The Cornerstone – October 2015

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Feedback needed: Educator development preliminary recommendations

From Iowa Department of Education

Iowans who make up the Council on Educator Development have spent the past two years studying teacher and administrator evaluation practices and professional development. This document represents their preliminary recommendations. The council now needs feedback on these recommendations from Iowa’s education community, including superintendents, principals, teachers and school board members.

The following link leads to an online survey, which includes instructions for submitting feedback: The survey will be open through November 30, 2015. All survey feedback will remain anonymous.

Gathering input is critical not only to this process, it is required by law. The council was formed in the fall of 2013 in response to an education reform package adopted by Iowa lawmakers that year. The legislation, House File 215, calls for a period of feedback beginning October 1, 2015. Once the feedback is collected and analyzed, the council will use it to develop a final report in November 2016.

The council has carefully studied Iowa’s current system of evaluation in Iowa Code Chapters 284 and 284(a), as well as research and practices across the country.

Support through Assistive Technology – from Pal-Pad to Head Switch: Meet Zackary

Ellie Hamilton, Assistive Technology Specialist

Zackary, a student in the Centerville District, receives homebound special education services* from Great Prairie AEA. The district and AEA work together to serve and support Zachary’s learning. Earlier this year, his IEP team requested that GPAEA’s Assistive Technology Team complete an assessment of his needs. The team, along with Zackary’s family, used the Student Environment Tasks and Tools (SETT) form to prioritize what tools were needed to support him. It was determined that Zackary did not demonstrate a preference for items and was currently using a pal-pad switch to activate switch activities. The goal became for him to demonstrate preferences for items using a variety of assistive technology tools. Continue reading

GPAEA’s Collaborative Leadership Academy

MTSS for Secondary Schools 15_1 (1)Middle and High School Leadership Teams are invited to participate in Great Prairie AEA’s Collaborative Leadership Academy focusing on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support within secondary schools.

Leadership teams comprised of instructional coaches, secondary teachers, counselors and administrators are invited to attend.


  • Burlington – October 29, December 14, February 29, April 18
  • Ottumwa – October 30, December 15, March 1, April 19

Contact: Dr. Lonna Anderson, Director of Instructional Services, Ext.1208,

Postcard PDF: MTSS for Secondary Schools 15


Austin Buffum Kick-off Event

Thank you to the 220+ educators and AEA staff who made the Austin Buffum event a success!

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What’s That One Thing We Can Do?

Annette Clarahan, Parent Educator Coordinatorparent - child

I recently attended a family wedding in Illinois. The mother of the bride has a brother with Down Syndrome who was sheltered living at home with his parents, until the recent passing of his mother. His mother did what she felt was right by keeping him at home and protecting him from others. Taking him out in public was not always greeted with kindness. The stares and comments of the community hurt her feelings, and she didn’t want her son to feel that hurt. Now, his siblings are taking him to community events and gatherings where he is experiencing many firsts. This was his first wedding and after the father of the bride gave the toast, he and Mark sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to the guests. Everyone cheered showing their acceptance of him. It was fun watching Mark with his family and the guests engaging with him as they all danced the night away. The next morning the mother of the bride told me she was in awe of how her brother was treated and she appreciated that kindness towards him. Continue reading

Second Chance Reading Training 2015–16

scrTeachers trained in Second Chance for Reading (SCR) have a choice of two additional training opportunities this year. Registration is open for Burlington GPAEA attendance on Monday, October 12 and February 29 or Ottumwa GPAEA on Monday, October 19 and March 7 attendance.

Why is continued learning important?

SCR teachers continue to deepen their knowledge of the Iowa Core Standards, technology and formative assessment as they implement Second Chance for Reading with struggling learners. Teachers also need to review their implementation of SCR in order to determine program effectiveness.

Local Teacher Finalist Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Tami Plein, Science Consultant

Alicia (right) received her award from Erika Cook, Bureau Chief of Standards and Curriculum at Iowa Dept. of Education at the Iowa Science Teachers Fall Conference in Des Moines on September 19.

Alicia (right) received her award from Erika Cook, Bureau Chief of Standards and Curriculum at Iowa Dept. of Education at the Iowa Science Teachers Fall Conference in Des Moines on September 19.

Alicia Schiller, science teacher at Central Lee High School, Central Lee Community School District (Donnellson) is one of 5 Iowa finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).  The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are the nation’s highest honors specifically for kindergarten through 12th grade teachers of math and science.  Two award-winners may be selected to represent Iowa.  If Alicia is selected as the winner, she will receive $10,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C.  Congratulations to Ms. Schiller!

Information taken from

PD Opportunities – October 2015

Great Prairie AEA offers a number of Professional Development Opportunities throughout the year. Scroll through the list below to see what is happening in October.

High School Science Network 1 – EAST – BURLINGTON
Location: Burlington: Great Prairie AEA (Burlington, IA) [map]
Audience: High School Science Teachers
Dates: 10/1/2015 to 10/27/2015

These professional development sessions will be used to support and create collaborative groups of science teachers that owns, posts, and maintains an online collection of science resources. The focus of the 4 sessions will be learning about the new Iowa Science Standards and begin creating standards-based science lessons.

Teachers will learn the conceptual Shifts in the NGSS that form the basis for with the new Iowa Core Science Standards. Strategies from Backwards Design will be utilized and to identify/create materials and lessons.

