The Cornerstone – March 2014

Click on an article below or scroll down to read this month’s The Cornerstone.

Strategic Plan Update

Dr. Jon Sheldahl, Chief Administrator

Like local school districts, each AEA in Iowa undergoes an accreditation process every five years and Great Prairie AEA will be completing that process in the coming weeks.  The process actually takes two years to complete, with the first year consisting of the preparing for and conducting of the formal site visit.  Many of our local districts were instrumental in helping us with the site visit phase last year, providing teachers, administrators, and parents for our focus group interviews.  This year, we have been using the results of that accreditation report, as well as multiple other data sources, to produce our Comprehensive Improvement Plan or CIP.  This is an exciting and critical time for the agency because the CIP charts our course for the coming years.  It is our strategic plan, the plan that will guide us as we endeavor to support and lead Iowa’s education community.

The Process – This year, we have been working as an agency on the planning phase or CIP phase of the process. The first step in the CIP phase of accreditation is to inventory all current AEA services.  After this comprehensive inventory of services, we look at a number of data sources from within and outside the agency:  We review the contents of both AEA and local district accreditation reports.  We analyze the student achievement data and CSIP goals of all of our districts.  We also analyze the qualitative and quantitative data from the AEA satisfaction surveys taken annually by educators in the region.  Finally, we look at the current educational context in the state by reviewing the priorities stated in the AEA Compact and by reviewing recent state and federal legislation that either is impacting or will be impacting our local school districts.  From this needs assessment and analysis phase, two guiding documents are developed.  The first is the actual 5-year action plan that establishes our actions and priorities going forward.  The second and equally important document is the professional development plan that will map out the  internal (AEA) and external (LEA) learning that will need to take place in order for us to execute our plan and to successfully support our districts.

Continue reading on Dr. Sheldahl’s Blog

GPAEA Science Networks

Tami Plein, Science Specialist

Shane Barron (New London), Abby Richenberger (Burlington), Kelly Hackett (Fort Madison), and Becky Morey (Fort Madison) collaborate with Drew Ayrit (WACO) using Google Hangout during the last Network session. GPAEA Science Consultants are experimenting with distance learning to provide teachers with more options to meet their professional development needs.

Shane Barron (New London), Abby Richenberger (Burlington), Kelly Hackett (Fort Madison), and Becky Morey (Fort Madison) collaborate with Drew Ayrit (WACO) using Google Hangout during the last Network session. GPAEA Science Consultants are experimenting with distance learning to provide teachers with more options to meet their professional development needs.

Groups of GPAEA Middle School and High School Science teachers have been working to develop units and identify resources that align with both Iowa Core Science and the Next Generation Science standards. The purpose of the Science Network sessions is to provide networking amongst GPAEA science teachers.  It is beneficial for science teachers to have the opportunity to work with others who are teaching similar courses. Participating in professional development with teachers in the same discipline allows teachers to share ideas and experiences.  With the possibility of new science standards in Iowa and the need for teachers to better align with our current Iowa Core Science Content AND Literacy standards, the network helps meet the need for collaborative groups of science teachers.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are K-12 science standards created through a collaborative, state-led process. In addition to states, the National Research Council (NRC), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and other critical partners were active in the development and review of the NGSS. Writing and review teams consisted of K–12 teachers, state science and policy staff, higher education faculty, scientists, engineers, cognitive scientists, and business leaders.  The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) also had two public web-based feedback periods prior to the finalization of the standards, during which over 200,000 unique visitors viewed the standards. In addition to the public feedback, state leaders, teachers, scientific and educator organizations, higher education faculty, scientists and business community members reviewed drafts at specific intervals.  As one of the lead state partners, Iowa is in the process of considering adoption of the NGSS.

The NGSS lay out the disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts that students should master in preparation for college and careers.  Regardless of Iowa’s adoption decision, districts can use the Next Generation Science Standards as an avenue for implementing STEM in all classrooms K-12.  NGSS performance expectations align with the broadly stated Essential Skills and Concepts of the current Iowa Core Science, but provide districts with grade level standards for K-5 with well-written assessment statements that will support districts moving towards standards-based grading.  NGSS has embedded engineering and science practices in the standards, unlike the stand-alone science as inquiry in Iowa Core.  NGSS also has built-in connections with the math and ELA standards. If teachers develop and implement curriculum starting in the elementary level, as NGSS does, this will give our students the background needed to consider and pursue STEM careers in the future.

10th Annual Diversity Conference at IHCC

IHCC 2014 Diversity Conference - flyerJoin us Friday, March 28, 2014, from 8:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., for the 10th Annual Indian Hills Community College Diversity Conference. Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.

