Taking time to celebrate successes, look ahead
Think about how many times in the last week you’ve had the following exchange:
Q: “How are you?”
This time of year can be exhausting for parents and educators alike. While teachers and administrators are busy building a positive school culture, assessing their students, and implementing and aligning key initiatives, parents are juggling schedules and doing their best to support their children. It’s times like these when it becomes especially important to pause, both to celebrate the good things happening around you and to plan ahead. In Iowa, we have much to cheer and much to anticipate.
First, Iowa’s Early Literacy Initiative has supported steady growth in the number of students on-track to reading proficiently by the end of third grade. A nearly 7 percentage-point increase in students who went from falling short of benchmarks to meeting them since 2015 represents well over 14,000 kids. The State’s early warning system is helping to identify students who need additional support. And educators are working thoughtfully and strategically to meet their needs.
Second, Iowa’s investment in teacher leadership continues to show results. The Department recently released two new reports demonstrating the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system is strengthening the teaching profession and improving student learning.
An end-of-year report from school districts showed teacher leadership was a factor in student achievement gains, with 56 percent of districts reporting they fully or mostly met their local student achievement goals in the 2017-18 school year. This is up from 50 percent of districts the year before.
A second report, as part of an independent evaluation conducted by the American Institutes for Research, examined common strategies that led to successful implementation of local TLC plans in six diverse Iowa school districts. My hope is that TLC planning teams in each school district will use the report’s findings as a tool to review and strengthen their approach to maximizing the benefits of teacher leadership.
In addition to acknowledging the great things happening in our schools, fall is also a good time to continue to plan ahead. Communities across the state are engaging in critical conversations about the intersection of education, workforce needs and economic development. The 18 Future Ready Iowa Regional Summits are bringing together local leaders and stakeholders to deepen their understanding of the relevant local data, build connections and relationships across different sectors of their community, and think innovatively about how to move forward. I attended the Atlantic summit and appreciated the engagement and idea generation by participants.
School districts are also actively developing local emergency operations plans to meet the requirements of SF 2364 and ensure a safe and welcoming learning environment for their students. The Department has hosted day-long workshops in all nine area education agencies and will now be supporting monthly planning webinars. Information and resources are available on the Emergency Operations Planning webpage.
Finally, as I mentioned last month, we’re working diligently as a state to develop a Children’s Mental Health System. In October, each AEA will host a listening session to allow Iowans the opportunity to provide input on children’s mental health needs and services. I’m looking forward to personally attending a few of these events and to sharing what I learn with the Children’s System State Board.
So, as we move further in to fall and near the end of the first quarter of the school year, I hope each of us finds time to both celebrate success and to plan ahead.
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