NOTE: $30 Materials fee has been added

High School Science Network 2- EAST – BURLINGTON

Location: Burlington: Great Prairie AEA (Burlington, IA) [map]
Audience: High School Science Teachers (who have taken year 1)
Dates: 10/1/2015 to 10/27/2015

This course is for second year participants. Sessions will be differentiated from year one to provide second year participants with new learning to increase their depth of understanding of the design process and science/engineering practices. 

Teachers will learn about the Conceptual Shifts in NGSS, Essential Questions, Differentiation using formative assessment, the 5E learning cycle models and investigate new resources from NSTA on NGSS. 

Target Audience: High School Science Teachers (who have taken year 1)  Continue reading

HEART Online Assessment System to Discontinue

Evan McCormick, School Improvement Consultant

In June 2016, Great Prairie AEA will discontinue support of the HEART Online Assessment System. GPAEA technical support will make every effort to continue to make HEART available throughout the 2015-2016 school year, but an increase in issues affecting its functionality make a terminal shut-down imminent. Continue to contact Evan McCormick until then if you have technical concerns;, 319-753-6561 X1298.

The HEART program is housed on an aging server that frequently needs to be restarted. It’s programmed in 4D, an older and unsupported software. Further development by its originators is not planned. There has been declining use of the system since the advent of other assessment programs at both the state and local levels. Continue reading

Opportunities for learning new science standards

Iowa has new science standards! The state board of education adopted the performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards on August 6th, 2015. To support the four year implementation plan recently released by the Iowa DoE, GPAEA science specialists will be offering the first in a series of Iowa Science Standards professional development modules during the first two days of any of the Science Network 1 sessions this fall. The strategic plan has Iowa AEA consultants delivering professional development for three initial years and in the future to districts and teachers. For more information, please contact Rosemary Peck or Tami Plein.

via Iowa Department of Education

Congratulations to the science learning community on the new standards, which were adopted on Aug. 6 by the State Board of Education. This followed a recommendation by the Science Standards Review Team who engaged in a comprehensive process including review of existing standards, public feedback, and data-driven decisions.

Iowa Science Standards Kick-off. On Oct. 20, the University of Iowa and Grandview University will host a day of learning from national experts on the new science standards in Iowa City. This is intended for leaders (administrators, curriculum directors, teacher leaders, professors, and Area Education Agency consultants) who will partner together in the rollout and implementation of the standards. Click here to register for the Oct. 20 Iowa Science Standards Kick-off. The event will also be streamed with a link on the Department of Education website.

Continue reading

Check & Connect’s First National Conference in October

GPAEA’s Shelli Blazic is presenting at this year’s Check & Connect Conference:


October 7-8, 2015

McNamara Alumni Center
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Registration deadline extended to Monday, September 28, 2015!

Check & Connect is celebrating 25 years (1990-2015)! To mark the occasion, we are hosting our first national conference, bringing together leading experts and practitioners from around the country and overseas to address the topic of student engagement among at-risk youth. This event is geared towards both professionals implementing Check & Connect’s evidence-based student engagement intervention model and those interested in learning more about student engagement in general and Check & Connect specifically. You do not need to be implementing Check & Connect in order to attend! Come learn from experts in the field, share lessons learned, and gain tools for implementing Check & Connect with fidelity and sustaining your site’s implementation to support at-risk students in reaching their goals and graduating high school. CEUs will be offered.



The dissemination of information from external organizations by Great Prairie AEA does not infer sponsorship or endorsement of the information. It is being passed on to our stakeholders for its educational value.

Supervision of Special Education

Supervision of Special Education SEPT. 2015



8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

The primary focus is on the intent of special education law/rules/procedures as they relate to foundational concepts.

These foundational concepts include FAPE. LRE, and ProceduralDue Process with an emphasis on meaningful parental involvement, and outcomes/benefit . Emphasis will be on the administrator’s role in understanding and overseeing these concepts.

Register viaMyLearningPlan at GPAEA.ORG or using the following links:

Download PDF Flyer: Supervision of Special Education

GPAEA Schools in the News – September 2015

Post updated throughout the month. Did we miss something? Send your school news to

Note: The articles compiled in this list come from independent media sources who are solely responsible for their content. GPAEA staff did not participate in writing any of these articles and GPAEA does not necessarily endorse the content of the articles. Some articles may be available only by subscription.

School Radon Training & Support System Kickoff Workshop – September 23 in Ottumwa

schoolradonsupport_signupfinal_08-15-15Did you know that Iowa schools are required to perform radon testing in their Headstart Child Care Centers/4-Year-Old Preschools? In addition, the Iowa Legislature continues to discuss requiring radon plans and testing for all schools. To help schools with their already-full plates, Energy Association of Iowa Schools has collaborated with various state agencies and radon experts to create the first-of-its-kind School Radon Training & Support System.

This new system helps keep students, educators and community members safe by providing: a personalized school radon plan to have on file, training and ongoing support for required and proactive testing, panic prevention through confidential data tracking, and budget savings. The support provided also prevents unnecessary radon mitigation construction costs, hassle and/or additional energy costs.

Required Kickoff Workshops are starting soon, with your choice of one of five sessions across Iowa. Workshops take place between September 23 and October 28, 2015, which will enable your district to begin testing this winter.  There is only room for a total of 100 school districts. The September 23 session is right here at GPAEA in Ottumwa. Click here for more information and register today!

The dissemination of information from external organizations by Great Prairie AEA does not infer sponsorship or endorsement of the information. It is being passed on to our stakeholders for its educational value.