Indian Hills Community College, Main Campus (Ottumwa)

Full Conference Registration (Lunch included): $40
Student Registration (Lunch included): No Charge

Note: Must present a current Student I.D. to receive the student rate (K–12 and post–secondary students).

IHCC 2014 Diversity Conference – flyer

Learn more about keynotes and registration at

Event sponsored by Great Prairie AEA and others.

Register Now for Statewide Education & Technology Events

  • Accessing AEA Digital Resources for Close Reading – March 6
  • Edgenuity Workshop Scheduled for March 10 from Heartland AEA
  • Iowa 1:1 Institute – Thursday, April 10, 2014
  • TIC Conference from Keystone AEA – June 17 & 18, 2014
  • 2014 Midwest Summer Institute: Inclusion and Communication for All


Accessing AEA Digital Resources for Close Reading – March 6

Please join us March 6 as the AEA media & literacy staff in collaboration with Iowa Department of Education staff hold webinars which will assist teachers in locating and analyzing instructional resources which support the Iowa Core with a focus on using AEA digital resources for Close Reading.This webinar is a follow-up presentation to the webinar from last school year, Text Complexity and the Iowa AEA Online resources. The archived session of the text complexity webinar can be found at the same site used for registration. Text Complexity and Close Reading are closely intertwined, so attendees may wish to review last year’s webinar as a precursor to attending the upcoming session.

The webinar will be held at two different times, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. and 3:45-5:00 p.m. For more information, go to To register, go to

TAG Endorsement Opportunity

On March 6 at 4:00 PM in the Eddyville Elementary Library and 6:30 PM at the Burlington AEA in the Iowa room there is going to be an informational meeting about the Viterbo TAG Endorsement program.

The program will be a combination of online classes and face to face meetings. The Psychology of the Gifted and Administration and Supervision of the Gifted Program courses would be online.  The others would be blended at a SE Iowa location to be determined.  The internship only meets once and the rest is online or independent study. Bring any questions you may have about this program to the meeting.

Here is the link to the program course descriptions (bottom of the page) and current schedule. If we have enough interest we will be adding courses in the SE Iowa area so you would not have to travel to West Des Moines to complete the program.

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.

Governor’s STEM Advisory Council’s South Central STEM Hub, Indian Hills Community College, and Great Prairie Area Education Agency to host a STEM festival March 11, 2014

Students and families welcome to attend this free event 

Iowa STEM logoDES MOINES, IOWA – (Feb. 25, 2014) – With the top priority of boosting student interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council South Central Hub, IHCC, and Great Prairie AEA will host a free, family-friendly festival of hands-on STEM activities for 5th-8th graders and their families.

The festival will be held at IHCC’s Rural Health Education Center in Ottumwa, Iowa from 5-7pm on March 11th.  Student groups, local businesses, and community groups will host hands-on activities in STEM.   Activities include making toothbrush robots, geometry with bubbles, create a green screen video, and others.

To register for the event, go to

Media Contact:

Sarah Derry, South Central STEM Manager
Governor’s STEM Advisory Council
515 271 2406

# # #

About the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council

Established in July 2011 by executive order, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council is a public-private partnership focused on increasing student interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and promoting STEM economic development. The Council works to engage and prepare students for a career-ready path, regain our state’s historic leadership position in education, and provide a vital competitive economic advantage. The 45-member Council is chaired by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Vermeer Corp. CEO Mary Andringa. For more information, visit

Substitute Authorization & Paraeducator Course Information

Substitute Authorization Course

business women in an officeGreat Prairie AEA is offering the Substitute Authorization Course at the AEA office in Burlington this spring.  The classes will be held in the evening.

A substitute authorization allows an individual to substitute in a middle school, junior high school, or high school (grades 6 -12) for no more than five consecutive days in one job assignment. An individual who holds a Paraeducator certificate and completes the substitute authorization program is authorized to substitute only in the special education classroom in which the individual Paraeducator is employed.

Target Audience: Individuals that hold a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution or hold a paraeducator certificate from an approved paraeducator certification program.
April 17th, 22nd, 24th & 29th and May 1st
5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
GPAEA office in Burlington
For more information or to register, please visit
Paraeducator Level II Courses
This spring Great Prairie AEA is offering two different Area of Concentration courses for Paraeducators.  The Level II Generalist with Area of Concentration classes are 3 credits each and will count towards the renewal of a Paraeducator Certificate.  Both classes are blended format, class time and an online component. Continue reading

Your Iowa Character Award Nomination

Nominations for the 2014 awards are due May 13, 2014.

