GPAEA Rolls Out the Iowa Authentic Learning Network (IOWA ALN)

Laura Williams, 21st Century Learning Specialist

Something new is on the horizon for Great Prairie AEA and the State – the Iowa Authentic Learning Network or IOWA ALN. In response to #futureready Iowa, Great Prairie AEA and Green Hills AEA partnered together to create a support network for educators interested in bringing more authentic and application-based learning experiences to their classrooms. The result… an exciting, eye-opening, and real-world experience for high school students.

Since the beginning of the school year, Iowa ALN has been developing local project pools with area partnerships in a few pilot districts. By creating these school to community connections, students apply current knowledge and skills to a local business’ challenge. Students experience how to communicate and brainstorm in a professional setting, meet deadlines, and learn from business leaders. Eventually, the hope is that all schools in Iowa will have access to partnerships in their community through this work.

Iowa ALN invites students and educators to experience 21st Century learning through the development of authentic learning experiences with area businesses, industry, and other organizations. The vision is to provide students the opportunity to explore their passions and engage with experts while learning and applying 21st-century skills that prepare them for their future within the K-12 setting.

What can Iowa ALN do for GPAEA schools?

  1. Assist in the planning, development, and implementation of ALN program;
  2. Provide consultative services for the successful implementation of ALN program and achievement of ALN goals;
  3. Provide professional development services or broker such services for the district, for the successful implementation.
  4. Develop and provide access to a project database for partner schools.

What does this look like?

IOWA ALN Spotlight: Mt. Pleasant Middle School

Amanda Sanders of Bridges of Henry County pitches a project to engage local Mt. Pleasant Middle School students in a community project as part of their social studies class.

Mr. Williams, a middle school teacher for Mount Pleasant CSD piloted one of the projects housed within GPAEA ’s developing regional project pool and was able to see the connection to this real project and how it linked up to the new Social Studies standards Iowa recently adopted on March 11, 2017.  When asked how this project fit with the new standards, Williams replied “the new standards really puts an emphasis on learning locally and engaging students in compelling questions. These questions lead them into a process of inquiry at which we have information at our fingertips. It’s what they do with that information, the application, that can start to make a difference- and in this case, a difference for our community.”

So just how can authentic project-based learning link to Iowa standards? The following project summary will give some insight into just how this looks in the classroom:

Summary of Project

Class- Mr. Williams 7th Grade Social Studies Class (for information contact )

Partner – Bridges out of Poverty Henry County

Project- Marketing/Communications regarding resources to support the community in order to end the cycles of poverty and homelessness locally.

Description- Students were empowered to come up with ideas of how they could promote this and engaged in research to better understand poverty at a local level. Students created fliers and shared with the partner for feedback.

Duration– 1 Week

7th Grade Social Studies Connecting Standards:

  • SS.7.13. Identify social, political and economic factors that can influence our thoughts and behavior.
  • SS.7.14. Examine what causes inequalities and how they exist within a society.
  • SS.7.17. Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people’s lives. (21st century skills)
  • SS.7.18. Explain and evaluate how economic decisions affect the wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and society.

For more information on Iowa ALN, please visit or contact GPAEA’s 21st Century Learning Specialist:

Support for Districts Through AEA PREP (Postsecondary Readiness & Equity Partnership)

IowasAEAs_Primary_RGBWhat is AEA PREP?

In support of Future Ready Iowa’s and the AEA Compact’s goals, Iowa AEAs recently established AEA PREP (Postsecondary Readiness & Equity Partnership).  PREP is a statewide partnership and resource center focused on improving postsecondary readiness and education attainment, with a focus on closing attainment gaps that exist for those populations traditionally underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation college students, students from low socioeconomic households, racial and ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities. AEA PREP’s mission is to “ensure all students are ready and prepared to succeed in a variety of postsecondary opportunities through partnerships with districts and key stakeholders to support healthy systems in an environment of equity and shared accountability.”  AEA PREP will accomplish its mission by providing actionable postsecondary readiness and success data to all Iowa PK-12 school districts, developing a statewide network of Postsecondary Readiness Leads and teams in each AEA region who will provide leadership & support in using these data, and creating a resource center with updated research, postsecondary readiness data dashboards, presentations, webinars, and other information to support postsecondary readiness programs and initiatives.


