Category: View Point

ViewPoint: Stop the Summer Slide

Summer slide is the tendency for students to undo the gains they made during the previous school year, or to not be as prepared for the new, higher-level requirements of their grade level when they return to school in the fall, especially for students who struggle with reading.
While some parents like to give students a break in the summer, it is an important time for students to be engaged in literacy activities, especially if they already are experiencing difficulties with reading. Keeping up a reading routine in a season packed with diversions, helping children see the importance of reading, and making it be something exciting to do in the summer can be a challenge. The following ideas can help to make reading fun and fit this important activity into a busy summer schedule.
Set aside time to read each day. Reading high-quality books that are just right, not too hard and not too easy, for just 20 minutes per day will help students maintain their reading skills. Help your child find a book series he or she will enjoy, which could include graphic novels or comics. These are much more visual, but still provide a good reading opportunity for children. Incorporate reading into your everyday activities. Reading is all around us, and daily routines provide great reading opportunities. Take advantage of the opportunities that pop up during your child’s day, no matter how small, like reading a recipe or reading about some place you are going to visit. Read aloud to your child. Reading aloud benefits all students, especially those who struggle. You can read books that your child can’t, which builds listening comprehension. Take advantage of your local library. Libraries often run summer reading programs that motivate children to read over the summer. These programs are educational and provide fun enrichment activities throughout the summer and they’re free.
Get your child involved in the summer reading program available through Central Rivers Area Education Agency (CRAEA). CRAEA provides an online resource which a collection of fiction and nonfiction titles for K-12 students to encourage students to keep reading all summer long with ebooks available through MackinVIA library. There are easy to use websites containing e-books and activities that will keep children reading in the summer. ( or
MackinVIA is an eBook resource that contains a collection of fiction and nonfiction titles for K-12 students. The collection has hundreds of titles and crosses all content areas. Questions regarding the Summer Reading Website or MackinVIA, may be directed to Central Rivers AEA Librarians, Cheryl Roberson ( or Cari Teske ( You may also contact your building/district teacher librarian for more information regarding your MackinVIA login.
Reading is an essential building block for success in all aspects of life. Plan now to prevent the summer slide!
Kim Swartz is the Director of Instruction for Central Rivers Area Education Agency (CRAEA). She can be reached at CRAEA serves over 65,000 students in 18 counties of Iowa.

ViewPoint: Twice exceptional: children with special needs who are also gifted

By Amber Dietz, Central Rivers Area Education Agency
In your lifetime, you have undoubtedly crossed paths with a child labeled lazy, unmotivated, and underachieving but also marveled when that very same child showed signs of high creativity, imagination, and curiosity. What about the child with a disability that might also have a strong problem-solving ability, and a single, all-consuming expertise? These students often have giftedness that overshadow their disability, or a disability that overshadows their giftedness and are identified as being “twice exceptional.”
Often misunderstood in schools, our response typically focuses on one or the other, but not often enough on both at the same time. The same student who throws his shoe at the principal with great disregard for the “system” might also have spatial reasoning skills far past those of typical peers. However, in the midst of the chaos we can miss that strength all together because the misbehavior becomes our area of focus.
Imagine how different it would feel to the child if we focused on strengths first. What if we focused on what students can do, before focusing on what they can’t? When we only focus on the disability we miss opportunities to use the strength or area of giftedness as a lever to assist in narrowing the learning gap. We inadvertently can get bogged down by the area of need and the need can become all consuming for educators, parents, and the student. Rushing to only suspect a disability or provide gifted education is a limited response when a student is twice exceptional.
Taking into account interests, ability and talent while providing choice is the right path to take. With clear intentions and a team approach, schools can focus on student strengths while still ensuring that learning is happening at high levels. How does this happen? Scheduling collaborative time for counselors and teachers who have expertise in both special education and gifted education is a first step. This teaming within the school walls, along with partnering with parents and guardians, will result in individualized targeted plans for twice exceptional students.
Consultants at Central Rivers Area Education Agency are experts in meeting the needs of all students and are available to support teachers and parents. Do you have questions about how we can help? Simply reach out to your child’s teacher or principal to learn more. Together, we can ensure that twice exceptional children feel valued for their strengths and supported where they feel challenged. Our world will be better for it!
Amber Dietz is a Regional Administrator and expert in twice exceptional students with Central Rivers Area Education Agency. She can be reached at

