March 2020 School Leader Update

school leader update - a monthly journal for iowa educators

March 2020

A reflection. A goodbye.

director ryan wise

I was recently asked to provide a reflection on my time as director of the Iowa Department of Education. I based my reflection on this adage – how we spend our time reflects what we value. One way I’ve examined how I spent my time as director, and what I’ve valued in this role, was to look back at the 55 monthly columns I wrote on my blog.

Interestingly, my most frequently mentioned topics broke neatly into three tiers. In the top tier were four topics that I focused on in ten of my columns. And if you’ve been a regular reader of my column, these will not come as a surprise: Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system, reflections on my school visits, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Future Ready Iowa.

The second tier included five topics I wrote about in seven of my columns: student mental health, career and technical education, accountability and support efforts like the Iowa School Performance Profiles, student assessment and Iowa’s Early Literacy Initiative.

In the final tier were three items I highlighted in five of my columns: academic standards, work-based learning (including the Work-Based Learning Clearinghouse) and computer science.

Another way I looked at how I spent my time and the issues I prioritized was to revisit the “stump speech” I crafted and delivered to every group that would have me as I transitioned into the role after serving for two years as deputy director. I was struck by the degree to which I still focus on the same big themes: the mission, vision and core functions of the Iowa Department of Education.

Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) End of Year Reporting (EOY)

TLC logo

The 2019-20 Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) End of Year Reporting form is now available on the Iowa Educational Portal. This year’s report is due July 1. To access the form, log on to the Iowa Educational Portal with your A & A account. If you do not have an A&A account, select ‘Create an Account’ at the top of the login screen. At the top of the page is Iowa TLC; choose EOY Report.

Each school district is asked to file an End of Year Report. This report serves as an opportunity for districts to reflect on their progress toward the vision and goals of their TLC plan. For the State of Iowa and the Department, it serves as one method of accountability for a significant investment of state funds. For the Department, it also serves as an opportunity to track progress toward locally-determined TLC goals aligned to the state goals, to monitor trends, and identify supports for districts.

On the same Iowa TLC page, all TLC plans may be accessed. Reviewing data for the EOY Report often leads the district to the identification of plan changes. Consider plan changes that will best align TLC implementation and resources to impact school improvement efforts. This application provides a centralized location to view, edit, and submit annual EOY Reports and TLC Plans.

View a slide deck to help districts with reporting.

Link to a brief webinar, using the same slide deck

For questions concerning End of Year Reporting or TLC Plan changes, contact: Lora Rasey at (515) 725-0648 or

Top of page

Iowa Instructional Framework 2020-21

Teacher in front of class calling on students who are raising their hands to be selected by teacher.

The Iowa Department of Education will continue to provide support and training in partnership with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) for the Iowa Instructional Framework.

Districts that participated in the 2019-20 program will be provided the following:

  • Licensing and EEPass (Electronic Supports)
  • Informational webinars
  • New deep dives into identified indicators
  • NIET and Department guidance

Districts new to the implantation of the Iowa Instructional Framework will have the following available:

  • 20 new districts will be able to participate in 2020-21
  • Three-day implementation training this summer
  • Train-The-Trainer options
  • Licensing and EEPass (Electronic Supports)
  • Informational webinars
  • Deep dives into identified indicators
  • NIET and Department guidance

Watch for information on how to participate in the 2020-21 Iowa Instructional Framework.  This will be sent to districts in March.  For questions, contact Lora Rasey at (515) 725-0648 or

Top of page

Summer Youth Intern Program now accepting applications

Future Ready Iowa logo

High schools, employers, and nonprofit groups are encouraged to apply for the Future Ready Iowa Summer Youth Intern Program grant, a funding opportunity to place youth at risk of not graduating high school in internships primarily in high-demand career fields. The state of Iowa has appropriated $250,000 of funds to support the Summer Youth Intern program. For more information, visit Iowa Workforce Development's website.

Top of page

Construction career fairs scheduled for students, high schools

Students learning at construction site

A series of construction career fairs are scheduled for Iowa high schools and students in 11th and 12th grades.

The fairs are designed to connect with employers in the commercial construction industry, including general and subcontractors. The career fairs, hosted by Build Iowa, will be held March 30 in Altoona, April 3 in Cedar Rapids, April 7 in Mason City, and April 9 in Cedar Falls. There is no charge to schools and lunch will be provided.

