Buck stops in FD

Brad Buck, Iowa Department of Education director, was guest speaker of the Fort Dodge Noon Rotary Club Monday.

Buck spoke about the education reforms now taking effect across the state.

“We are in the midst of probably the biggest piece of legislation reform the state has seen in I don’t know how long,” he said.

The challenge, Buck said, is driving change in the quality of education offered in Iowa’s classrooms.

“The most important intersection in schools is the intersection between the teacher, the student and the content,” he said. “In Iowa classrooms, where the action happens … is where we have the greatest opportunity to improve state learning.”

Iowa’s education reform has three aspects, Buck said. The first is the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System.

“The system will take teachers and move them into leadership positions within the school districts to provide real-time, job-embedded professional development and training for the other teachers,” he said. “Teachers are doing the best they know how to do right now, so providing them a structure for improvement to support their ongoing growth is a good thing, and likely to lead to improved outcomes in the forms of student learning.”

Iowa’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports will benefit students, Buck said.

“The typical lesson for kids should apply to 80 percent or so of the kids in the room,” he said. “As teachers design lessons, how do we make sure the central lesson is good for the majority of kids, but then also what are the activities you’re going to have in that classroom to support the kids you know are going to be in need mediation and those kids in need of extensions?”

The Iowa Core challenges students to perform better, Buck said, using Algebra II as an example.

“Before the Iowa Core, we would have anticipated about half of Iowa’s kids … would be expected to get through Algebra II content. Now, the expectation with the core is 100 percent of students will get through the content of Algebra II,” he said. “When people say the Iowa Core is dumbing down Iowans, I would actually argue that we have a bigger challenge ahead of us in getting every child through the core because it’s just that much more robust.”

It’s exciting, Buck said, to see STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) activities gaining in popularity across Iowa.

“I’ve had the chance to go around the state and see these,” he said. “We have boys there. We have girls there. We have people of color there. Hopefully, that translates to continued interest in those as they move through high school.”

Concluding, Buck was asked what is the best part of his job.

“I think we have really landed on something,” he said. “If we can get that all to fall together well, Iowa kids will be better served. Iowa’s education system will continue to improve to the benefit of all Iowans.”