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Educators come together to lay the foundation of the future

Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2019

It’s an historic meeting with long-term implications for Iowa’s students. Educators from all of Iowa’s Area Education Agencies – 175 of them – are uniting to look at ways to streamline education. “Uniting” is the operative term: Educators representing both special education and general education are working together. That’s truly historic since, well, historically, the two education teams have operated separately.

“Educators, whether they teach general education or special education, all have the same goal: How do we deliver the very best education to all students?” said Barbara Guy, state special education director at the Iowa Department of Education. “So, this meeting provides an opportunity to look at the education system from a different perspective: Rather than separating general education from special education, might the same strategies and resources work for both?”

The meeting is a culmination of many years of work through the Collaborating for Iowa’s Kids initiative, which brought together cross-sections of educators throughout the state to help educators deliver the decade’s myriad initiatives under education reform.

One such strategy is to bridge the divide between special education and general education.

“All students are, first and foremost, general education students,” Guy said. “With that in mind, what are we doing for general education students that could help students in special education? And vice versa? The better we can use our resources, the more successful we’re going to be.”

The meeting is going to look at school systems as a whole, how they use their resources, and how they can realign them to get the most effective use out of limited resources. The current system works for some, but not all.

“We know that a lot of districts are struggling with students in special education as well as some general education students,” Guy said. “We should be planning this together. We need to talk about all needs in all districts.”

Guy said the work is both daunting and exciting.

“Never in my 20 years here have I ever seen directors from AEAs in both general education and special education come together in one place, at the same time, to discuss and plan ways to tackle the literacy needs of all students,” she said. “It will be exciting where this will take us.”