State Board of Education president named to top national position
Brooke Axiotis, the president of the Iowa State Board of Education, has been named chair of the National Association for State Boards of Education.
Axiotis, a Des Moines resident, joined the State Board in 2014. She works at Drake Law School as the director of academic success programs. She is a member of the Iowa Bar. Her community activities involve the Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa Board, the Urban Ag Academy Board, the Chair of the Public Education Positions Committee for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), and Links, Inc. She earned her law degree from Drake University.
Here are some of her thoughts on work and life.
1. Working on the State Board of Education is a heavy load. What attracts you to the work?
When I first started serving on the State Board of Education in 2014, I was attracted by being able to have a positive impact on statewide education policies. However, after having my first child, I became motivated by wanting to ensure that my children would have equal access to an excellent education in Iowa. Over the past three years, my son has been at the center of every decision I make. I believe this has helped guide me because as board members we are constantly asking ourselves "What is best for the children of Iowa?"
2. What are today's priorities of the board? How have those priorities changed during your tenure?
A few years ago, I worked to secure a grant from NASBE to help further our work in early literacy. Early literacy had been a goal of the State Board since I joined and with the grant we have been able to work with the Iowa Department of Education to create policies that would ensure that K-3 teachers and K-3 pre-service teachers have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the standards for K-3 reading instruction.
Reducing the achievement gap has also been one of the State Board's goals. This is an issue that I was passionate about when I joined, and I have become even more passionate about since learning more about the challenges and opportunities in reducing the achievement gap. Last year, I served on a task force with students from Community of Racial Equity (C.O.R.E.), teachers, administrators, and another State Board member. At the end of the year, the students were invited to present the task force's recommendations at the State Board's annual retreat. One of their recommendations was for the task force to become a permanent committee. During the summer, we created an Equity Committee as a sub-committee of the State Board to address the board goal of closing the achievement gap.
Since becoming president of the State Board, one of my main priorities has been ensuring board members have opportunities for professional development which is important when making decisions that have such a vast impact on education policies in the state of Iowa.
3. What are challenges going forward with education in general, and Iowa specifically?
Reducing the achievement gap has always been a challenge and will continue to be a challenge. One aspect of reducing the achievement gap that the board has focused on are the changing demographics of Iowa students. Although the student population in Iowa is becoming more diverse in many areas, the teachers and administrators are not. Additionally, students of color continue to fall behind compared to Caucasian students and are often not taking as many advanced courses. I believe the implementation of the Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) and the development and implementation of Iowa's Early Literacy Blueprint will help reduce the achievement gap in early literacy, but there are so many other aspects of why students of color fall behind that need to be understood and addressed.
4. You are a busy woman – a mom (with a newborn), a full-time job, president of the State Board of Education and now chair of NASBE. How do you manage?
I manage by taking it one day at a time. I also have an extremely supportive husband, mother, and mother-in-law who are always willing to help whenever needed. It also helps to have a great relationship with Director Ryan Wise and other staff at the Department who always take time to answer any questions and address any issues I or other board members have. Finally, I work with a wonderful vice chair, Michael Bearden, and a thoughtful and engaged board which makes serving on the board as the president a joy. I find working with NASBE to be the same.
I have truly enjoyed serving as a member of the State Board of Education. It has been an amazing and educational experience and I look forward to serving as the chair of the NASBE Board of Directors.