We annually present the Iowa Character Awards to Iowans who consistently demonstrate good character. Since 2005, more than 100 individuals and organizations from across the state have received an Iowa Character Award. You can nominate an individual, organization, school or team!  Who will you nominate?

The 5 step nomination process is easy!

  • Select the award category.
  • Provide contact information for the nominee.
  • Answer six questions to tell us how your nominee demonstrates trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
  • Upload any supporting documents (letters of recommendation, awards, press clippings). This step is optional.
  • Provide your contact information.

GPAEA Professional Development Opportunities – March & April

GPAEA has many professional development opportunities scheduled for March and April. Some deadlines for minimum enrollment are this week, so register soon!


  • Social Media and You (evening class)
  • Substitute Authorization (evening class)
  • Para Educator Certification Level II Generalist with Area of Concentration: Early Childhood Settings (Saturday classes)
  • Para Educator Certification Level II Generalist with Area of Concentration: Library, Media & Technology (evenings and Saturday classes)
  • A Behavior Tool Box for Your Classroom
  • ST-AT I Structured Teaching for Autism: BASIC Components
  • Social Skills for Autism
  • ABA Strategies and Curriculum: Using STAR Program to Support Students with Autism
  • Restorative Discipline: From a punitive to restorative framework (this class is through CBIZ/Southeaster Community College and requires an additional fee to and registration through CBIZ/SCC)

Workshops and Other Trainings:

  • Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training
  • 3rd Grade ELA Standards-Based Reporting, Instruction & Assessment
  • 4th Grade ELA Standards-Based Reporting, Instruction & Assessment
  • 5th Grade ELA Standards-Based Reporting, Instruction & Assessment
  • 6th Grade ELA Standards-Based Reporting, Instruction & Assessment
  • Superintendents Retreat 2014 (in Clive, IA)

Please visit our online course catalog to register:

AEA PD Online & AEA K-12 Online Update – February 2014

AEA PD Online and AEA K-12 Online’s February Blog update is now available. Go to or for updates or click on the direct article links below. For real time updates, follow AEA PD Online on Twitter @aeapdonline or on your mobile device by accessing our app at
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GPAEA Schools in the News – February 2014

A list of the February 2014 headlines featuring a Great Prairie AEA School District:

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.

The Cornerstone – February 2014

Enjoy this month’s The Cornerstone with articles about technology, digital resources, professional development opportunities and much more! Scroll down to click on an article.

Technology and the 4Cs: Part 2

by Sue Kientz, GPAEA Instructional Technology Coach

In the November Cornerstone, Jane Trotter shared an article about Technology and the 4Cs: Communication, Creativity, Collaboration and Critical Thinking.  If you missed this article, you can review it here.  Jane shared a real life example of how the 4Cs are part of her life.  In this follow up, I would like to take a look at the 4Cs and the perfect fit with Project Based Learning.  As Jane stated in her article, the 4Cs are part of the Universal Constructs found in the Iowa Core.

I recently discovered a video by Common Craft about Project Based Learning.  An evaluation copy of this less than 4 minute video can be found here.  If you are not familiar with Common Craft, they create easy to understand videos that cover many topics within technology and social media.  In this video, Common Craft first relates a scenario about a woman employed by a company that gives her team a project to create the most earth friendly soap possible.  She is given a budget, team to work with and a deadline to complete the project.  This is the world of work today and what employers want our students to be able to do. In the video, this real world work project is then contrasted to an example of project based learning in a school.  Students in a science classroom are asked why so many of them were absent with the flu at the same time after 50% of the class had been gone.  This led to a project to teach elementary students about how to prevent illness and to presentations being given at the local elementary schools.  The projects in both of these cases used communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.  Students learned by doing — the same ideas that have been presented in the Iowa Core.  If you look at the PDF’s provided in the Iowa Core for the standards, you will find sections such as Science as Inquiry that provides examples of Project Based Learning within ICLE’a Rigor and Relevance Framework.  One example is shown below: Continue reading

Science and Engineering Videos from NBC Learn

by Kristin Steingreaber, GPAEA Media Specialist

Are you new to this GPAEA Media database? Learn how to authenticate your GPAEA account –

Video tutorial – overview of NBC Learn –


Read on for more ideas:

Tap into global focus on the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, with Science and Engineering of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games – 10 original NBC Learn videos that explain the physics, engineering, chemistry and mathematics of the most popular Winter Olympic sports.

These videos, narrated by NBC Sports anchor Liam McHugh, feature some of the world’s top Olympic athletes, and the research of leading NSF-supported scientists. Each episode is available cost-free to teachers, students and the public at NBC Learn K-12 along with engineering-focused lesson plans for middle- and high-school teachers developed by the National Science Teachers Association. Continue reading