For a complete schedule and more information, visit Build Iowa’s website

Top of page

Iowa Arts Education Data Project

Arts education logo

The Iowa Arts Education Data Project will showcase Iowa’s arts education data through a user-friendly, interactive dashboard. The dashboard is intended to promote meaningful dialogue around arts education across the state; and to encourage equitable and data-driven decisions by schools, districts, educators, community members, and policymakers that support a well-rounded education for all Iowa students.

The Iowa Arts Education Data Project will display high school course and enrollment data by fine arts discipline - dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and media arts/other - and by grade level, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Stakeholders can use the data to determine areas of strength as well as areas of need. By providing a variety of demographic lenses and various grain sizes by which to view the data - state, Area Education Agency region, district, and school - the dashboard provides compelling snapshots of fine arts education access and opportunities across Iowa.

The dashboard will go live on Wednesday, April 1. Districts and schools will have an early viewing window from March 16-31. To learn more about the Iowa Arts Education Data Project, visit the Iowa Department of Education Fine Arts webpage,  or contact Angela Matsuoka at (515) 782-7296 or

Top of page

2020 school nutrition summer training

Cooks training in meal preparation.

Registration is now open for school nutrition summer workshops. Iowa school administrators are encouraged to support your nutrition program, by having school nutrition staff attend training to meet annual training requirements. Iowa Department of Education Nutrition Consultants observe those participants who attend face-to-face training are more successful in meeting the school meal regulations. An added bonus is to gain a network of support by sharing ideas with other school nutrition professionals from across the state.

2020 Workshops include (most are no to low cost):      

  • Food Safety in Schools, June 9 in Ames
  • Procurement 101, June 10 in Ames
  • Procurement 102, June 10 in Ames
  • Financial Management for Managers, June 11 in Ames
  • Introduction to Culinary Skills for Healthy Meals, June 18 in Cedar Rapids, Aug. 18 in Ankeny
  • Orientation to School Nutrition Management (New Director Training), week of July 27 in Central Iowa
  • School Meal Pattern Essentials, Aug. 5 in Ankeny
  • Manager’s Update – SMILE: School Meals Improve Learning Environments, Aug. 6 in Ankeny
  • Iowa School Breakfast Summit, Aug. 7 in Central Iowa

Go to the registration link to learn additional details. For questions, contact Jean Easley at (515) 360-5149 or

Top of page

Celebrate National Child and Adult Care Food Program Week

Preschool child eating lunch

Afterschool programs, childcare centers, and preschools that participate in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are encouraged to celebrate National CACFP Week to raise awareness of the program. The purpose of CACFP Week is to:

  • Educate parents and the community about CACFP
  • Increase awareness about proper nutrition for growing children
  • Ensure long-term health benefits by creating good eating habits at an early age

March 15-21 is a great opportunity to bring positive attention to CACFP and the impact it has on your school community. Ideas to celebrate CACFP Week include:

  • Plan a healthy activity with children and promote it with the school community.
  • Share a few of the children’s favorite recipes with families to try at home.
  • Have children complete activity pages and send home so families can learn more about CACFP.

Additional promotion ideas can be found at For more information on CACFP, contact Cheryl Tollely at

Photo courtesy of DMACC Child Development Center in Ankeny.

Top of page

Funding opportunity open to school districts, others to grow and support adult education and literacy programs

Adult learners in a classroom

Funding is available to organizations, including school districts, to support programs that help adults gain the skills and training needed to further their education and secure living-wage jobs. The Iowa Department of Education will award approximately $3 million in federal funding available through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to support the following programs:

  1. English Language Acquisition, Adult Basic Education and High School Completion.
  2. Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education.
  3. Corrections/Institutionalized Services.

Adult education includes academic instruction and services that increase an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English and perform mathematics or other activities necessary for the attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent, transition to postsecondary education and training and obtain employment.

Applications must be submitted via IowaGrants by 4 p.m. on April 3.

For more information, visit the Adult Education and Literacy grant opportunities webpage.

