In October 2011, Iowa was one of 11 states to be awarded funding by the U.S. Department of Education to measure and improve statewide conditions for learning, which include school safety, student engagement in school, and the overall school environment. The Iowa program is called Iowa Safe and Supportive Schools (IS3). This four-year program is not simply a school safety program. Measuring and improving school safety is certainly a part of the program, but it is also focused on improving relationships with students and adults, prompting teamwork inside and outside the classroom, and strengthening ties between students and their respective communities.
Upon receiving the grant, 60 high schools were randomly selected to take the Iowa Safe and Supportive Schools survey last spring. Of those schools, 47, including six in Great Prairie AEA, voluntarily agreed to participate in the program. Students along with school staff and parents completed the surveys. As a result, 20 high schools across the state were chosen to receive further funding for the next four years. Funding was based on the results of the student survey that indicated schools with the greatest opportunity for improvement. Four high schools in Great Prairie AEA were among those twenty: Burlington, Keokuk, Ottumwa, and Winfield-Mt. Union. Schools not receiving further funding but will continue to receive support and resources from the Iowa Department of Education and Great Prairie AEA are Cardinal and Centerville.
Participating schools in the IS3 program will now begin to establish Core Leadership and Youth Leadership teams to analyze their survey data. Based on that analysis, they will develop and implement creative solutions to strengthen their learning environment, which include the physical and social-emotional safety of the students, student-to-student and adult-to-student relationships, respect for diversity, and the overall physical environment of their school.
For the first time in Iowa’s history, survey results regarding school culture and climate will be made directly available for schools to use to strengthen classrooms and improve education. Improving conditions for learning can lead to impressive results. Studies show that improving conditions for learning can lead to an 11 percent increase on standardized achievement test scores, improved classroom conduct and improved student attitudes.
Whether funded or unfunded, these six participating high schools in Great Prairie AEA need to be commended for their willingness to take the IS3 survey and address these challenging issues. Simply by taking the initial IS3 survey, each student, parent, and teacher who took the survey showed a willingness to volunteer their time and insight to improve education not only for their schools, but also for all Iowa students. When it comes to education, students, parents and teachers are the experts, so the time has come to hear directly from them on how we can accelerate student learning by making our Iowa schools stronger and more competitive.
For more information please go to www.safesupportiowa.com or contact Anne Morgan, Data and Survey Design Consultant, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mike Peters, Learning Supports Consultant, at email@example.com.
Mike Peters, Learning Supports Consultant
(800) 622-0027 ext. 5342