ViewPoint: The road to no more victims

By Colleen Sheehey-Church
My son Dustin had unforgettable, fiery red hair and a huge, goofy grin. He loved to make people laugh. One summer night shortly after graduating high school, Dustin got a ride with a 19-year-old driver who had alcohol and drugs in her system.
Seat-belted and sober, Dustin was riding in the back seat when the driver lost control of the car, ran into an embankment and launched the car into a river. The driver and front seat passenger escaped. Dustin could not, and he drowned.
As the immediate past president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), I represent hundreds of thousands of people like me whose lives have been tragically, irreversibly changed by someone else’s decision to drive while impaired. To end impaired driving, we need to talk about it, and since April is Alcohol Awareness Month, there’s no better time to have this discussion.
Impaired driving is a complex issue that grows more urgent by the day with the increasing prevalence of drug-impaired driving. Drugged driving is finding its way into the evening news and morning headlines across the country as a growing number of Americans get high and sometimes even overdose behind the wheel. Even more troubling, these drivers often combine substances like alcohol, marijuana and opioids, which exponentially increases their impairment and the likelihood of causing a fatal crash.
Our response to this issue must be comprehensive. The United States has been successful over the past three decades in drastically reducing the number of impaired-driving fatalities through effective legislation, increased enforcement, stepped-up education campaigns, changing societal norms and a greater recognition of the need for addiction treatment. Impaired-driving fatalities dropped for years but have recently begun to tick back up. Far too many Americans—10,874 in 2017—lose their lives each year to completely preventable crimes.
DWI courts are uniquely positioned to have one of the greatest impacts on impaired driving in our communities because they specialize in targeting and treating the population that poses the greatest threat to our safety: repeat impaired drivers with a substance use disorder.
We know that the first arrest is rarely the first time someone has driven impaired. In fact, studies estimate that an impaired driver has done so more than 80 times before getting caught. We also know that for many of these high-risk, high-need individuals, punishment alone simply will not change their behavior. DWI courts combine evidence-based treatment to address their substance use disorder with structure and strict accountability to change the behavior that attends it, including close supervision and tools like ignition interlock.
Research confirms that this approach significantly reduces impaired driving: participants in DWI courts are up to 60 percent less likely to reoffend than those sentenced to jail or standard probation.
Unfortunately, there are just over 700 of these programs in the entire country, far too few to serve every eligible offender. The National Center for DWI Courts is committed to expanding DWI courts to make our roads and communities safer, and I’m honored to partner with them in this work.
As a nation, we must have a greater sense of urgency. We must wage an unrelenting battle on the devastating, 100-percent preventable crime of impaired driving on our roadways. Clearly, our work is far from finished. But together, with your help, we can create a world with no more victims.

ViewPoint: Does Standards-Based Grading provide a more accurate picture of what a student has learned?

By Josh Johnson, Central Rivers Area Education Agency
The purpose of grading is to identify how well students have achieved the learning objectives or goals established for a class or course of study. Recently, several school districts around the country have challenged traditional grading systems and have begun searching for alternatives to what they feel is an outdated grading system in their schools.
A growing movement around the state of Iowa over the past several years has been Standards-Based Grading (SBG). SBG is an educational philosophy which focuses on student learning by bringing more meaning to grades that are based on demonstrated understanding of specific standards. In Iowa, those standards can be found in the Iowa Core in which the final drafts were officially adopted in 2010.
Teacher’s are guided by these standards and work to ensure their students show proficiency in all standards to earn credit for their classes. Schools bringing SBG to their schools must be willing to challenge traditional thinking around grading practice. Some examples of how SBG challenges traditional grading practices include:
Doing away with percentage scores and instead developing levels of proficiency that students can show their learning, meet targets, and move up levels.
Giving credit for the most recent grade earned by the student, not an average of all attempts made by the student
Separating behaviors from academic scores in the report card:
No extra credit offered
Eliminating penalties for late work
Not grading homework
When schools commit to large change efforts like SBG, school leaders tend to organize teams of educators to begin learning. They attend conferences to hear grading experts present and learn with other schools who are sharing their SBG story. They scour through hundreds of standards-based grading books, articles, case studies, websites, etc. in an effort to piece together action plans on how to adopt the necessary changes to improve their practices. Local school districts are also partnering with their local Area Education Agency (AEA) on SBG work. At Central Rivers AEA (CRAEA) we provide a number of supports to local school districts interested in beginning the standards based grading journey:
Our school improvement and content-area consultants collaborate with district leaders to align to standards, target assessment and instruction, as well as other services.
We provide courses for educators to take a deeper dive into standards, learn new strategies, work through curriculum, and other related offerings.
Our CRAEA Lead, Inspire, Innovate professional development series continues to create learning opportunities for educators taking SBG reform efforts in their districts.
In Iowa, we teach and learn in a standards-based state. Schools districts are taking the necessary steps to adapt as the Iowa Core continues to be released in various content areas. The strengths of SBG philosophy have been recognized by districts as providing more meaning to grades as they connect directly to the learning standards, better feedback opportunities for students, and even allowing more differentiation efforts in classrooms. Perhaps, most importantly, schools across the state feel that SBG is an effective avenue for teachers o establish specific grading criteria for making the grading process more equitable and focused on student learning.
Josh Johnson is a Regional Administrator with Central Rivers Area Education Agency. He can be reached at Central Rivers AEA serves over 65,000 students in 18 counties of Iowa.

ViewPoint: Beginning farmers and ranchers benefit from new farm bill

By Anna Johnson, Center for Rural Affairs
The new farm bill addresses the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers as they build up their operations.
It includes a new program called Farming Opportunity Training and Outreach, which combines two existing programs: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Assistance for Socially-Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. Both gave grants to third-party organizations that provide education and training to underserved communities, including beginning farmers, farmers of color, veteran farmers, and others. The Center for Rural Affairs delivered education to veteran and Latino farmers and ranchers through the support of these programs.
In addition, beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers are supported under USDA’s conservation programs in the new farm bill. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program each have 5 percent of their funds set aside for beginning farmers and ranchers and 5 percent set aside for socially-disadvantaged farmers. This provides a path for producers to build needed skills and establish beneficial conservation practices on their operations.
The new farm bill also increases funding for the Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentive Program. This program provides two extra years of Conservation Reserve Program payments to landowners with expiring contracts if they sell or rent their land to a beginning, socially-disadvantaged, or veteran farmer or rancher. The 2018 farm bill provides $50 million for this program over the next five years, up from $33 million in the last farm bill. Interested landowners, farmers, and ranchers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office, and begin building relationships with potential partners.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.


Forgot Password?

Join Us