Category: View Point

ViewPoint: Accurate data essential to improving broadband access in rural areas

By Johnathan Hladik, Center for Rural Affairs
The Pew Research Center finds that only 63 percent of rural Americans have a broadband internet connection at home, and 24 percent of rural adults consider access to high speed internet a major problem in their community.
Recent policy developments are designed to address this. But, will they be enough?
In July, the Federal Communications Commission established the Digital Opportunity Data Collection program. This program will collect broadband access data at the address level, and use those results to direct funding meant to fill “gaps” in coverage. This is a big improvement over the current Census block approach, which causes dramatic overstatements of coverage.
While the commission has agreed to collect better data, they are leaving it up to the states to make sure that data is accurate. This is where you come in.
The most cost effective way to verify broadband access data is through crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing allows citizens to run their own internet speed tests, measure provider performance, and file formal complaints. But, right now, there are dozens of speed tests available, and no clear way to measure and report performance.
This problem is easy to solve. Each state should develop a data improvement program that helps citizens participate in the verification process. This simple, low-cost solution can pay big dividends in rural homes and businesses.
Many states already feature robust programs. Others must get started. As legislative sessions begin around the country, we encourage lawmakers to take seriously their role in improving broadband in rural areas.

ViewPoint: AEA Scout provides students, families peace of mind in researching online information

By Cari Teske, Central Rivers Area Education Agency
A new online research tool, known as AEA Scout, has been launched by Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) and ensures that students and families have access to trusted online resources in one location.
AEA Scout is an online portal that provides access to many of the digital resources provided by Iowa’s AEAs including AEA Digital Library, American History in Video, Encyclopedia Britannica, Gale, Learn 360, Mackin VIA, PBS Learning Media, SIRS Researcher, and Teen Health & Wellness. Initially, fifth through twelfth grade students will benefit from a one-stop-shop for their research needs, and teachers and parents can rest easy knowing their students are searching the quality content they’ve come to know and trust.
With AEA Scout, students have the ability to dig deeper in their quest for information. A wide variety of sources of information in multiple formats will be at their fingertips. This new way of information gathering also encourages students’ curiosity and builds a foundation for lifelong learning.
All of the searchable content found within AEA Scout is recognized by reputable publishers and producers and includes access to videos, articles, documents, ebooks, audiobooks, photos, charts, graphs and more. The more students search, the smarter and more customized the results become. The system also suggests materials based on usage and interest and allows students to create a folder for each class or assignment. Teachers can share resources and notes with specific students and both students and teachers can highlight, underline, take and share notes in one place. The system will also translate text to different languages, read aloud most digital text, and provide closed-captioned.
Individual access is still available for the following digital resources that currently aren’t integrated into AEA Scout. Visit your AEA’s website or Iowa’s AEAs website at iowaaea.org for these great resources:
CultureGrams
iClipArt for Schools
Soundzabound
BookFLIX
TrueFLIX
FreedomFLIX
ScienceFLIX
TeachingBooks.net
To learn more about AEA Scout, including how to access it for your K-12 student, please reach out to one of your Central Rivers AEA teacher librarians:
Cari Teske
cteske@centralriversaea.org
Cheryl Roberson
croberson@centralriversaea.org

ViewPoint: What does it mean for Iowa high school graduates to be “future ready”?

