CEDAR RAPIDS — About a dozen educators and community members met Tuesday night with Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise to discuss ideas for the state’s transitional plan called for under the new Every Student Succeeds Act.
The act, which became federal law in December and overhauled No Child Left Behind, returns a significant amount of power to the states for public education. Part of that is a stipulation that states create their own plans to address assistance for struggling schools.
“The Every Student Succeeds Act, broadly, really provides Iowa an opportunity to think about, ‘what do we want our system of accountability and support to look like?’ ” Wise said.
Under No Child Left Behind, districts were required to give students in struggling schools the option of transferring and providing low-income students at those schools with free tutoring.
“Now we’re not held to the same strict parameters around providing those things,” Wise said. “But at the same time, we need to ensure an equivalent level of support. But there’s more flexibility in what those would look like.”
The department has about a month to develop its transitional plan. By the 2017-2018 school year, it will need to have a long-term plan, which will incorporate the law’s increased flexibility for states over how school districts are held accountable for student performance.
During the forum, several attendees asked for more rigorous standards when it comes to providing supplemental educational services, as well as more creative ways to measure student success in the long term.
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“We (should) start looking at multiple areas of assessment, not just the reading, science and math,” said Gary Anhalt, vice president of the Cedar Rapids school board. “That we expand on that criteria and start looking at creativity, look at collaboration, look at the fine arts, which includes physical education, that those be also important parts.”
Wise said he will prioritize working with Iowa educators as the department develops both the transitional and permanent plans.
“We’re serious when we say we want public input on the plan, over the short and the long term,” Wise said. “I hope folks tonight felt like they were given a forum and an opportunity to do that.”
The transitional plan will be posted online by May 6.
The department is holding three more public forums: Wednesday in Des Moines, Thursday in Bettendorf and April 7 in Sioux City. Comments also may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.