Winter 2023 School Leader Update

School Leader Update

Winter 2023

Education is our future

Director Ann Lebo

Trying something new, learning from our mistakes, building confidence, sparking interest, partnering to advance opportunities — that is the power of education. And that is why we must always challenge ourselves to improve, grow and work together to ensure our education system provides a framework where everybody has the tools and support they need to be successful.

The importance of education is not just for our students, but for the future of families, the future of our communities and the future of our state. We all play an important role because learning happens both in and out of the classroom. Learning doesn’t have to look the same because the needs of our students and families aren’t all the same. This important work isn’t done in isolation; in fact, we can learn so much more together.

One of the best parts of my job is going into our schools and seeing firsthand the innovative partnerships and programs that are helping students grow and learn in ways that make sense. I learn something new every time I meet with administrators, teachers, business partners and students. One of the most important things I take away from these visits is that innovating with purpose is strong in Iowa.

Already this year I learned about plans in the Iowa City Community School District to engage students in geometry in a whole new way. Starting next fall, high school students will have the opportunity to take geometry and construction, a blended format class where they will apply geometry principles in a real-world construction setting. At Osage Community Schools, the district prioritizes introducing computer science to their youngest students. Piquing early interest helped increase demand for even more offerings. Now, high school students at Osage can take seven different computer science courses, including game design. They can further explore their interest by joining the district’s official eSports team where they compete against other schools. 

Never miss a date: subscribe to new calendar

Subscribe graphic

A new Google calendar is available on the Annual Notices and Deadlines for Public and Nonpublic Schools webpage. This page displays important state and federal notices and deadlines for all public and nonpublic schools just as it did before. Now with the addition of the new feature, users can subscribe to the calendar in order to add the important deadlines to their own Google, Outlook and Apple calendars. The calendar information also includes the state/federal law citation and the appropriate contacts at the Department.

The subscription feature is something school administrators and business officials have asked the Department to provide. Users can subscribe to the entire calendar for all deadlines or select a specific deadline (Google calendar only) to copy to their calendar.

More information, including calendar links and subscription directions for the different technology options are also provided on the webpage.                     

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Save the date for upcoming training

Group of adults discussing a project.

Save the date for Teaching for Impact: Training for all Educators Supporting Learners with Disabilities which will be held in Des Moines June 13-14, 2023 .

The Teaching for Impact training is for educators to develop and expand knowledge and skills related to the education of learners with disabilities from birth to age 21.  Emphasis will be placed on integrating information into practice across a variety of educational settings.  Sessions will include examples of the content in practice as well as suggestions for classroom application.  Participants will have the opportunity to share emerging ideas and network with one another.  

Content strands across the event include college and career readiness, early childhood, leadership, literacy, mathematics and social-emotional-behavioral health. 

School administrators, building leadership teams, Early ACCESS providers and service coordinators, educators and providers from early childhood to high school, AEA professionals and higher education faculty supporting pre-service educators and providers will all benefit from the training.

Registration will open soon--watch for more information.           

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Designated school emergency contacts needed

School safety graphic with check mark.

In preparation for a spring launch of the Governor’s School Safety Bureau’s new anonymous threat reporting platform called Safe+Sound Iowa, we are asking all public and nonpublic schools to identify a primary and secondary point of contact for each school building who will receive notification of critical threat-to-life matters only. You can identify your building contacts by completing the School Safety Contact Form

A new Frequently Asked Questions resource addresses concerns we have heard from school leaders regarding expectations and availability of their designated contacts.

Safe+Sound Iowa, which will be available for FREE to all public and private schools, enables students, school staff, parents and community members to submit safe, secure and anonymous safety concerns to help identify and provide intervention for at-risk individuals before they hurt themselves or others.

Regardless of whether your district chooses to engage with this free school safety technology, we know you will still want to be notified when a threat impacts one of your schools. Know that designated school emergency contacts do not need to be on call 24/7. They will only be notified if a trained Safe+Sound Iowa Communications Specialist determines that the threat report information is of a critical nature requiring school assistance.  

If you have questions about the contact form or the app, contact the Department of Public Safety’s Governor’s School Safety Bureau Chief, Don Schnitker, at or 515-725-1150, or the Iowa Department of Education’s Legislative Liaison, Eric St Clair, at or 515-326-0274, who are coordinating this work for our departments.

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Register to attend webinar on cybersecurity tools and incident monitoring services for schools

Graphic with hands typing on laptop with security shield image hovering over keyboard.

The Iowa Department of Education is partnering with the Iowa Department of Management Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to offer two webinars to answer questions and share information about cybersecurity tools, monitoring resources and additional support that OCIO has available to Iowa schools.

School administrators, IT personnel and others interested in learning about OCIO’s services are invited to register for one of the following Zoom webinars.

