A panel of Iowa students capped off months of discussion about key education issues on March 14 with recommendations to make the state’s schools more relevant, engaging and effective.
The Learning Council’s recommendations include improvements to teaching, testing and high school curriculum. The students also called on schools to steer young people toward careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as to expand online courses and opportunities to explore career interests.
“Decisions about education traditionally have failed to include the voices of the most important stakeholders – the students,” said Byron Darnall, an Iowa Department of Education bureau chief who facilitated the Learning Council’s meetings. “These talented young Iowans have brought forward a refreshing perspective and meaningful recommendations.”
Eighteen students from large and small schools across Iowa were named to the advisory group, which convened in 2012 to discuss issues that impact students and schools. The council complements efforts by the Branstad-Reynolds administration to get input from various stakeholders on creating world-class schools for Iowa. The students’ commitment included meetings and virtual conversations. The Iowa Department of Education provided only a supporting role.
The recommendations initially were scheduled for release in December, but meetings were postponed twice because of severe winter weather.
“Meaningful change doesn’t happen overnight, so we know these recommendations can influence both current and future conversations about preparing students for success beyond high school,” Darnall said.
Among the Learning Council’s recommendations:
- Improve the quality of teaching by recruiting and supporting great teachers and school leaders.
- Improve Iowa’s assessment framework by developing and implementing assessments that measure learning in a more meaningful way.
- Adapt curriculum to make it relevant, with an emphasis on the individual needs of students, service learning and competency-based education.
- Support positive and meaningful teacher-student interactions.
- Support and expand STEM education programs, and encourage partnerships between schools, colleges and local businesses for real-world career training.
- Expand online learning options and create more opportunities for career exploration in high school.