CLEAR LAKE, Iowa - He's toured over 200 school districts in the Hawkeye State, getting a needed first hand look at how things are done and seeing how the state's education policies are being practiced in the classroom.
This week, Ryan Wise, the Director of the Iowa Department of Education, got a tour of Clear Lake Schools.
From finding shapes found in everyday objects and architecture at Clear Creek Elementary, to computer coding at the high school, Wise, joined by School Administrators of Iowa Executive Director Dr. Roark Horn, and Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek, are seeing it all. It's part of a statewide tour visiting schools, which has so far taken 5 years.
"This is the 230th school district I've visited out of our 327 districts in Iowa, and I learn something new and gain new insight on every single one of these trips."
Overall, he was impressed.
"Students in almost every class we walked into and out in the hallways were deeply engaged in their learning, and they could explain what they were learning."
Will Faber's computer science class was one of those visited by Wise on Friday. The 7th grader showcased what he and his classmates have been working on.
"We've done some things working with arithmetic operators, and MIT app inventor. We've done some logical operators, if and all statements, and/or statements."
Now, he's considering a career in any of the 'STEM' subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) after graduation.
"I find the technology interesting."
Wise applauds the work the district has been doing, including implementing the engaging and hands-on Project Lead the Way system, utilizing a $27,000 computer science grant to add computer science classes, and being a part of the state's Teacher Leadership and Compensation plan (where teachers can be compensated for taking on new roles), as well as implementing career and technical education programs such as workforce apprenticeships. And they're not done yet; they're adding a cybersecurity class starting next year, as well as adding a high school Biomed program.
"I'm always impressed with how schools have self identified those areas where they want to grow and change, and tap their best teachers to lead."
Clear Lake Superintendent Doug Gee adds that the work the district's been doing has also seen an increase in enrollment.
"Enrollment increased by 48 kids this year. I think people are starting to realize and seeing some of the neat things we're doing and what we're doing with their kids, and they want their kids to be a part of that."
In his over 20 years working in education, he's seen the need for schools to adapt to the changing environment around them.
"Education shouldn't look like it did 25 years ago. The car of 25 years ago doesn't look like it does now. These are things that have had to change to be relevant. In for education to be relevant, it has to change."
In addition to visiting Clear Lake, Wise met with students and faculty at West Fork and CAL on Friday.