The Department works in collaboration with the state system of public libraries and assists with the educational services provided by Iowa Public Television and Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services.
The Department of Education employs approximately 210 people in three major divisions: Community Colleges; PK-12 Education; and School Support & Information. Although the state libraries, vocational rehabilitation, and public television remain affiliated with the Department of Education, their operations have expanded and developed into independent entities with independent boards.
The Division of Community Colleges includes the bureau of Adult, Career, and Community College Education and is responsible for granting and monitoring the accreditation of the state's 15 community colleges. Division staff work directly with the community colleges to assure programs and structure meet state requirements for quality and equity.
The state's community colleges have an "open-door" admission policy that guarantees Iowans an opportunity for education and career development regardless of previous educational attainment. Each community college offers a comprehensive educational program in three major areas of instruction: College parallel coursework, preparatory career programs of vocational and technical education, and adult education. Community colleges are governed by locally elected boards of directors that consist of from five to nine members who are elected for terms of three years.
The Division of PK-12 Educationis comprised of the bureaus of Accreditation & Improvement Services; Teaching & Learning Services; Student & Family Support Services; and Early Childhood Services. The Division has the primary responsibility to monitor accreditation to elementary and secondary schools, provide guidance and oversight to the implementation of federal and state laws, and recommend approval of teacher and administrator preparation programs and Area Education Agency agencies to the Director.
The staff works directly with the state's 351 local districts and 9 AEAs to assure their curriculum, teachers, administrators, facilities, policies, and school-related programs meet all requirements defined by the state as necessary for a quality education. The staff also provides research, technical assistance, and guidance when districts need support in meeting their student achievement goals. Each local school district and AEA is governed by its own local board that sets specific policy, defines academic requirements and approves the local budget.
The Division of School Support & Information is comprised of the bureaus of Information Technology Services; Planning, Research, Development & Evaluation Services; and Nutrition, Health & Transportation Services. Finance, Facilities & Operation Services provided to the Department include accounting, budgeting, grant management, audit, human resources, mail services, and payroll. Information Technology Services include desktop and mainframe support, computer server and network administration and support, system programming and development, email administration, web development, computer hardware and software evaluation, and data entry. The Bureau of Planning, Research, Development & Evaluation Services serves both the department and schools with a wide range of data collection and reporting systems and support, and has implemented a comprehensive system of online data called Project EASIER (Electronic Access for Iowa Education Records). The bureau also provides assistance and counsel to districts regarding local technology needs.
Although the Department's scope of responsibility spans from prekindergarten through community colleges, one of its most important leadership roles is to set priorities for the state's educational system. Current priorities include:
- improving access to and quality of preschool programs;
- providing professional development and technical assistance for the improvement of teaching;
- implementation of new state and federal laws;
- improving the rigor and relevance of high school courses in an environment with caring relationships; and
- improving the transitions between grade levels to gain a more seamless, high quality education system.