Cybersecurity Tools and Incident Monitoring for Schools
When: Thursday, Feb. 16 from 3-4 p.m. Central Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this webinar

When: Tuesday, Feb. 21 from 1-2 p.m. Central Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this webinar

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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Nominate someone for Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the Year logo

Will the 2024 Iowa Teacher of the Year hail from your school district? One thing is sure: She or he won’t if you don’t nominate a teacher for the honor.

And that’s the beauty – anyone can nominate a teacher: administrators, colleagues, students, parents, college faculty and associations.

The Teacher of the Year award provides an opportunity to recognize an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges, and inspires excellence; who is respected by students and peers; who is a dedicated professional that helps nurture hidden talents and abilities; who is a creative, caring individual; who takes teaching beyond textbooks and blackboards; and who is an exceptional teacher helping to redefine American education.

Sound like someone you know? Then nominate today.                 

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Spring state assessments

Student and teacher in conference

The majority of required federal and state assessments are administered between January and May each year. This information is updated annually on the Student Assessment page of the Department website under Required Assessments.

The state assessment team will complete on-site and virtual external monitoring throughout the spring assessment window. During the on-site visits, the assessment consultant will observe the assessment administration using the Test Security Checklist in the State of Iowa Test Security Manual. Virtual visits will occur after the school district completes their internal monitoring and shares their data with the assessment consultant. The assessment consultant engages the school district via Zoom in a coaching conversation around their data and test security. The purpose of all visits is to provide technical assistance and support around test security.

For more detailed assessment information, refer to the Required Assessment Summary.

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New mental health services for schools now available

SCSMH header

The Scanlan Center for School Mental Health (SCSMH) in the College of Education at the University of Iowa works with schools, districts, Area Education Agencies (AEA), universities, colleges and key stakeholders across all 99 counties in Iowa to support the well-being of preschool through grade 12 students and educators. The SCSMH Clinic, which is now open for referrals from schools, offers post-crisis debriefing and support, as well as short-term individual and group counseling to students, educators and staff.

Educators and school staff can self-refer for clinical services by emailing School administrators, school mental health professionals and AEA staff can refer students by emailing 

See the SCSMH Clinical Services website for more information.

For questions, email the Director of Clinical Services, Alissa Doobay, at 

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Early Literacy Alternate Assessment Progress Monitoring

Preschool teacher and students reading

Based on the Early Literacy Alternate Assessment Screening data, Individualized Education Plan teams must choose a minimum of one scale for progress monitoring ­reporting.  

In addition, the frequency of progress monitoring is now required a minimum of once a month. This change has been made to reflect research on the extensive, repeated, and individualized instruction needed for students with significant cognitive disabilities to show growth and generalize skills. This will allow teachers to have the flexibility of when to monitor and record data that closely aligns with each student’s individualized instructional plan. 

Evidence used for progress monitoring and screening data should be collected from instructional activities or routines and should not be collected through an assessment event. To view the full guidance, see Guidance Early Literacy Alternate Assessment.

For questions, contact Jennifer Denne at or 515-326-5332.

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OpenSciEd field test

Science students working in classroom

Iowa is currently a partner state in the OpenSciEd Project. The next phase of the project is focused on the development and implementation of high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials for elementary grades K-5. When completed, these courses will address all of the Iowa Core Science Standards for K-5. 

Iowa is seeking districts/teachers to field test these instructional materials and participate in professional learning to learn how to use the materials to support equitable learning in science. Iowa’s goals for participating are:

  • Co-develop the materials by providing Iowa-specific feedback to the OpenSciEd developers from our classroom teachers and students.
  • Provide high-quality learning and national networking experiences for teachers.
  • Engage students in meaningful and empowering Iowa standards-based science teaching and learning organized around investigating natural phenomena.

If you are interested in your district participating, refer to this document for more information about how to apply. 

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Did you get your free e-copy of Principles to Actions?

Student with laptop working on math problems

Every Iowa superintendent and building principal should have received a free e-copy of Principles to Actions from the Iowa Department of Education.

It contains the six Guiding Principles for School Mathematics along with the eight Effective Teaching Practices (ETP).

It synthesizes over 240 pieces of mathematics research and published articles into 117 easy to read pages.

When these words become actions and the actions lead to more productive beliefs, new norms of instructional practice, and implementation of the essential supporting elements, we ensure all students can succeed in school mathematics. 

Check your spam or trash. It would have been sent from gmail: Information for a relicensure credit and book study will be sent out next month via the Iowa Mathematics Newsletter. Sign-up here.

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Here's a novel way to fill a Spanish teacher position

Visiting teachers from Spain 2022 group photo

The Visiting Teachers from Spain Program is an exciting venture between the Iowa Department of Education and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Spain (MECS). The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program is to promote cultural and educational exchange between citizens of the United States and those of other countries.

Local school districts and accredited nonpublic schools have the opportunity to fill vacant Spanish and dual language teaching positions for up to 3 years. Teachers are hired in accordance with all other local policies in terms of salary scale, licensure, and local system requirements.