Top of page

2020 Conditions for Learning survey

High school students gathered at hallway lockers

The Conditions for Learning survey, which Iowa school principals will be responsible for administering to all students in grades 3-12, will take place April 6-May 29. There are two versions of the survey, one for students in grades 3-5 and one for students in grades 6-12.

Beginning with this administration in 2020, the Conditions for Learning student survey and in-depth reports will be hosted by Panorama Education. In early March, the Iowa Department of Education will provide an Information Packet containing everything principals and building contacts will need to administer the survey, and to communicate about it to students, parents, and their communities.

For more information about the Conditions for Learning measure, visit the Department website or contact Courtney Clement at (515) 971-7687 or

Top of page

The new Home Language Survey for all districts, next steps and FAQs

African American female high school student taking a survey on a laptop

The new Home Language Survey (HLS) form is currently being created and put onto Transact. Districts will be notified when it is available. 

What is the new form like?

The new form has much in common with the current form, but replacing the language questions currently being asked, are the three mandated questions from the Office of Civil Rights. Another change is that the new form has all three questions listed in 12 languages. As required by law, the HLS must be in a language understood by parents, therefore, the HLS includes all three questions in the top 12 languages spoken by students/families in Iowa’s schools. See more FAQs.

Top of page

Expansion of the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children

Preschool teacher with students

A reminder to school districts not currently participating in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP):  The application is due April 6. Districts interested in beginning a SWVPP are encouraged to review the FAQs to support application development. 

This non-competitive application requires districts to fund the preschool program using other funding sources for year one in 2020-21. One funding option for SWVPP startup costs is the flexibility account. Districts may move unexpended, unobligated funds remaining at the end of the previous fiscal year from certain sources to a flexibility account within the general fund. Districts, through a board resolution including specific stipulations, described in 298A.2, can then expend these funds for SWVPP startup costs. Guidance pertaining to the flexibility account is posted on the General Fund web page. In year two, districts receive state aid based on the number of eligible four-year-old children served in year one.

For information about the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children, contact Jennifer Adkins at (515) 954-5652 or, or Mary Breyfogle at (515) 326-1030 or

Top of page

Iowa Learning Academy scheduled for June 9-12

Iowa Learning Academy logo

Save the date for the first annual Iowa Learning Academy (ILA) on June 9-12 at the Iowa Events Center. Formerly the Special Education Symposium and the Every Student Succeeds Act June Institute, the ILA aligns statewide efforts to support Iowa’s area education agencies (AEAs), districts, and partnering organizations in increasing the success of all learners.

The following staff are encouraged to attend:

  • Administrators;
  • Building leadership teams (required for Comprehensive schools);
  • Early ACCESS providers/coordinators;
  • PK-12 educators/providers;
  • AEA professionals; and
  • Higher education faculty supporting pre-service educators/providers.

The event is structured around seven content strands (College and Career Readiness, Early Childhood, Family and Community Engagement, Leadership, Literacy, Mathematics, and Social-Emotional-Behavioral Health) with each day differing in focus.

Registration is anticipated to open in March 2020. For more information, visit the event website or contact Nancy Hunt at (515) 326-1031 or

Top of page

Iowa Learning Online (ILO) to end service

Iowa Learning Online logo

Iowa Learning Online (ILO), the Iowa Department of Education’s initiative to expand high-quality online learning opportunities, will be available through the 2019-20 school year. After that, districts will either need to create their own online classes or work with a third-party vendor. ILO will no longer directly provide courses after the 2019-20 school year because there is no long-term, sustainable funding source available for operating the program.

ILO staff will be happy to work with your district regarding options for your transition to the use of Department of Education-approved private providers of online courses or your own district-developed online courses.

Thank you for allowing ILO to serve you and your students. For questions or concerns, contact ILO Director, Gwen Wallace Nagel at (515) 419-3275 or

Top of page

What to do with Algebra 2?

Colored algebra equations written on blackboard

As we enter this time of year, many schools are considering course offerings and how best to serve our students. These blog posts may help to consider increasing access to all students of mathematical learning and understanding.

For questions, contact April Pforts at (515) 314-6243 or For additional information, visit the Q&A mathematics blog.

Top of page

news headlines

Iowa Department of Education
400 E 14th Street
Grimes State Office Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Ph: 515-281-5294