According to a collaborative study conducted by the Iowa Department of Education and the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, “only 28 percent of U.S. jobs required education beyond a high school diploma in 1973” (2016). However, the report also concludes that current projections estimate by 2025 “68 percent of jobs in Iowa will require education and training beyond high school.” Future Ready Iowa advances the results of this study by establishing that Iowans need postsecondary education and training to meet the state’s workforce demands and economic development needs and to provide each Iowan with a living wage. While there are many adults currently in the workforce eligible to upgrade their education and skills, K-12 schools possess access to the greatest number of entrants into the talent pipeline needed to meet Future Ready Iowa’s goal that 70% of Iowans have education or training beyond high school. Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) support this goal in its compact, which states “a postsecondary readiness goal will be established that most accurately identifies and tracks postsecondary success.”

The Iowa AEA Compact and College & Career Readiness

The Iowa AEA Compact outlines a partnership with PK-12 schools, which pledges, “every child who graduates from an Iowa pre-K-12 public or non-public accredited school will be prepared for success in postsecondary studies, a career, and citizenship.” Iowa’s definition of college- and career-ready defines readiness as: 1) achieved proficiency in essential content knowledge; 2) acquired practical transitional skills; 3) developed key learning skills and cognitive strategies; 4) build a strong foundation of self-understanding and engagement strategies.

What does it mean to support College and Career Readiness (CCR)?

There are four ways AEA PREP plans to support districts in preparing their students on their journey to become College and Career Ready.  First will be to work with district and building leadership teams to create data-driven PLC structures focused on both system-level and student-centered analysis of all four CCR outcome categories.  Second districts will be encouraged to examine equity gaps in postsecondary readiness & success and create action plans to work to close them.  The AEA PREP team is also committed to providing professional learning to targeted audiences (school counselors, administrators, district career planning teams – ICAPs, teachers, CTTs, community partners, etc.) on best practices instructional strategies to increase achievement so our students are ready for their post-secondary choices.  Finally, AEA PREP is working to develop timely and relevant programming to address student-centered needs (i.e., numeracy, literacy, FAFSA completion, learning skills and cognitive strategies, self-awareness and engagement strategies) to increase student engagement and achievement which can impact their postsecondary success.

What will be provided to all Iowa school districts for postsecondary readiness data?

Interactive postsecondary readiness and success dashboards will be provided to all Iowa public PK-12 school districts with a comprehensive high school. These dashboards will include postsecondary enrollment and completion data from the graduating classes of 2010-2017, with annual updates thereafter.  The dashboards are intended to replicate and replace all information contained in National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker for High Schools paper reports, with additional functionality to sort/filter enrollment and award status based on a variety of postsecondary readiness and success measures and demographic subgroups.

In addition to the postsecondary data dashboards, FAFSA completion status for all current high school seniors will be shared with districts. In its first year, AEA PREP, in partnership with Iowa College Aid and the Iowa Department of Education, has provided student FAFSA Completion data to over 160 Iowa high schools, and will complete its bi-weekly distribution to all Iowa high schools in March 2018, making Iowa the first state in the nation to provide this level of support to 100% of its public high schools.  Financing a postsecondary education is a key barrier for many students, and this partnership will help schools identify which students need additional supports to complete required financial aid forms.

As AEA PREP evolves, districts will begin seeing a greater emphasis on college and career readiness for all students.  This includes data analysis, resources, and support for all educators in the areas of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, school leadership, and school counseling. A one-page overview and summary of AEA PREP’s Primary Functions are available here.