The Iowa Department of Education will be taking applications for the 2023-24 school year from Jan. 16 to March 17. Go to the Iowa Exchange Visiting Teachers from Spain Program webpage to find information about the program and the application. Applications are due March 17. For more information, contact Isbelia Arzola at  or 515-326-5962.

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Stronger Connections grant application available

Hanging files for grants, funding, projects

The Iowa Department of Education has been awarded $5,988,079 in federal funds to support the goals of the Stronger Connections Grant. The Stronger Connections Grant under Title IV, Part A of the ESEA, provides competitive grants to high-need PreK-12 public school districts as determined by the state.

The goal of the Stronger Connections Grant is to help schools provide all students with safe and supportive learning opportunities and environments that are critical for their success by establishing emergency plans, positive school culture and climate, and prioritizing student wellness.

As part of the competitive subgrant application process, the proposed guidelines of the grant were open for public comment until Jan. 31. School districts may access the application within the Iowa Grants System. The projected application deadline is March 31. The funding period for this grant expires Sept. 30, 2026.

If you have questions, contact

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Updated open enrollment billing guidance

Updates graphic

Emergency rule revisions to Iowa Administrative Code rule 281.17 have been adopted and are currently effective. To assist school districts and school business officials in these changes, the Open Enrollment Billing Chart was updated and is now available. Changes include a breakdown of daily rates for open enrollment costs, applicable weighting, various open enrollment scenarios and the billing actions relevant to the open enrollment situation. For general open enrollment questions, contact Sara Nickel at or Marietta Rives at For open enrollment billing questions, contact Scott Dryer at

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Transfer in Iowa assists students with college transfers

Transfer in Iowa logo

Iowa’s regent universities offer the Transfer in Iowa website to assist students who are navigating the college transfer process and planning for their academic future.

Each year, thousands of students, including high school students taking college-level courses, transfer from Iowa’s community colleges to state public universities. To accommodate this big step, the website was designed with easy links to answer the question “How will my credits transfer?” Students can also use the website to learn about individual program articulation agreements between various institutions.  

In addition to using this online resource, students should discuss their plans with both the community college and university advisors. The website provides contact information for transfer advisors at each institution.

School districts and academic counselors should encourage the use of Transfer in Iowa by all students who are interested in attending college.

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Professional development opportunities on Work-Based Learning

Professional conference participants

The Iowa Work-Based Learning Conference registration is open. The annual conference will be held on April 4, at the Prairie Meadows Conference Center in Altoona, Iowa. The conference is a great opportunity for work-based learning coordinators, educators, instructors, counselors and administrators to learn best practices with implementing work-based learning in schools and colleges. Sessions offer opportunities for resource sharing and collaboration to improve work-based learning experiences for students.

The work-based learning webinar series has two final presentations this month: Incorporating Best Practices for Work-Based Learning in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Career Academies on Feb. 7, and Supporting Historically Underserved Students in Work-Based Learning on Feb. 15. Registration is free and available on the Department's Work-Based Learning website. Past sessions are recorded and available on the website.

Questions about work-based learning? Contact Kristy Volesky at the Iowa Department of Education at or 515-971-0669.

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Annual upload for Secondary Career and Technical Education Reporting Application

CTE logo

The annual upload for the Secondary Career and Technical Education Reporting Application (SCTERA) courses in a program began on Jan. 2 and is to be completed by Jan. 31 (SCTERA work must be completed before a district can certify their SRI file). A state initiative in Iowa’s Perkins V state plan is reporting student participation in work-based learning courses. Refer to the following resources for how to report your work-based learning courses:

Reporting District Work-Based Learning

The first step is uploading a complete 2022-23 Student Reporting in Iowa (SRI) file

The second step is to follow the SCTERA Reporting guidance handbook.

SRI can only be certified once SCTERA is completed. 

Drop-in office hours are scheduled on the following dates and times for assistance and to answer questions. 

  • Jan. 12, 3 - 3:50 p.m.
  • Jan. 19, 7:30 - 8:20 a.m.
  • Jan. 26, 3 - 3:50 p.m.

For questions about drop-in office hours, contact Matthew Eddy at For questions about SCTERA, contact Jeffrey Fletcher at or 515-321-730.

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ICN celebrates 30 years of innovation

ICN 30 year logo

The Iowa Communications Network (ICN), one of the pioneers of statewide networks in the country, is celebrating its 30th anniversary throughout 2023. To mark the milestone, the ICN launched a Celebrating 30 Years webpage.

In recent years, the Network has matured as a network service provider and it continues to meet the greater bandwidth demands requested by customers. The infrastructure has been enhanced, a broadband information center was added to monitor the network and respond to network issues, and a carrier-grade lab for testing stability and new services was built.

All of the enhancements allow Iowans to connect with virtual healthcare visits, make 9-1-1 calls that are routed to public safety officials, deliver digital state government services, and provides much needed and reliable broadband to schools, state government, public safety, and healthcare locations across the State.

During 2023, ICN will be highlighting customer impact statements and how the Network connects to Iowans.

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