Mathematics gears up, Madam President, Presidential Scholars and more

lead tech learn

September 20, 2019   Vol. 13

From the Bureau of Leading, Teaching, Learning Services

Boy with math manipulatives

Opening doors in mathematics

Math team focuses on equity and future-readiness

For too long, mathematics has been a filter instead of a pump in college and career readiness for students. A student’s ability to successfully complete college preparatory mathematics courses in high school has served a gateway to higher education and his or her ability to complete a year of college-level mathematics was often a requirement for completing a university degree. But now many agree that for graduates to be competitive in the workforce and for our society to be competitive globally, graduates must possess more than the basic math skills. Therefore, it’s critical that these mathematics courses be seen as doors rather than barriers. 


The Statewide Mathematics Leadership Team (SMLT) is aware of this and acknowledges this needs to change for Iowa students. To respond to this need, during the 2019-20 school year, the SMLT, as well as other statewide leadership teams, will focus on access and equity and future ready learning to empower educational experiences to create opportunities for Iowa students. 


A number of local and national experts will be working with the SMLT. They include the following:

Jake Welchans, project manager, Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning. Educating Iowa students for the knowledge economy requires connecting them to future careers through hands-on projects designed by employers and educators. The Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning is a virtual space where business partners will post projects for Iowa K-12 students to gain in-depth work experience, bringing real-world application into the schools. The clearinghouse launched on July 1, 2019.


Mary Pittman, project director, Mathematics @ The New Teacher Project (TNTP).

TNTP in a nonprofit organization that that supports educational equity by striving to provide great teachers and great instruction for every student. In her role, Pittman’s focus is on supporting teachers to ensure all students not just can, but will learn mathematics. This means looking at all parts of the system (e.g., standards, curriculum, instruction, assessment, interventions, professional development) to ensure we are considering the needs of all of our learners. 


Ted Coe, Director of Mathematics, Coe is responsible for coordinating and supporting Achieve's work around mathematics. Among the mathematics projects is Math Works. The Math Works materials are resources for policymakers, advocates, educators, parents and students that highlight the connection between higher-level mathematics course-taking and college access and success, workplace and career readiness, and personal and U.S. competitiveness.


Kathy Leggett, Future Ready Iowa Policy Adviser, Iowa Workforce Development. Iowa is facing a workforce crisis. Employers across the state routinely share how difficult it is to find and hire enough skilled workers. The Future Ready Iowa Initiative was launched to address this critical issue. The goal is to have 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce aged 25 – 64 obtain education or training beyond high school by 2025. This scenario is a win-win for everyone and can be accomplished through cross-sector collaboration across the state. Leggett will share the opportunities that are available through the initiative.


Doug Sovde, Director, K-12 Education, Policy, and Services, The University of Texas at Austin Charles A. Dana Center. As director of K–12 education strategy, policy, and services at the Dana Center, Doug leads both the strategic direction and partnerships necessary to create equity-driven, high-quality professional learning, instructional materials, and policy and advocacy at scale. He collaborates with coalitions of school district and equity leaders to support sustainable systemic change. In addition, Doug provides thought leadership at local, state, and national levels to help steward the K–12 mathematics and science education fields toward approaches and policies that work for all children.


These presenters will strengthen the work already done in previous years in early childhood mathematics, standards implementation, and effective teaching practices in mathematics.  The SMLT is currently reading Principles to Actions through an equity lens and will follow it up with The Impact of Identity in K-8 Mathematics: Rethinking Equity-Based Practices, by Julia Aguirre, Karen Mayfield-Ingram, Danny Martin.  Additionally, the SMLT will be working through the book by Nancy C. Jordan Ed. D. and Nancy Dyson Ph. D. called Number Sense Interventions.


The SMLT meets four times a year in Des Moines and district leaders and coaches looking to attend should contact April Pforts, or (515) 314-6243.

Future Ready logo

Clearinghouse offers authentic learning

Relevant, hands-on projects available to students through website 


Looking to give your students more real-world, hands-on experiences to make your classroom even more relevant? You’ll want to check out the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning, where you can connect your students with a business project.


This isn’t pointless busy work, but real projects requiring real outcomes.


There’s a whole range of projects on the clearinghouse that could readily match up to what you are teaching in class – anything from math to social studies to science – and more. For instance, one non-profit organization is seeking students to interview people for an oral history project. Some chambers of commerce want students to help them market their towns.


