Following a review of the services provided by Great Prairie Area Education Agency (AEA), a review team from the Iowa Department of Education has recommended full accreditation for the agency, which serves 33 school districts in southeast Iowa. The Iowa State Board of Education will meet on September 26, 2013 to act on the recommendation.
The Department of Education uses the accreditation process to ensure that schools served by the AEA receive quality services, which are aligned and compliant with both state and national laws as well as additional identified requirements. In the report, the accreditation team noted, “Iowa’s AEAs are a critical part of the support structure for schools and ultimately for children. With so much at stake, maintaining high standards or quality in programs and services is a top priority.” It is a high stakes evaluation to determine if the AEA qualifies for ongoing accreditation.
The accreditation process involves extensive written and oral documentation, which provides evidence the AEA is meeting all the performance requirements mandated by state law. The AEAs are required to fulfill nine “standards”, which cover
- Support for diverse learners, which includes special education
- Media (library) services
- School leadership development
- Support for school management
- Curriculum, instruction and assessment support services
- Professional development opportunities for educators
- School-community planning support for school boards
- School technology support
- Multicultural, Gender-Fair support, which includes anti-bullying work
The team reviewed the agency’s documentation, interviewed agency staff and administration and held focus group sessions with area teachers, administrators and parents of special education students. The team sought assurances that the agency was:
- Providing its services equitably among all districts and nonpublic schools
- Properly monitoring implementation of its services
- Measuring the effectiveness of its services
- Measures the efficiency of its services, and
- Routinely assesses its services in relationship to how they affect its agency-wide goals.
The accreditation team identified a number of strengths of the agency in its report, which included:
- Unifying the Agency
- Determining LEA Needs
- Increased Use of Agency Services
- Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS)
The overall report identifies strengths the agency has exhibited in each of the standards for which the AEA is evaluated. It also makes recommendations for possible improvements the agency may wish to implement.
The accreditation review occurs every five years for each of the state’s nine AEAs. The accreditation team includes a team of individuals from the Iowa Department of Education, plus a few area school administrators and representatives from AEAs that will undergo accreditation review next year.
A thank you goes out to our district/school staff who provided feedback to the Department about our programs and services. We appreciate the time they took out of their busy schedules to assist us in our accreditation process. Also, a thank you to our Board of Directors for their support: Dr. Joy Prothero, Board President, Victoria Stephenson, Vice President, Marge Wilhelm, Melissa Ballard, Matt Greiner, John Adam, Lonny Morrow, Joyce Wauters, and Himar Hernandez.
Click here to download the entire accreditation report.