For questions, please contact GPAEA Postsecondary Readiness Lead, Doreen Underwood, at or GPAEA PREP Data Lead, Evan McCormick, at

2018 Young Writers’ Conference

YWC Logo 12

By Carol Ryon, Young Writers’ Conference Coordinator

William Penn University was the scene for the Great Prairie AEA 2018 Young Writers’ Conference on March 6 & 7. The purpose of the day was to encourage students to become better writers, to share their stories, and realize writing can be exciting when they tell the stories within them.

On the elementary day, approximately 300 students in grades 3-6 attended from 15 of schools. The students were treated to four activities throughout the day. They participated in the published author keynote/sharing sessions and 2 workshops.

Jill Esbaum has published over 25 fiction and non-fiction books. Her newest books include Little Kids First Big Book of Why and Explore My World: Kangaroos, through National Geographic for Kids. In 2016 she received the Best Children’s Books of 2016 with a star for Outstanding Merit – Bank Street College of Education. Jill lives on a farm in Eastern Iowa with her family and shared her love of reading and writing with the students.

Students chose two workshops to attend from a variety of offerings: Linda Fox – Prepare to Scare; Gregory McCaulley – Teaching the Pillars of Character through Puppetry; Molly McCaulley – Eliminate Boring Words!!; Joni Camp – Calligraphy The Art of Elegant Writing; Winter Peck – Once Upon a Dark and Stormy Night; Laura Ross and the Story Book Players from Oskaloosa High School – Collaborate, Create & Perform; Janna Lundein – Say What?!; Crystal James Puppetry for All Occasions; Ann Morris – Why are Monarch Butterflies; and Debb Kent – Get Your Cheer On!.

Students were required to create an original work of writing, which they read to a small group of 9 students and a teacher. Time was taken to listen to each other and provide positive comments.

The secondary day was for students (grades 6-12) and approximately 250 students and their teachers from 12 school districts attended. The day was a similar design with a guest published author, workshop and sharing sessions.

The keynote speaker was Wendy Delsol and is the author of a young adult trilogy: Stork (2010), Frost (2011), and Flock (2012). The books are inspired by Norse mythology, adventure, and Icelandic folklore. Stork was one of 25 titles out of over 1000 to receive a 2010 VOYA Perfect Ten and one of ten to win a 2011 Westchester Fiction Award. Delsol’s adult novel, The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls, was named an August 2011 Barnes and Noble Pick of the Week. The book (set in Iowa) tells the story of three generations of women and the secrets that bind them. Born in Canada, Delsol grew up in Michigan, lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, and now resides in Des Moines with her husband and two teen sons.

The workshops included: Linda Fox – Prepare to Scare; Lory Chaplin – Calligraphy The Art of Elegant Writing; Winter Peck – Once Upon a Dark and Stormy Night; Laura Ross and the Story Book Players from Oskaloosa High School – Collaborate, Create & Perform; Bruce Carlson – Writing for Success; Crystal James -Celebrate Enjoyment of Poetry; Debb Kent – Get Your Cheer On!; William Penn Media Team – Writing Visual Stories; and Janna Lundein – Say What?!

Teachers were invited to attend the “Everyone Writes!” session led by Fran McVeigh and had opportunities to network with other teachers during the day.

This was the first time many students had been to a college campus and showed great excitement as the day progressed. Throughout it they remembered the quote, “I read to discover your soul; I write to discover mine.”

April is National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month –

Great Prairie AEA provides consultative support for children birth through 21 years of age who are identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or who demonstrate autism-like characteristics. Learn more about our services at

Shout out to our GPAEA Challenging Behavior & Autism Staff: Teran Buettell, Crystal Hornback, Sarah McCollum & Julie Thomas. Thank you for all that you do for area students and families!

GPAEA Success Stories


April is Occupational Therapy Month

OT webApril has been designated as Occupational Therapy Month nationally and is celebrated throughout the country. Occupational Therapists and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants are part of an important profession that helps people across their lifespan to participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Their customized approach to evaluations, interventions, and outcomes help a child with disabilities participate in school and in social situations, and offer the specialized support and services to people of all ages and in all circumstances that only occupational therapy can provide.

