A little Wiser: Director returns to blogging
When my oldest son was born in 2005, before the full bloom of social media, I created a blog (“A Little Wiser”) so that my wife and I could share pictures with friends and family. As Facebook rose in popularity, our blog posts waned in frequency. All we wanted to do was quickly share slices of our life with the occasional witty quip, and we found an easier way to do it.
Today, though, I’m returning to the world of blogging, albeit in a professional capacity. This new blog will allow me to share my monthly School Leader Update columns, pictures of school visits, and my Twitter feed all in one conveniently located place. It will also provide another opportunity for me to engage directly with Iowans who are passionate about improving education in our state. I hope you’ll give it a look!
As I was preparing to launch the blog, I looked back at the articles I’ve written over the last three years as director. While I have covered a range of themes, my posts have consistently focused on a few key priorities: creating the nation’s most robust system of teacher leadership; supporting schools’ early literacy efforts; developing and implementing rigorous academic standards; crafting a system of accountability, support and continuous improvement through Differentiated Accountability and the Every Student Succeeds Act; and ensuring Iowa’s students are Future Ready by having access to high-quality career and technical education and work-based learning experiences.
I have also used my column to share insight into the Department’s mission (“Creating excellence in education through leadership and service”) and vision (“Iowa learners experience high levels of success and develop the capacity to continually grow as successful, healthy, and productive citizens in a global community”). While my writing tends to focus often on kindergarten through 12th grade, I was reminded several times in the past month of the critical importance of supporting both our youngest (birth to five) and oldest learners (adults).
On the early end of the learning continuum, I was pleased to participate in the July release of the new third edition of the Iowa Early Learning Standards. I appreciate the standards’ holistic approach to understanding how children develop and learn and to defining age-appropriate expectations for creating education experiences for young learners. I also applaud the collaborative approach of Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) in building upon previous editions of the standards. ECI and the ECI State Board, of which I’m a member, promote a vision for a comprehensive early care, education, health, and human services system in Iowa. ECI will be celebrating its 20th anniversary by hosting the Early Childhood System Summit on Oct. 3 at the Sheraton Hotel in West Des Moines. It promises to be a great day of learning and inspiration.
I also had the pleasure last month of speaking at a national Campaign for Grade Level Reading conference in Philadelphia about the importance of early childhood education as it relates to Iowa’s Early Literacy Initiative and our implementation of ESSA. Spending time with early learning advocates from across Iowa and the country reinforced how critical support of our youngest learners is in creating a world-class education and workforce system.
At the other end of the learning continuum, I attended two outstanding events in July, the Educate & Elevate Iowa Adult Education & Literacy Conference and the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees (IACCT) Annual Conference on the campus of North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in Mason City. I was incredibly inspired by the keynote speakers, Juan Garcia from ACT at the Adult Education Conference and Jim Keane, a NIACC Alumnus, at the IACCT event. Jim and Juan spoke passionately about overcoming obstacles and achieving remarkable personal and professional accomplishments. They also described the critical role Iowa’s outstanding community colleges played in their success.
And speaking of success for adult learners, the Department recently announced that Iowa achieved the nation’s highest passing rate among the 27 states and U.S. territories that use HiSET, a high school equivalency exam! Last year, 95.9 percent of Iowans seeking a high school equivalency diploma passed the exam compared to 76.5 percent nationally. These results show Iowans’ commitment to educational attainment and demonstrate the quality of the 15 adult education and literacy programs that support our returning learners.
As we pursue the Future Ready Iowa goal of 70 percent of Iowans in the work force attaining education or training beyond by high school by 2025, I am committed to ensuring all learners, regardless of age and background, are included in this effort. I hope you’ll join me in this commitment.
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