Institute of Business began in 1921 in a single room with 30-dollars-worth of used furniture and one borrowed chair. Two college roommates, Ray Hansen and E.O. Fenton, had an idea, says Fenton's son, Keith.

“They started a teacher placement agency," he says. "I don’t know if it was hard to get teachers or if it was hard for teachers to get jobs.”

Board of Regents photo

A member of the Iowa Board of Regents is resigning after just one year on the board.  Mary Andringa says she underestimated the time required to fully serve in the role given her other commitments and responsibilities.  Andringa is the Chair of the Board for the Vermeer Corporation in Pella, and a former CEO of that company.  She also serves on a number of other boards.

Andringa has been on the Board of Regents since last May.  Her resignation is effective Saturday. 

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.

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