We want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank our own Great Prairie AEA Occupational Therapists and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants for the services they provide throughout our Great Prairie AEA service area.

Week of the Young Child – April 16-20

woyc_colorApril 16-20, 2018 is “The Week of the Young Child”™ – an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. More info can be found at

Shoutout to our Early Childhood and Early ACCESS staff for all their work with young children and families!
Early Childhood
  • Joan Garrett
  • Dawn Johnson
  • Anne Michel
  • June Morgan
  • Vickie Parker


  • Catherine Benson
  • Jan Bergman
  • Linda Boshart
  • Hollie Couch
  • Katie Edwards
  • Denise Evans
  • Nicole Fraker
  • Angie Green
  • Kim Johnson
  • Jennifer Keith
  • Amanda Larkin
  • Michol Ludington
  • Leesha McGee
  • Lauren Moyers
  • Carmela Murphy
  • Erin Perry
  • Kathy Schneider
  • Lynn Sheagren
  • Nancy Sieber
  • Kristin Stuekerjuergen
  • Lisa Vohoska


Register for Para Educator Course I beginning April 5 in Burlington

Para Educator Course I: Facing New Challenges, Communication, Ethics, and Confidentiality 
This para educator course is the first in a series of three that will allow a person to become a certified classroom para-educator. The participant will need this course as a prerequisite to enroll in Para-Educator Course II.

Participants will develop skills and strategies to enhance communication and examine situations where professionalism, ethical standards, and confidentiality will guide the correct course of action when working with colleagues, students, parents, and others.

The course will look at stages of development, core curriculum, beliefs, biases and will have an online computer component.

Start Date: 4-5-18
Registration Link:
Please contact Michelle Dickey for more information at

GPAEA Earns 2017 Constant Contact All Star Award

All_Star_Winner_2017Great Prairie AEA has been named a 2017 All Star Award winner by Constant Contact, an Endurance International Group company and a leader in email marketing solutions. The annual award recognizes the most successful 10 percent of Constant Contact’s customer base, based on their significant achievements using email marketing to engage their customer base and drive results for their organization during the prior year.

Small businesses and nonprofits using Constant Contact’s email marketing tools are eligible for this award. Criteria used to select this year’s All Stars included the following during 2017:

  • Level of engagement with email campaigns
  • Open, bounce, and click-through rates
  • Use of social sharing features
  • Use of mailing list sign-up tools
  • Use of reporting tools

GPAEA uses Constant Contact to connect teachers, administrators, community leaders, and staff with educational news and updates via The Cornerstone, a monthly e-newsletter. Join the list at

The Cornerstone – March 2018


Enjoy this issue of The Cornerstone by clicking on an article below or scroll down to get started!

PBIS-IA Announces 2016-17 Recognition Awards

Untitled design (1)Congratulations to the 39 schools in Great Prairie AEA being honored for their PBIS implementation efforts for the 2016-17 school year (107 across the State)! 

To qualify for one of the six levels of recognition, schools were provided the opportunity to complete an application and submit evidence from May 15, 2017, through December 31, 2017. As part of the review process, PBIS Coordinators approve the award level based upon submitted products, student outcome data, and implementation fidelity data. The criteria for each level aligns with a stage of implementation, with criteria building from the planning stage of Emerging level through full implementation and sustaining, or the Paramount level.

