A new school year beckons
At the start of every school year there is optimism about what lies ahead. It is difficult to put into words just how much I am looking forward to this year because of all the opportunities to work together to prepare future ready students.
I am so appreciative of the community of support, respect and determination across our educational landscape. We have collaborated more, forged new partnerships and worked together to find new ways to support the overall wellbeing of our students and sustain academic progress. With supports in place to help all students flourish academically, socially and emotionally, the new year truly brings new opportunities to grow.
Expanding mental health support to schools continues to be top priority and the new Iowa Center for School Mental Health is a big part of those efforts. Dedicating statewide federal relief funding to support the partnership with the University of Iowa’s College of Education will expand training opportunities for educators, provide more resources and services to support mental health needs in schools and assist with the effective delivery of these services to students. As part of this work, we have partnered with the University of Iowa to host the Iowa BEST: Behavioral, Equitable, Social-Emotional, Trauma-Informed Health in Schools summit to be held Nov. 2-3 in Des Moines. I encourage you to register for the summit, which will have strands focusing on social-emotional behavioral health, family and student voice and accelerated learning. In addition, participants can receive one Iowa Licensure Renewal Unit for attending and completing all readings and discussions.
I am also looking forward to connecting with many of you in person this week at the School Administrators of Iowa conference. I invite you to stop by our exhibit booth during the conference as we will be sharing more information about the soon-to-be-launched Iowa e-Learning Central. You can get a sneak peek of the site and learn more about this online exchange for Iowa educators, students and families.
Supported by a $17.7 million federal Rethink K-12 Education Grant, Iowa e-Learning Central houses high-quality courses and units, supports content creation and collaboration, expands statewide access to Iowa Standards-aligned courses and units across all grade levels, and facilitates online course sharing between districts. The big-picture vision is to offer teachers richer content to bring into their classrooms (virtual or in-person), support student learning in any educational setting, and expand opportunities for Iowa students and families regardless of a student’s location in the state or the size of their community.
When students are truly engaged in their learning, the connection between the classroom and their future is clear. That is why expanding work-based learning opportunities is so important. This past spring, Iowa’s Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning challenged educators across the state to connect with an employer by either applying for a project currently available on the Clearinghouse project board, or to create a new project to add. They were asked to document the process and share their reflections to help other educators interested in bringing more hands-on, real-world projects into their classrooms. The first of these videos features Bondurant-Farrar Community School District students, educator Donovan Hill, and business partner, KaleidoHope Learning and Resource Center. We look forward to sharing more videos in the coming weeks.
In order to move forward and continue to improve, we also need to be able to measure where we are and where we need to go. As we start the new school year, we will have crucial data to help us do that. Thanks to the hard work and efforts of Iowa schools, we had high levels of participation in the spring early literacy screenings and the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP), the results of which will be shared with schools this week.
I am so excited for the opportunities this school year will bring. By growing deeper connections, building on our collective strengths and finding innovative approaches, we can support the academic success and social-emotional wellbeing of each and every student. While there will be bumps along the way, I am confident that we have the resources and support in place so that students will experience the levels of achievement, growth and development they need for the next stage of their educational journey and beyond.