Though most projects are for older students, there are some that seek out grade schoolers, too. Many projects will be done online.


The projects are designed to give students a deeper-level of learning, making your classroom content come alive. It also enables students to test-drive various careers and college paths.


Projects change regularly so you will want to come back to the website on an ongoing basis to see new projects being offered.

New future ready PD opportunity

AEA Learning Online is excited to announce a new professional learning opportunity focused on redefining the way that educators prepare students to be future ready. 

This learning opportunity will assist participants in meeting the following outcomes:

Participants will begin to formulate a vision of how to implement authentic learning with students using the Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning.          

Participants will learn how to align authentic learning experiences with district/state curricular goals/standards              

Participants will learn how to foster relationships with business and community members to develop future authentic projects

Upon completion of this opportunity, participants will have developed an authentic learning unit/lesson plan that they can use with students.


Authentic Learning and Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning Online Course

Format: Facilitated Online (Asychronous)

Dates: 9/18-10/30

Times: Anytime

Credit: 2 license renewal or 2 graduate credits

Click here to register.

Nominate a Presidential Scholar

Nominate a high school senior for  Presidential Scholar by Sept. 30

The Iowa Department of Education is seeking nominations for outstanding high school seniors for the 2019-20 U.S. Presidential Scholars selection cycle. We encourage you to nominate students who, while demonstrating outstanding scholarship, might not otherwise be nominated through the current SAT/ACT, arts, or CTE recognition processes. If you have an outstanding high school senior deserving of consideration, submit a nomination through the Department’s online Presidential Scholar Nomination Form by Sept 30.


Department Director Ryan Wise will select 25 students (10 males, 10 females, and 5 in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) category) to submit to the U.S. Presidential Scholar Program for consideration. The 2020 Presidential Scholars will be selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars and will receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion at a ceremony in their honor in Washington, DC. Reviewers will consider the following categories:

  • Involvement and service (in school and community)
  • Leadership and character
  • Writing samples
  • Academic achievement

Discretionary points could be awarded for extraordinary achievement, heavy workload, family responsibilities, or obstacles overcome.


The CTE component of the program will honor students on the basis of outstanding scholarship and demonstrated ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields. Reviewers will consider the following categories:

  • Mastery of technical skills
  • Strength in teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving
  • Real world application

Specific information to be included in each nomination is described on the Department’s online General Component Presidential Scholar Nomination form, or the CTE Component Presidential Scholar Nomination form. Nominations must be submitted no later than Sept. 30.

For questions regarding the nomination process, contact Deborah Darge at or (515) 242-6176. Read more about the Presidential Scholars Program.


Stefanie Wager head shot

Madam President

Wager elected to head National Council of Social Studies 

Stefanie Wager, social studies consultant at the Department, is now serving a four-year term as an Executive Board Officer for the National Council of the Social Studies. She began her duties two years ago as vice president, now serves as president-elect, will be president next year, and ends her term as past president June 30, 2022.


Chief among her duties is a task she’s deeply engaged in now – planning for the 2020 Annual Conference. Since next year is the 100th anniversary of the organization, the conference is especially important.


“I’m heavily involved in all aspects of planning, from creating the theme and logo to determining the schedule and recruiting speakers,” she said. “The president has the exclusive purview in selecting and changing those things.” Attendance at the conference ranges from 4000-5000 each year. 


The board has additional responsibilities beyond the conference. Wager said they recently released a statement on gun violence and convened an inquiry task force, for example.


Wager taught social studies for seven years in both urban and suburban settings and served as a grant coordinator for the Des Moines schools before coming to the Department. She has served as the consultant for social studies for the past six years.


For more information, contact Stefanie Wager at or (515) 725-7842.

Teacher Leadership and Compensation logo

Teacher leader and principal training

Instructional framework promoted throughout the state

To assist districts in improving the implementation of their teacher leadership and compensation programs, the Iowa Department of Education has selected an instructional framework and is promoting its use. The Iowa Instructional Framework is described in a handbook that includes a compilation of procedures, rubrics, and detailed explanations, along with many forms and documents that are helpful in the teacher observation and support process. These documents are based on an adaptation of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) Teaching Standards.


