Tama County was the host Tuesday for the first of 18 planned meetings across Iowa to gather more input into efforts geared to developing what is described as a 21st century education program. Being sought are ideas and direction to implement a plan to better educate for a job market which was said to demand skills based upon those different than in the past.
"Our overall goal is to expand student growth and achievement" and "to cultivate long-term economic growth in our state," Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds said. University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen joined Reynolds in heading up the meeting attended by more than 25 at the Reinig-Toledo Civic Center. Tama County Economic Development Executive Director Heath Kellogg served as moderator.
"Iowa is not preparing students enough for jobs," Reynolds said. "We have an unfulfilled need for more skilled workers."
Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds responds to a question during a STEM?town meeting in Toledo on Tuesday, Sept. 11. She is flanked by University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen (left) and Heath Kellogg, Tama county Economic Development executive director, who served as moderator. News-Herald/John Speer
"It is not acceptable for Iowa students to rate 25th at 8th grade-level math proficiency in 2011 when we were number 1 in 1992," she said. "We have great students, great schools - We want to give the opportunity to move forward with a world-class education and provide a world-class work force."
Encouraging and providing opportunities in the classroom to learn and in jobs to perform in STEM -science, technology, engineering and mathematics - is the end product. How to achieve this is the focus now, they said.
"Business commitment to STEM is essential," Allen said of what he characterized as a "public-private partnership."
Tama, Toledo and Chelsea public libraries provide free access.
Or- A brochure about the program is available to read at the News-Herald Office, 220 W. 3rd, Tama - 8 a.m.-4:30 p..m Mon-Fri
According to information provided, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as non-STEM related jobs over the past 10-year period.
Ideas presented will be reviewed and some presented to the 40-member STEM Advisory Council as the program develops.
Yvonne Mallory, rural Toledo, a member of the Iowa Valley Community College District Board and an educator her self, said, "I'm pleased to see (this is) two-pronged - four-year college and vo-tech oriented. This will reach more students."
Reynolds and Allen both said the effort is planned to work hand-in-hand between the three state universities and the community colleges.
South Tama Schools Superintendent Kerri Nelson said she believed teachers at the elementary school level have trained for at least 20 years to concentrate on literacy development. She said the tendency has been to leave math and science to the secondary level.
Allen responded, "One of the top (challenges) is better teacher preparation."
Educators present said compliance with the federal "No Child Left Behind Act" has caused issues in local schools.
Reynolds acknowledged Iowa did not receive a waiver for the federal program and said a continued effort to deal with it is necessary.
Richard Arp, rural Clutier, a member of the North Tama School Board, called for allowing persons with job-related experience to teach even without teaching credentials.
Allen said he believed there should be "alternative pathways into the classroom (which) to speed up the process for certification for people with (certain) backgrounds." Allen admitted, as head of a university which he said turns out 500 new teachers annually, this sometimes has him at odds with others on campus.
John Walker, a representative of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Program, struck a chord with Reynolds.
Walker encouraged consideration of the assessment program as part of student's evaluation just as ACT or SAT tests are used. He said the program was federally funded, available to all students and did not require Armed services interest despite the name.
Reynolds said she saw possible value in the tests and promised further consideration.