Emerging Level
These schools completed training during 2016-17 school year and developed all of the products needed to begin implementation. They were ready to roll out their PBIS plan in the fall of 2017. The following Great Prairie AEA schools met criteria for the Emerging level:

  • Albia Middle (Albia)
  • Lincoln Center Elementary (Albia)
  • Centerville High School (Centerville)
  • Seymour Elementary (Seymour)
  • Tri-County Elementary (Tri-County)
  • Tri-County Jr/Sr HS (Tri-County)
  • Van Buren Jr/Sr HS (Van Buren)
  • Waco Elementary (Waco)
  • West Burlington Elementary (West Burlington)

Honor Level
Schools that earned the Honor level award have rolled out their PBIS plan to students, staff, and families. They have identified and taught behavioral expectations and implemented systems to develop a consistent response to appropriate and problem behaviors. The building team meets regularly and is using data to inform decisions. The following Great Prairie AEA schools met criteria for the Honor Level:

  • Central Lee Elementary (Central Lee)
  • Central Lee High (Central Lee)
  • Columbus Elementary (Chariton)
  • Clark Elementary (New London)
  • Douds Elementary (Van Buren)
  • Douma Elementary (Ottumwa)
  • Eisenhower Elementary (Ottumwa)
  • Horace Mann Elementary (Ottumwa)
  • Wilson Elementary (Ottumwa)
  • Grant Center Elementary (Albia)
  • Keokuk High (Keokuk)
  • Keota Elementary (Keota)
  • Harlan Elementary (Mt. Pleasant)
  • Mt. Pleasant Middle (Mt. Pleasant)
  • Mt. Pleasant High (Mt. Pleasant)
  • Salem Elementary (Mt. Pleasant)
  • Oskaloosa Middle (Oskaloosa)
  • Wapello Jr/Sr HS (Wapello)

Honor Plus Level
Honor Plus is awarded to schools that are implementing universal features with fidelity. Additionally, classroom systems and family/community involvement are included in their plan. These schools are developing Tier 2 systems and have defined a decision rule to identify students who may benefit from additional supports. The following Great Prairie AEA schools met criteria for the Honor Plus Level:

  • Central Lee Middle (Central Lee)
  • Danville Elementary (Danville)
  • Hawthorne Elementary (Keokuk)
  • Oskaloosa Elementary (Oskaloosa)
  • West Burlington Jr/Sr HS (West Burlington)

Banner Level
Banner schools are sustaining universal systems and practices. Students are accessing interventions such as Check in/Check out and 50% are responding positively to the support. The Tier 2 team engages families and staff; and uses a daily progress report to progress monitor student response to additional supports. The following Great Prairie AEA schools met criteria for the Banner Level:

  • Corse Elementary (Burlington)
  • James Wilson Grimes Elementary (Burlington)
  • North Mahaska Elementary (North Mahaska)
  • Pence Elementary (Fairfield)
  • Van Allen Elementary (Mount Pleasant)
  • Wapello Elementary (Wapello)
  • Washington Elementary (Fairfield)

Schools will receive banners and a letter of recognition in the van mail later this month. Congratulations – GPAEA is proud of you!

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Photos of Districts who have received their banner. Please send all photos to to be featured.

Building Bridges Assistive Technology Conference in Cedar Rapids – April 19

The Building Bridges: Assistive Technology Conference will provide an opportunity to see first hand the latest in assistive technologies (AT), practices, and services for school-age students with disabilities. This AT conference will serve as a unique opportunity for area professionals, parents, administrators and service providers to exchange and gather information on the current status and consideration of assistive technology tools.

Learn more and register at


Download PDF: BuildingBridges2018

Renewal Credit Opportunity: The Domino Effect Program – April 18


You are cordially invited to attend The Domino Effect Program on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. This program is brought to you via a partnership between the Iowa State Penitentiary for Men in Fort Madison, IA and Drake University. This NEW powerful program is designed to provide insight to those who serve at-risk populations.

Participants will explore risk factors and statistics around at-risk youth. Furthermore, participants will have the opportunity to hear first-hand from incarcerated men who can testify to successful and unsuccessful interventions adults attempted while they were in school. Participants will also identify data related to their own school or organization around college readiness and post-graduate success.

There is a non-refundable $35 fee to register for this course. The deadline to register is April 9.

Register by clicking on the below link:

Offered by a partnership with Drake University.