“A year ago, we had hoped the legislature would require districts implementing the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) Program to adopt a framework, but they didn’t,” Lora Rasey, TLC consultant, said. “We know that it is best practice and would help improve student achievement.” So the department issued a request for proposals and selected the framework from NIET to promote in Iowa, she said.


Formally called The Iowa Instruction Framework: Teaching Skills, Knowledge, and Professionalism Performance Standards, the framework is divided into four domains: instruction, environment, planning, and professionalism. Performance indicators are listed in each domain; these are accompanied by bulleted descriptors and a rubric specifying three performance levels for teacher performance.


During the summer, 19 three-day workshops were held throughout the state, training TLC teams from 85 district on the use of the framework.  The department also hosted a two-day training for higher education faculty and staff involved in teacher preparation programs. Follow-up training will include webinars and regional conferences.


Districts are encouraged to use the framework in a way that best suits them. “Maybe it’s within your professional learning communities or a coaching cycle, applying it to the Multi-Tiered System of Support process, or supporting an individual career plan,” she said. “Some districts might want to use all four domains while others might only want to use parts.”


For more information, contact Lora Rasey at or (515) 725-0648

STEM logo

Recognize outstanding Iowa STEM teachers

Know an outstanding STEM teacher? Someone who demonstrates the incredible impact science, technology, engineering and math have on the world every day? Nominate them today for the 2020 I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award, sponsored by Kemin Industries!

Now in its sixth year, this award celebrates teachers who inspire a passion for STEM in

students. It recognizes leadership and dedication that increases student interest in and

awareness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The award is given to one

teacher from each of the six Iowa STEM regions. Recipients receive $1,500 for their classroom,

along with an additional $1,500 for personal use.


The deadline to complete nominations is Friday, October 4. Recipients will be announced in

January 2020.


The nomination process is simple and open to everyone, including fellow teachers, school

administrators, students and parents. Visit to submit a nomination

and learn more.

Principal in classroom setting

Managing change

Administrative teams study balanced leadership to support change

Iowa's AEA system and McREL have partnered to offer district leadership teams the opportunity to engage in the Iowa Leadership Academy. The academy’s focus in on providing strategy training and guidance on McREL’s Balanced Leadership, Curiosity Works, and What Matters Most programs.


Mark Crady, C4K State Training Cadre coordinator at Heartland AEA, serves as organizer for the training. More than 350 district leaders are participating, attending at one of three locations throughout the state.


According to Crady, the AEA Chiefs were looking for an opportunity to support school leaders as they navigate through the myriad of changes they face on a daily basis.  McREL Balanced Leadership is a great fit for everything that is occuring in Iowa, he said. "Administrators and teachers are constantly dealing with a wide variety of local, state, and federal initiatives.  Participants in the Balanced Leadership training will learn strategies to successfully manage these changes and increase opportunities for student success," states Crady.


Kristin Rickey, superintendent at West Delaware CSD, is attending the training with her leadership team. She said the Academy has helped her think about her practice and how she can become a more effective leader. Rickey said the review of the 21 Responsibilities of a School Leader during the school change process has been particularly helpful. “It’s reminded me that the interplay between the responsibilities is more important than any one of them separately,” she said. An example she cited is the connection among Monitor/Evaluate and Ideals/Beliefs and Focus. “The interplay, connecting the three, makes ‘Monitor and Evaluate’ part of the vision. It reminds me that I need to find a way to schedule it into the day, into our leadership team discussions, into our teacher leadership program, to make it a more salient part of our culture,” she said.


Another participant, Atlantic CSD Superintendent Steve Barberr said he feels this training is helpful to his leadership team in effectively implementing the Portrait of a Graduate that was recently adopted by the school board. “Implementing this is second order change for our district. The training has helped us think about how we will engage our staff and community in this. Who are the power players? Who is going to be negatively impacted? It’s helped us in dealing with structure, communication, community, and input, which are critical,” he said.


For Jesse Ulrich, superintendent of Fort Dodge CSD, it’s been about helping his administrative team focus on the things that matter most. “It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day grind. Of all the things we do, which are the most important? How can we make the greatest impact on a day-to-day basis?” he said. “This has helped us bring it all together so we can best serve our teachers and our students.”


For more information, contact Mark Crady at or 515-279-9030 ext. 11215