ARTICLE

AEA works to improve student performance

By Joe Crozier

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The United States must keep pace with the educational systems of the global community to remain competitive. As educators, we are continually challenged to implement a world-class curriculum to meet the needs of a changing workforce.

School personnel strive to address multiple, diverse issues — from integrating technology into the classroom to supporting children’s social development. Schools are most successful in addressing these challenges by establishing strong partnerships with parents, community members and their local Area Education Agency.

In 1974, the state legislature created the Iowa Area Education Agency system to provide support for all schools statewide. The AEAs were created to help implement federal law 94-142, which ultimately was renamed the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA). Nearly 40 years later, three-fourths of the AEA’s annual budget is devoted to services related to supporting special education in both public and private schools across the state.

In 2001, the role of the AEAs was expanded when President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind law. The Iowa Department of Education turned to the AEAs to provide technical assistance and support to schools that were identified as schools or districts in need of assistance. AEA staff members have been instrumental in assisting school leaders in better use of data to evaluate student achievement, and using that data to make decisions related to how the district can improve student performance.

In conjunction with that work, education leaders in Iowa began to work on the development of the Iowa Core. The Iowa Core is a competency-based system that identifies the essential content and instruction that all students must experience in the content areas of literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, and 21st Century Skills. Education specialists at the AEAs partnered with staff from the Iowa Department of Education in developing the Iowa Core and supporting the rollout to the schools. The AEA Online databases offer teachers a resource that specifically supports many of the standards and benchmarks identified in the Core.

As schools continue to develop plans to implement these and future education reform initiatives, AEAs will be there to provide support and technical assistance that will ultimately lead to improving student learning for all Iowa students.

Grant Wood Area Education Agency provides services to 32 public schools and 18 accredited non-public schools in the seven county region surrounding Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Joe Crozier is chief administrator of the Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids. Comments: jcrozier@gwaea.org

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