By Jen Sigrist, Executive Director of Media & Technology with Cedar Rivers Area Education Agency
Did you know that Governor Kim Reynolds has set ambitious goals for Iowa to ensure that our state is “future ready”? Future Ready Iowa is an initiative to build Iowa’s talent pipeline, provide education or training beyond high school to acquire a living wage, expose careers today and in the future, and ensure that seventy percent of Iowa’s workforce has education or training beyond high school by 2025.
To reach this goal, Iowa schools will need to approach how they educate students much differently. This work includes helping preschool through 12th grade students experience authentic learning through projects and performances, teaching “soft skills” like collaboration and perseverance, and exploring hands-on technology through the world of work. In addition, students will need to learn how to apply content in new ways to solve real-world problems.
To a parent or community member, a school focused on being future ready will look quite different than the traditional classroom. Desks won’t be in rows. Students will be directing their own next steps to try and solve a problem or create a product and working in teams to reflect on their strengths and areas for growth.
Teachers are critical for future ready success. Relationships with students as well as knowledge of the content help create meaningful projects and just-in-time supports for learners. Technology is seen as a tool that helps learners unlock information, create new ideas, and collaborate with a network of resources. Rather than being the sole experts in the room, teachers become “activators” of learning and move from being in the front of the classroom to working with teams of students on their next steps, conferencing with students about implementing feedback, and providing pop-up lessons to help students avoid common misconceptions.
Schools, businesses, and communities are partners in bringing this vision for learning into our schools. To create authentic experiences for all our learners, schools need business and community partners to share their expertise, ideas and time to create authentic learning opportunities. These integrated learning experiences help students find what they are (and aren’t) interested in, learn what jobs are available in our state, and make informed decisions about their steps in school and after they graduate.
Central Rivers Area Education Agency (CRAEA) is working closely with area school districts to create a vision for what graduates should know and be able to do in order to be future ready. In addition, CRAEA staff work closely with area teachers to adjust their teaching style as described above. This is exciting work that will help our state move closer to being an Iowa that is ready for our future!
Want more general information? Visit https://www.futurereadyiowa.gov/.
Are you a member of the business community? Check out https://clearinghouse.futurereadyiowa.gov/ to learn more about how you can get involved.

ViewPoint: I suspect my child has a disability – now what?

By Amy Knupp, Executive Director of Special Education
Often times, parents are the first to notice their child is struggling in school or at home, but are unsure what to do. Central Rivers AEA in conjunction with your local school district can help. If you suspect your child has a disability, and is attending a school, contacting the school is the first step. If your child is not attending a school, calling Central Rivers AEA will be the first step. This will start the process for determining if your child may be in need of special education services.
Parents may request an evaluation for special education at any time. This can be done in person or in writing to the school administrator of the student’s attendance center, or as a call to Central Rivers AEA. Once a request is made, the AEA team serving the school building, in conjunction with the local school staff, will examine the information available such as school work, teacher reports, parent reports, and assessment results, to determine if the child is suspected of having a disability. At this point, if the team suspects the child has a disability, a consent for evaluation will be presented to the parent for a signature. This evaluation provides the team permission to work with the child to determine if the child has a disability. If the team does not suspect the child has a disability, a notice will be provided to the parent outlining the information that indicate why a disability is not suspected.
Central Rivers AEA has staff specifically trained to assess concern areas and support you in helping your child grow, develop, and learn. We partner with other agencies within the community as part of the Iowa Early Access system for helping families with young children from birth through age two. If you are concerned about your child’s progress in school or if you think your child has a disability, contacting the school or Central Rivers AEA will assist you in determining the supports your child needs. There are many supports the school and AEA can offer to assist your child. Visit with your teacher, school administrator or Central Rivers AEA about your concerns.
Amy Knupp is the Executive Director of Special Education with Central Rivers Area Education Agency. She can be reached at aknupp@centralriversaea.org. Central Rivers Area Education Agency serves nearly 65,000 students and 5,000 teachers in 18 counties of Iowa.

ViewPoint: Second chance Pell initiatives important

By Secretary Betsy DeVos, U.S. Department of Education
This administration is committed to ensuring students of all ages – no matter their circumstances – have the freedom to learn and reach their full potential. That’s why this Administration is committed to the success of the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Experimental sites initiative. Created in 2015, this initiative provides need-based Pell grants to incarcerated individuals.
Today, the Second Chance Pell program serves more than 10,000 students at 64 institutions across the country, and we are working to expand it to serve even more incarcerated individuals.
I am truly inspired by the stories of graduates from Second Chance Pell programs, like those I visited at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Oklahoma. These students are seizing the opportunity to turn their lives around by pursuing education while incarcerated and are preparing themselves for careers upon reentry.
Incarcerated individuals who participate in postsecondary education are 43% less likely to return to prison than those who do not. And for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, 4 to 5 dollars are saved on re-incarceration costs.
This Administration remains committed to expanding access to this experimental program and working with congress to make it permanent so that more incarcerated students can receive a second chance.

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